Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Stories of Ray Bradbury

The Stories of Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury. 1980/2010. Everyman's Library. 1063 pages.

It would be difficult to try to review a collection of one-hundred short stories by Ray Bradbury. My thoughts on these stories are scattered over two years. (To visit the other posts in the series: first twelve, next twenty-six, next three, next ten, next twelve, next-to-last twenty-two, final fifteen.) The collection is very diverse: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realistic fiction. There are stories celebrating friendship, love, marriage, and family. And stories depicting the break down of human relationships. Some of the stories are extremely dark and disturbing, others very light and humorous.

Here are my thoughts on the MOST memorable:

The Coffin

There was any amount of banging and hammering for a number of days; deliveries of metal parts and oddments which Mr. Charles Braling took into his little workshop with a feverish anxiety.
"The Coffin" is just creepy. Readers meet two brothers--Charles and Richard. One brother dies soon after completing his "custom" coffin. He boasts to his brother about how revolutionary this coffin is--how it is a complete all-in-one funeral experience. "Simply place body in coffin--and music will start." His brother is curious. Perhaps a little too curious?!

There Was an Old Woman

"No, there's no lief arguin'. I got my mind fixed. Run along with your silly wicker basket. Land, where you ever get notions like that? You just skit out of here; don't bother me, I got my tattin' and knittin' to do, and no never minds about tall, dark gentlemen with fangled ideas."
"There Was An Old Woman" shows just how stubborn one woman is to conquer death. She refuses--I mean REFUSES to believe in death. So what happens when she dies and her body is taken away? You might just be surprised.

The Scythe

Quite suddenly there was no more road.
"The Scythe" is also quite interesting! It is about a desperate man with a family who suddenly finds himself in a new situation. Finds himself in plenty for once. But there is a price to pay for having everything so perfect. Is he willing to pay that price? He may have no choice!

There Will Come Soft Rains

In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty.  
 "There Will Come Soft Rains" is a very, very, very lonely story where we get a glimpse--just a small glimpse perhaps--of the desolation and destruction of life as we know it in at least one human city. We see the ending of an era, perhaps. There are no human characters in this one.

The Murderer

Music moved with him in the white halls. He passed an office door: "The Merry Widow Waltz." Another door: Afternoon of a Faun. A third: "Kiss Me Again." He turned into a cross corridor: "The Sword Dance" buried him in cymbals, drums, pots, pans, knives, forks, thunder, and tin lightning. All washed away as he hurried through an anteroom where a secretary sat nicely stunned by Beethoven's Fifth. He moved himself before her eyes like a hand; she didn't see him.
Have you read it? You should! It was written in 1953. Albert Brock's first victim? The telephone? His second victim? The television. Our hero in this short story has had it with technology. Has had enough of being connected--always connected--with everybody, with everything.  He's on a mission to deliver man from modern 'conveniences'. 

The Fire Balloons

Fire exploded over summer night lawns.
In it two priests go to Mars as missionaries. One at least was expecting, was hoping, to meet Martians, to actually BE a missionary TO Martians, to an alien species. So when given the opportunity of going out into the hills and trying to communicate with blue balloon-like hovering creatures OR ministering to humans who have migrated to Mars, the answer is clear to Father Peregrine. But do the Martians need his church? This story has one of my favorite quotes:

"Father Peregrine, won't you ever be serious?"
"Not until the good Lord is. Oh, don't look so terribly shocked, please. The Lord is not serious. In fact, it is a little hard to know just what else He is except loving. And love has to do with humor, doesn't it? For you cannot love someone unless you put up with him, can you? And you cannot put up with someone constantly unless you can laugh at him. Isn't that true? And certainly we are ridiculous little animals wallowing in the fudge bowl, and God must love us all the more because we appeal to His humor."


She came out of the bathroom putting iodine on her finger where she had almost lopped it off cutting herself a chunk of coconut cake.
My thoughts: I believe this one is supposed to be a comedy! I certainly read it that way. A rivalry gone wrong between two women who want to be president of the same club. One woman, the narrator, is the clumsiest woman in town. She's accusing her neighbor and fellow club-member of being a witch and using witchcraft to keep her from winning the election. (She always has only one vote--her own.) She also writes out a list of every "accident" and illness she's had in the past year. (She totals it all up and says that this other woman is responsible for $98 worth of medicine.) No one is taking her seriously, which, is a good thing I suppose. It ends in laughter and tears.

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit

It was summer twilight in the city, and out front of the quiet-clicking pool hall three young Mexican-American men breathed the warm air and looked around at the world. 
This story, on the other hand, I remember quite well! I just loved it, found it very fun, rather light-hearted, charming in tone and not too dark. It is a story about a group of friends who came together, in a way, because they are all the same size. Because they are the same size, they can share this one wonderful, marvelous suit. A suit that none of the men could have dreamed of buying on their own. But they take turns wearing it, and have the time of their lives.

Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed

The rocket metal cooled in the meadow winds. 
Another short story that I just LOVED AND ADORED. This one is science fiction, it is set on Mars. It's the story of human settlers on Mars...and that's all I'm going to say about that. But it was FABULOUS. This one was not from Martian Chronicles, but, it was included in S is for Space.

Frost and Fire

During the night, Sim was born. He lay wailing upon the cold cave stones. His blood beat through him a thousand pulses each minute. He grew, steadily.
This (long) short story certainly grew on me as I read it. The first few pages I was skeptical, but, once I began to realize what was going on, I was hooked! This science fiction story is narrated by a boy named Sim. In the opening pages, he's a newborn. And we're seeing the world through his eyes--as he tries to make sense of the world around him. The environment is just as strange and foreign to readers almost. But. It is set on another planet, and the expedition was a total disaster. The humans live twenty-two hours a day in a cave--only braving the environment one hour at dawn, one hour at twilight. But even living in the caves is not protection enough--the environment is too damaging; it is changing human growth rate and effecting the life span. When Sim is born--the human life span in his particular cave is just eight days. In those days, he'll grow into a man, perhaps have a child of his own, before dying of old age. Sim is not accepting that fate--and he's determined to do something about it.
I also enjoyed: "I Sing the Body Electric," "A Medicine for Melancholy," "A Scent of Sarsaparilla," "The Great World Over There," and "The Black Ferris." Several of these were in Martian Chronicles, and were very enjoyable, but, since I've already talked about them in that post/review, I didn't necessarily feel I had to cover them in this one. 

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Annette said...

Excellent job on reviewing a book with many stories in it. It is hard to do that! I've never read anything by this author. I hope to soon.

Estevan Lutz said...

Hi, Becky!
Wonderful review!!
I'm a brazilian sci-fi writter and I'm enjoing a lot your reviews!