Posts Tagged ‘science fiction short stories’

Ray Bradbury: The Day It Rained Forever

December 10, 2014

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OK, I think I’m over Ray Bradbury now, and give The Martian Chronicles my vote as his best and the only one that is really worth the effort and likely to survive as a read in the future.

This collection was disappointing and felt very dated; too many of the stories had those twee and mawkishly sentimental portraits of smalltown US life that are charming enough when met once or twice, but do pall when they reappear time after time. At the end of the book, my overall feeling was, ‘Yawn. What was the point?’. And yet, I can’t deny that Bradbury uses the language beautifully – skilful and evocative descriptions, conjuring up that sense of nostalgia for a mythical, lost and unspoiled past: you can really feel yourself there…

The Cold War overshadows most of these stories, though that’s not the reason I find them rather dated. Atomic warfare lurks in the background, moves to the foreground, actually explodes and trashes the planet, yet it’s presented in an offhand and barely understood manner; that’s what’s really dated, the faux-naivete. Our world isn’t like that, and the pretence no longer washes.

There are two stories out of the two dozen or so that stood out:Dark They Were, And Golden-Eyed has the immigrants from Earth to Mars gradually physically transformed into Martians, members of the indigenous race that has (apparently) died out; they perceive this, try to resist, and ultimately don’t really want to. And The Rock Cried Out is much darker, a tale of revolution in some Latin American nation, where the tables are turned on American tourists and the couple get their comeuppance as they gradually see the world from the point of view of the colonised and oppressed. It’s made more acute by the sympathetic nature, the understanding and the niceness of the couple, to which the locals do not respond…

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Ray Bradbury: The Golden Apples of the Sun

November 26, 2014

9780380730391A collection of short stories, which I’ve reread, trying to work out whether I really rate him any more.  There are some surprises here – an eye-opening glimpse into the race-relations issues in the 1950s US, and a very prescient story which seems to address today’s issues about omnipresent and intrusive social media communications. Then there is the very famous time-travel story, The Sound of Thunder, which explores the idea that going back into the past – if it were possible – would be very dangerous, because of the possibility of a chain-reaction in changes to that past. I shan’t say any more lest you haven’t come across this story, which is one of the classics of the genre, and has been anthologised many times.

Bradbury is big on Mars – we need to remember that the Soviet Union hadn’t launched the first space craft when most of these stories were written – and the possibilities of colonising another planet and emigrating to it. He links this in to the old frontier days of the early United States. I’m planning to read his collection The Martian Chronicles next, as my final catch-up with him.

There’s an awful lot of dross, though. Stories written by the word to make money, published in long-dead magazines, with magic, witches and the twee-ness of small-town American life presented in a very saccharine or maudlin manner. And then there’s the Cold War, always lurking in the background, always ready to leap into Hot War unexpectedly. This last is a more convincing and genuine recurrent theme, though others have developed it better, I feel. I’m beginning to feel that Bradbury is now a name to which readers pay reverence as a pioneer of the SF genre, and the SF story in particular, without necessarily being all that familiar with much of his work, and that he will eventually fade into obscurity.

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