The singular landmark in the development of Ellison's short fiction -- the point at which he stopped thinking of himself as a simple teller of sci-fi tales and became a thoughtful, mature fantasist.
The joys here are numerous and substantial. The title story is a short but marvelously effective meditation on the nature of evil. "Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R" charts the rollicking adventures of everyone's favorite superhero, St. Nick. "Shattered Like a Glass Goblin" is an anti-drug tale that prudes and idiots naturally interpreted as a pro-drug tale.
And then there is "A Boy and His Dog," the pinnacle of Ellison's imaginings to this point. Set in a post-nuclear wasteland, the story of Vic and his telepathic dog Blood is a seamless marriage of futuristic adventure, political fable and social satire. It was made into a movie (starring Don Johnson, pre-"Miami Vice") that became a cult favorite. A prequel, "Eggsucker," and sequel, "Run, Spot, Run," were combined with "A Boy and His Dog" and given graphic treatment in Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog. Ellison has frequently mentioned plans to expand the whole story cycle into a full-length novel titled Blood's a Rover. Nothing beats the original, though.
In 1997, The Beast was republished as part of Edgeworks 4.