The general theme of this collection, as the title suggests, is "stupid things people do." Or sometimes, stupid but necessary.
Many of these stories will be familiar to Ellison readers; a few, including "Repent, Harlequin!" and "Jeffty is Five," are among his best and best-known works. All include new introductions, some enlightening but most simply setting the stage.
Troublemakers marks the first appearance in an Ellison collection of his 1957 short story "A Lot of Saucers," a UFO tale with a twist. The story would be a one-joke trifle but for the fact that it exhibits so many of what would later become the author's trademarks: a cynical view of authority, an affection for the ugly misfit and a deep pessimism that humankind's nobility can overcome its foolishness.
Even more gratifying is a revised version of another early piece, "Never Send to Know For Whom the Lettuce Wilts" (originally "But Who Wilts the Lettuce," 1956). A hilarious send-up of the space invasion genre, it reads like early Vonnegut, but with more social satire and less random silliness.
Troublemakers is ostensibly aimed at younger readers, although the book doesn't seemed to be marketed that way (the category label on the spine reads simply "fantasy"). For readers of any age, however, the book is a fine introduction to Ellison.