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"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman

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A rebel inhabits a world where conformity and punctuality are top priorities and the Ticktockman cannot accept the Harlequin's presence in his perfectly ordered world.


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A rebel inhabits a world where conformity and punctuality are top priorities and the Ticktockman cannot accept the Harlequin's presence in his perfectly ordered world.

30 review for "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman

  1. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    In a future where humanity has become obsessed with timekeeping and punctuality, a single mysterious figure tries to make a change, by wasting everybody's time. Try reading that in a deep movie trailer voice. “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman is a whimsical and satirical dystopian short story that won both the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1965. In this future we have become so obsessed with punctuality that tardiness has become a crime and t In a future where humanity has become obsessed with timekeeping and punctuality, a single mysterious figure tries to make a change, by wasting everybody's time. Try reading that in a deep movie trailer voice. “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman is a whimsical and satirical dystopian short story that won both the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1965. In this future we have become so obsessed with punctuality that tardiness has become a crime and the duration of your tardiness will be deducted from your lifespan. This law is implemented by installing a device in everyone, this device is controlled by a “cardioplate” which can turn off a person’s heart if his allotted lifetime runs out. The people’s lifetimes are governed by “The Master Timekeeper”, also called “The Ticktockman”, but never to his face. The Harlequin is a superhero of sorts whose only powers are his imagination and defiance. His acts of rebellion are silly public stunts that throw people off their work schedule and cause the unthinkable: delays. “The System had been seven minutes worth of disrupted. It was a tiny matter, one hardly worthy of note, but in a society where the single driving force was order and unity and promptness and clocklike precision and attention to the clock, reverence of the gods of the passage of time, it was a disaster of major importance.” The theme of the story is not exactly subtle as Ellison clearly indicates it in the text: “We no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule, worshippers of the sun's passing, bound into a life predicated on restrictions because the system will not function if we don't keep the schedule tight.” This is a terrific little story, the prose is wonderfully stylized, surreal and whimsical. I don’t know how relevant the theme is today, certainly I am late for work every day and I tend to get away with it! _______________________ Note: You can read this story for free online, just Google* the title. I don't want to post a download link when I am not sure of the story's copyright status. * I am not sure what would happen if you were to Bing it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jon(athan) Nakapalau

    R.I.P. Harlan Ellison - thanks for warning us about the Ticktockman.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    The obverse side is today. That title, wow. Something as elegant as that title promises so much. If you aren't aware, then I encourage you to read a brief overview about harlequins on Wikipedia. My soul would be an outlaw. I can do nothing with it. Today, in a time obsessed with everyone being special, does this even make sense? The zeitgeist associated with the author's plea of acceptance over rigidity and sameness is nearly the other end of the pendulum swing. Where people demand exemptions re The obverse side is today. That title, wow. Something as elegant as that title promises so much. If you aren't aware, then I encourage you to read a brief overview about harlequins on Wikipedia. My soul would be an outlaw. I can do nothing with it. Today, in a time obsessed with everyone being special, does this even make sense? The zeitgeist associated with the author's plea of acceptance over rigidity and sameness is nearly the other end of the pendulum swing. Where people demand exemptions regardless of need to validate how special they are. The performance of individuality is nearly as ridiculous as the conformity Ellison was railing against in this story. Anti-war, whispers of anarchism, state government oppression, mechanization and dehumanization, all are a part of this story, but it is not a call to arms. There is a playfulness and irreverence instead, disruption not destruction. There are many allusions to both the time period (1965) and other great works of literature that make this into a mixed-form with didactic social commentary and fiction. It is concise, elegant, and makes evident why Ellison was awarded so many honors. "Who is the Harlequin?"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    In this republication of an old story by the author, a regimented futuristic utopia is presented. It is so dependent on timing and scheduling that one resident known as the Harlequin rebels against the boring order in favor of spontaneity and fantastical practical jokes. These activities throw schedules and productivity of the society seriously out of whack. There is escalation on both sides as the Harlequin gains mysterious powers. I must be too jaded and dependent on plot and character develop In this republication of an old story by the author, a regimented futuristic utopia is presented. It is so dependent on timing and scheduling that one resident known as the Harlequin rebels against the boring order in favor of spontaneity and fantastical practical jokes. These activities throw schedules and productivity of the society seriously out of whack. There is escalation on both sides as the Harlequin gains mysterious powers. I must be too jaded and dependent on plot and character development for this to register much joy on my pleasure meter. I remain curious about other more substantial work by Ellison, whom I have failed to read before this opportunity. This story was provided by the publisher for review by the Netgalley program.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    What a title! That alone would deserve 5 stars - it covers the whole story with the result of the conflict between the main protagonists. Full review at my blog.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    A masterful allegory, albeit a fatalistic one, that resonates with every comuter in the world. The 60's Hugo awards housed some prophecies that only became more serious in the age of social media.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Roughly, imagine 1984 as a big-budget comedy with a lot of CGI. Oddly enough, it works, or at least I thought it did when I read this in my early teens.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian Yahn

