Review

Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales

by Ray Bradbury



If any twentieth-century American writer deserves a revival, it's
Ray Bradbury, king of the dime novels and refiner --- if not the
inventor --- of mainstream science fiction. Unlike contemporaries
H.P. Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick and disciples like William Gibson
and Stephen King (who has greedily borrowed Bradbury's otherworldly
horror + local color equation), Bradbury isn't very widely read by
people beyond their teenage years. His novels THE MARTIAN
CHRONICLES and FAHRENHEIT 451 are mainstays of junior and senior
high school reading lists across the country, and therefore have
acquired the stigma of youth-oriented fiction (which seems ironic
now that so many adults are giddy like schoolchildren over Harry
Potter). As if out of spite for being force-fed his work so early,
many people seem to ignore Bradbury as they grow older, consigning
him to the world of adolescence.

All of which is unfortunate, for Bradbury stands as a singular
chronicler of the second half of the twentieth century, peeking
into our dark corners to see what scares us. BRADBURY STORIES: 100
of His Most Celebrated Tales presents these demons anew, collecting
pieces from every stage of his long career, from his dime novel
beginnings to his work in Hollywood to his recent resurgence with
original books like LET'S ALL KILL CONSTANCE and ONE MORE FOR THE
ROAD. For those who haven't read Bradbury since high school, this
collection serves as a fitting introduction to the surprisingly
wide range of styles and subjects he has addressed; for longtime
fans it is a reminder of the author's ability to evoke "the
monsters and angels of my imagination" through dreamy prose and
unforgettable imagery.

As well as any other American writer of the last century --- and
certainly better than any other "genre" writer --- Bradbury creates
a particular mood and setting in his stories that is best described
as eerily autumnal. In THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, arguably his best
collection, he describes this setting as "that country where it is
always turning late in the year, that country whose people are
always autumn people, thinking autumn thoughts." In the cycle of
seasons, fall is the season of death --- falling leaves, browning
grass, chilling winds, early darkness --- before rebirth, and in
Bradbury's stories death always lingers nearby, tracking and
chasing characters and greeting them in unsuspected places.

Whether or not they conjure the supernatural, the stories in this
large collection show that this narrative texture, this October
country setting, transcends that one collection and informs almost
everything Bradbury wrote.

Furthermore, the October country Bradbury evokes is a flip-side
America, one where the American dream has been subsumed by
collective nightmares. If nothing else, BRADBURY STORIES
demonstrates the writer's talent for heatedly and unpretentiously
addressing social and political ills through his imaginative
stories.

"And the Rock Cried Out," for example, follows two wealthy
travelers in Africa who discover they're the last white people on
earth. Their punishment for the West's constant imperialism is the
loss of all worldly possessions and a life devoted to menial
labor.

In "The Garbage Collector," a man learns that if a bomb hits the
city, he will have to collect the dead in his truck. The title
character must decide whether to quit his job and assuage his
conscience or keep working to support his family. To Bradbury's
credit, it's difficult to tell which crime is more outrageous ---
the civic government viewing its citizenry as refuse or making its
employees compromise their morals for family.

Any collection of this size is necessarily defined by what it omits
as much as by what it includes. BRADBURY STORIES contains so many
wonders, but where are "The Scythe," "The Crowd," and "Homecoming"
from THE OCTOBER COUNTRY? What happened to "The Picasso Summer" and
(a personal favorite) "Some Live Like Lazarus"?

Such glaring oversights are certainly not the fault of Bradbury,
unless you count prolificacy and quality among the most grievous of
literary sins. Nor are they the fault of the editors and compilers,
who doubtlessly had to make many painful cuts. Instead, they serve
as a cry for another volume, perhaps entitled 100 MORE BRADBURY
STORIES. It is maybe only a slight exaggeration to say that he
could fill 100 such volumes with highly inventive and deeply felt
tales.

Reviewed by Stephen M. Deusner on January 21, 2011

Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales
by Ray Bradbury

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2003
  • Genres: Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 912 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 006054242X
  • ISBN-13: 9780060542429