In Ellison’s introduction to ANGRY CANDY, “The Wind Took Your Answer Away,” he explains why he felt compelled to write the seventeen stories included in this collection: In the space of a few short years, friend after friend had died, leaving him behind, alone. His response to each loss was anger, exploring what happens when people face death (“The Region Between”), when they experience guilt at another’s death (“Paladin of the Lost Hour”), or how, exactly, people meet death (“The Avenger of Death”).
Although it would be tempting to say that this collection resolves Ellison’s anger at death, the overriding impression that ANGRY CANDY leaves is one of emptiness and frustration. No matter at what understanding of death a character in one of these stories arrives, the fact still remains that people die and that others are left behind to deal with the loss of a loved one. While Ellison gives readers many perspectives from which to consider the phenomenon of death, the stories do not make the finality of the event itself go away.
Of particular interest will be “Paladin of the Lost Hour” (an award-winning story that first appeared as an episode of CBS television’s revival of THE TWILIGHT ZONE), in which Ellison allows a Vietnam veteran to meet the man whose death in combat saved his own life. In another story, “On the Slab,” Ellison tackles the myth of Prometheus with fresh insight to give readers a new perspective on that god’s punishment for helping out the human race.
The stories vary in tone, although all of them are dark and depressive. Ellison’s anger does, however, seem to have somewhat dissipated by the final story’s conclusion. This tale, “The Function of Dream Sleep,” reveals the true purpose of dreaming: to help those left behind accept the deaths of loved ones. That is as hopeful an answer to the pain of remaining behind as Ellison chooses to give.