    What a bizarre story, but in a good way. Aside from being hard to follow, I absolutely loved this absurdist/satirical take on how extreme order could create a hilarious dystopia.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    A comically disturbing short story about time, time, time, the universe of time robots and the time rebel.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz Janet

    “We no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule, worshippers of the sun’s passing, bound into a life predicated on restrictions because the system will not function if we don’t keep the schedule tight.” Harlan Ellison is one of the greatest short-story tellers I have had the pleasure of reading. His collection ” I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” is worthy of analysis, just as much as this short tale. If this would have been written in the thirst after “The Hunger “We no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule, worshippers of the sun’s passing, bound into a life predicated on restrictions because the system will not function if we don’t keep the schedule tight.” Harlan Ellison is one of the greatest short-story tellers I have had the pleasure of reading. His collection ” I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” is worthy of analysis, just as much as this short tale. If this would have been written in the thirst after “The Hunger Games” was published, this could be considered a dystopian tale. In this story, people live by a time limit, and once they reach it, they are turned off, and that becomes their death, and the sentence giver is referred as The Ticktockman. Think of it as a more brilliant version of the loosely (very loosely) based film “In Time.” But there is one soul that decides to waste everyone’s time, for tardiness is a crime, and by doing activities that will disrupt the day, this “harlequin” is slowly making everyone loose life-time. But is he a hero fighting against the system or simply an imbecile wasting everyone’s time? That is left to the reader, and I am not sure of my answer. “Why let them order you about? Why let them tell you to hurry and scurry like ants or maggots? Take your time! Saunter a while! Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the breeze, let life carry you at your own pace! Don’t be slaves of time, it’s a helluva way to die, slowly, by degrees…down with the Ticktockman!”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I hunted this down after learning the Justin Timberlake sci-fi movie In Time was loosely based on this short story. Two quick points before my review of the short story: 1) After reading this and seeing the trailer to In Time, I can't see how they are related at all, other than that their themes both involve the concept of time as it is related to people. It seems to be a stretch, but hey, whatever. 2) I say "I hunted this down" because this book is out-of-print and not available digitally (how t I hunted this down after learning the Justin Timberlake sci-fi movie In Time was loosely based on this short story. Two quick points before my review of the short story: 1) After reading this and seeing the trailer to In Time, I can't see how they are related at all, other than that their themes both involve the concept of time as it is related to people. It seems to be a stretch, but hey, whatever. 2) I say "I hunted this down" because this book is out-of-print and not available digitally (how the publisher did not release this as a Kindle book to coincide with the movie's release is beyond me). So, I found the entire short story on this website, which I don't really feel guilty about, as I tried to buy it -- physically and digitally -- first. As for the short story, it's really great. It is an extremely stylized look at some 60's counter-culture talking points, but also works as a great sci-fi/dystopian story, and somehow also manages to have a steam-punk flavor to it. With tips of the hat to Henry David Thoreau, Robin Hood and 1984, it knows exactly what it wants to be, and manages to get there in around ten pages, despite having a long quote from Civil Disobedience and a lengthy run-on paragraph describing in great existential detail the experience of tons of jelly beans raining down from the sky.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tomislav

    Ich las Harlan Ellisons Erzählung "Bereue, Harlekin! sagte der Ticktackmann” im Kindle-Format. Ich habe viel von Ellisons Erzählungen gelesen und habe sie normalerweise genoßen. Ich habe sie schon oft auf Englisch gelesen, weil sie in vielen Antholgien ist. Diese Lesung war meine erste auf deutsch. Die Erzählung wurde erstmals 1965 im Galaxy Magazin veröffentlicht. Sie gewann sowohl den 1966 Hugo Award als auch den 1965 Nebula Award. Die erste Buchpublikation erschien 1965 in Ellisons Paingod and Ich las Harlan Ellisons Erzählung "Bereue, Harlekin! sagte der Ticktackmann” im Kindle-Format. Ich habe viel von Ellisons Erzählungen gelesen und habe sie normalerweise genoßen. Ich habe sie schon oft auf Englisch gelesen, weil sie in vielen Antholgien ist. Diese Lesung war meine erste auf deutsch. Die Erzählung wurde erstmals 1965 im Galaxy Magazin veröffentlicht. Sie gewann sowohl den 1966 Hugo Award als auch den 1965 Nebula Award. Die erste Buchpublikation erschien 1965 in Ellisons Paingod and Other Delusions. Sie ist weitgehend eine metaphorische Arbeit mit kaum beschriebenen Charakteren. Sie verurteilt die moderne Gesellschaft und ihren entmenschlichenden Zeitdruck. Es ist ein ernstes Thema, ähnlich wie George Orwells 1984. Doch hatte ich vergessen, wie humorvoll die Erzählung ist. Ich gebe immer noch meine höchste Empfehlung, auch in deutscher Sprache.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nafiza

