Wednesday, February 24, 2010

They're Not Gonna Get Us

Book17: "The Illustrated Man" by Ray Bradbury

I have a hard time trying to figure out how I feel about short stories. I tried to liken the situation to whether or not I'm a television episode person or if I'm a movie person. A few of my friends can clearly classify themselves one or the other, but I can't do it. Do I prefer a long narrative/story...or would I rather have a shorter, smaller glimpse? I don't think I can classify myself as preferring one or the other, and I guess I'm the same way when it comes to short stories. I feel like some longer stories just sort of drag on and get specific on areas I don't care about; and some short stories don't make good use of the short "time" they're given, and thus just don't tell a good story altogether. I think perhaps more than any other art form, the written story is one where the audience can clearly say whether the words are wasted or not.

"The Illustrated Man" by Ray Bradbury is a collection of eighteen stories Bradbury wrote and published during the late 1940s and early 1950s. As with other Bradbury works, most of the stories involve a dystopian future and space travel and aliens. Stories about dystopian futures are totally boss, but the big focus on space travel and aliens kind of put me off. Of course, I have to take into consideration when the stories were written, but I still felt like the material was sorely outdated. Bradbury's final frontier is obviously space, a universe where Pluto is still a planet (see how outdated all this is?!?), and there is much mention of martians and rockets and "rocket men". Those words alone made the material feel dated.

As I said, there are eighteen different short stories collected in this book, and they all have varying ranges of quality. They all examine the human condition and affects there on due to the science fiction (whether it be space flight or time machines or martians or whatever), but some stories definitely do a better job of examination through narration. My favorite of the stories actually involved time travel, and perhaps that's due to the times. I already mentioned how space felt like an outdated final frontier, and I guess for my age and generation, time travel seems like a more modern final frontier. Regardless of the science fiction, the best stories were the ones that actually ended very morbid and bleak. These were the stories where the humans were pushed to their worst, and lived the dark consequences of their actions. It's a bit depressing, but I guess that's what made those stories a better read.

All in all, "The Illustrated Man" is a decent collection of Bradbury tales. The only other Bradbury work I've read is "Fahrenheit 451", and in comparison, I thought that book was much better than any of the other short stories I read. Perhaps Bradbury's work suits me better as a "movie" instead of a "tv show".

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