I am rather a FanGirl of Ray Bradbury’s work (see Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, The Martian Chronicles…) and knew that this would probably a really good solid read. It’s short stories, mostly speculative fiction (my favorite type of scifi) and all written to the close-to-perfect Bradbury standards.
Interestingly, unlike other collections of short stories that I’ve read, this one didn’t seem to have any particular weak stories in it. (Hard to believe, I know, but he’s such a great writer that perhaps it’s not that tough to swallow.) I did learn an important lesson about how to read such an anthology, and that is not to read the stories back-to-back for ages. If you do that (or least this happened to me), the stories lose their special a bit by blending together, so my suggestion (learned from experience) is to space these stories out over a few days, just reading a few here and there with something else in-between.
I faced just that problem in the middle bit, and so when I reread this collection (which I will at some point – too good not to!), I’ll know not to binge on them.
If you’re familiar with Bradbury’s work, you’ll know what to expect: expert writing craftsmanship with a sci-fi set up but with a domestic and unexpected twist. You know – they remind me of that old British TV series called “Tales of the Unexpected” (who featured short stories written by Roald Dahl). The story is moving along a fairly predictable narrative arc until right at the end, there’s a helluva twist to wake you up.
The stories featured in “The Illustrated Man” were published between 1948-1981, so a wide breadth of influences but all with a common theme of space: aliens visit earth, earth humans visit Mars and so on – but usually with an overlay of larger societal issues (such as racism and other characteristics of the human race). I just loved it. (The mention of the Illustrated Man (in the title) is a rather tenuous connection tool to link these disparate stories together. The collection doesn’t really need it or use it though.)
Favorite stories? Ohh. Hard to pick because, really, all 18 of the stories were thoroughly enjoyable reads. There were some scary (to me) stories in the middle, so had to stop reading that patch at night, but then, when I next picked it up, either I had got braver or the stories were less scary. But so good!!
Luckily, Bradbury was a prolific writer and has loads of other works out there for me to track down. I can safely say that I’m an even stronger FanGirl than I was. 😉