    I can read this once. And then countless times. And every time I do, it offers me something more, something different. It's an eccentric story, no less terrifying for it's rather interesting characters. A world where people are simply turned "off" when their time finishes - terrifying, right? The Ticktockman, if you haven't guessed already, is the one who does the turning off. Now Harlequin is the rebel character - only, he is a rebel with a cause. He spreads chaos (and jellybeans) and disturbs I can read this once. And then countless times. And every time I do, it offers me something more, something different. It's an eccentric story, no less terrifying for it's rather interesting characters. A world where people are simply turned "off" when their time finishes - terrifying, right? The Ticktockman, if you haven't guessed already, is the one who does the turning off. Now Harlequin is the rebel character - only, he is a rebel with a cause. He spreads chaos (and jellybeans) and disturbs the general order of life - uniform life that holds the alternate world together. Keeps it functioning. There are so many layers to this story and you have to wonder about the genius of it's author considering he wrote it in less than twenty minutes. It's beautiful and I recommend it. To everyone.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mere

    Love this short story!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ed Erwin

    Somehow I thought this was a book of stories, but no, it is just the one short story. A fairly nice parable about resistance to conformity. Government has the power to shorten people's lives to punish them for being late, thus getting society to move smoothly and on time. Harlequin resits and is eventually brought down. But his resistance is not in vain.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nada Elfeituri

    It must be nice, living in a society where there is so much order, rigidity and time-keeping, that people write books criticizing such life-styles. I'm sure it gets stifling after a while, but when you come from a country where there is anything but order, and the concept of "being on time" is almost never applied, it's hard not to raise an incredulous eyebrow. Try living in a broken, unstable system where you never really know what will happen next, and you might be able to see the more positiv It must be nice, living in a society where there is so much order, rigidity and time-keeping, that people write books criticizing such life-styles. I'm sure it gets stifling after a while, but when you come from a country where there is anything but order, and the concept of "being on time" is almost never applied, it's hard not to raise an incredulous eyebrow. Try living in a broken, unstable system where you never really know what will happen next, and you might be able to see the more positive aspects of a society run on clockwork. But that's just a personal and situational viewpoint. The book itself is brilliant. I loved the disjointed narrative and the Thoreau quote at the beginning. It's like a summary of every dystopian book out there, and it's an important message whether you live in a boring society or a post-revolution country. Never repent, Harlequins.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Arnold Wanker

    I found this really insubstantial, flat, and hamfisted. At some points it felt like the author was just stating the meaning of the book explicitly. It wasn't worth him writing this essay in the form of a story because he didn't seem to care about his characters or world (I didn't either), and his use of metaphor was as on-the-nose as it gets. After reading it I found out that the finished story was almost unchanged from the first draft; yeah, no shit. Still, almost everyone else seems to like it I found this really insubstantial, flat, and hamfisted. At some points it felt like the author was just stating the meaning of the book explicitly. It wasn't worth him writing this essay in the form of a story because he didn't seem to care about his characters or world (I didn't either), and his use of metaphor was as on-the-nose as it gets. After reading it I found out that the finished story was almost unchanged from the first draft; yeah, no shit. Still, almost everyone else seems to like it so I may well have missed something, or maybe the generational gap of 50 years is to blame. If I'd have read this when it was released I'm sure it would've seemed more groundbreaking than derivative.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hakim

    I used to have a boss that would dock my pay each time I showed up late to work. I used to call him an untranslatable French swear word but, come to think of it, "The Ticktockman" is the perfect appellation. Harlequin, you magnificent bastard, I wish I could wear a clown costume like you, drop millions of jelly beans in the streets and spread terror among the ticktockmen of the world. You are a true inspiration to all of us who have worked for a ticktockman at some point.

