"With some trepidation I discover, now that `Angry Candy' is an assembled artifact, that in large measure it deals with death," Harlan Ellison writes in his introduction to this collection of 17 of his stories.

Having made this discovery, Ellison then gives an eloquent and quite touching discourse on death and how it has thinned the ranks of his friends in recent years.He feels sadness, of course, and anger, and these feelings are fused deeply into his stories so as to "leave a bittersweet taste in your mind. . . . They are stories I wrote because my friends are gone, a lot of them, and if you can't be angry about it, how much did you care to begin with?"

Despite their preoccupation with death, the stories are most entertaining. Ellison writes well - he has 45 books to his credit - and he possesses an exceptional talent for drawing a fully rounded portrait with a couple of sentences. Consider the opening lines of "Paladin of the Lost Hour":

"This was an old man. Not an incredibly old man; obsolete, spavined; not as worn as the sway-backed stone steps ascending the Pyramid of the Sun to an ancient temple; not yet a relic. But even so, a very old man. . . ."

Having seized the reader's attention, Ellison goes on to spin a wonderful tale about the old man, his amazing pocket watch, and the young man he befriends and entrusts with that watch when the old man's time comes to die.

"When Auld's Acquaintance Is Forgot" is a quite different story. In it, a man has his mind purged of painful memories of death, but the memories are picked up by another man "and the balance of pain in the universe was restored."