  19. 5 out of 5

    M Hamed

    but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and in every revolution, a few die who shouldn’t, but they have to, because that’s the way it happens, and if you make only a little change, then it seems to be worthwhile (واحفظ اسامى اللى ماتوا فى الشوارع صم)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Popvoid

    There are stories that everyone should read; this is one of them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    This 1965 story is deservedly a classic and a good introduction to Ellison's work. It is not a classic because of its theme - standard stuff about individual revolt against regimentation (Ellison refers deliberately to '1984' in the story) - but because of the way he treats it. The story is actually very funny for all its ultimately grim subject matter. Whereas Orwell leaves us in a funk of grey dystopian British gloom, Ellison leaves us laughing with (not at) the same basic outcome because of th This 1965 story is deservedly a classic and a good introduction to Ellison's work. It is not a classic because of its theme - standard stuff about individual revolt against regimentation (Ellison refers deliberately to '1984' in the story) - but because of the way he treats it. The story is actually very funny for all its ultimately grim subject matter. Whereas Orwell leaves us in a funk of grey dystopian British gloom, Ellison leaves us laughing with (not at) the same basic outcome because of the fun had along the way. Watching authority being flummoxed and humiliated (by jelly beans at the beginning which is the middle) is always immensely enjoyable. Ellison adds to the fun with his manic verbal energy and some nice digs at Golden Age science fiction imagery and rationalism. The humour never lets us miss the underlying point - the inhuman cruelty of pure reason exercised by bureaucrats following rigid rules to keep society in order. The Tick-Tock Man is a monster precisely because he is not a machine but a human.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Riju Ganguly

    Classic Ellison! Re-read the story as a humble homage to the great writer, after going through newsfeed. Already enough has been said about this one, and I can hardly add anything new. Only submission would be to state that, if you wish to understand the literary magic that can keep a purportedly science fiction story alive & "ticking" after more than 50 years, you have to read this one. Recommended, goes without saying.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heather Pagano

    I loved this because it broke many of the rules I've learned about storytelling to fantastic effect. The narrative style felt clever, cerebral, unemotional, yet I felt totally invested in the fate of the characters. What an example of building an entire world and society in a tight space with never a moment of boring exposition.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kristian

    In praise of the eccentrics - the condensed version This is my first exposure to Harlan Ellison (not counting viewing the classic Star Trek episode, 'The City on the Edge of Forever'), but it won't be my last. "Repent" is a short story, easily read in a single sitting, that decries the modern trend towards conformity - especially conformity and near slavery to the clock. My own reputation for never being punctual makes the Harlequin a personal hero to me, and most likely to the narrator, for the In praise of the eccentrics - the condensed version This is my first exposure to Harlan Ellison (not counting viewing the classic Star Trek episode, 'The City on the Edge of Forever'), but it won't be my last. "Repent" is a short story, easily read in a single sitting, that decries the modern trend towards conformity - especially conformity and near slavery to the clock. My own reputation for never being punctual makes the Harlequin a personal hero to me, and most likely to the narrator, for the story reads as if the narrator is describing the alternate world where the Devil on his shoulder resides when his Trickster advice is not needed. Ellison's language is as playful as his protagonist, and his pointed use of history, pop culture, and philosophy make this a densely packed gem. For any day dreamers longing for a more languid pace to life outside the tick tock tick tock that always drives us, this is a quick flight of fancy that should leave you well satisfied.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Armstrong

    For me, this is really the ultimate in distopian stories. Ellison is the only author I've ever read that can write a two-page story and have you feeling for the main character. The characters in this aren't AS developed as many of his often are but there is so much more going on that it doesn't even matter. This is a short-story, which means I hold it to different standards than a novel. This is beautifully written and poetic, as the title might suggest. The beauty of the words blended with the For me, this is really the ultimate in distopian stories. Ellison is the only author I've ever read that can write a two-page story and have you feeling for the main character. The characters in this aren't AS developed as many of his often are but there is so much more going on that it doesn't even matter. This is a short-story, which means I hold it to different standards than a novel. This is beautifully written and poetic, as the title might suggest. The beauty of the words blended with the overall message of the story had me stunned. For all his arrogance, Ellison has a way with words - and he knows it. Read this story. Read it again. Read it every year. It's short, it's great, it's pretty damn flawless. If I ever have children I want this to be their bedtime story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Algernon

    there is no excuse for not reading this : short and clear and important, proof that a good writer doesn't need hundreds of pages to get the message across. What's it about? Life, and how to live it ...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jared Silver

    This is by far my favorite short story, possibly even my favorite work of fiction. The Thoreau quote from Civil Disobedience at the beginning is the icing on the cake.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    A brilliant story with zero fat in it. And for being a dystopian story it makes you smile in the end, knowing a simple drop you make can cause a ripple that moves mountains.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Jellybeans!

  30. 4 out of 5

    MiChAeLPaUl

    An attempt to wake the wakeless.

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