on June 11, 2010
We had the chance to have The Illustrated Man as an assignment in secondary school ESL, and ever since I just knew I would have to buy it one day. I am not even a fan of science-fiction (I can't imagine picking up a sci-fi novel on my own), nor are my friends, yet they all called shotgun to borrow it from me as soon as I was done, because they too wanted to plunge back into Bradbury's imagination now that our English has improved.
The perspective of the author and the observations he makes on mankind by just telling these short, unrelated stories in a different setting than the one we are used to are truly a valuable experience that I would recommend to anyone.
"Eighteen illustrations, eighteen tales." "The illustrations came to life..."
A man is encountered who has skin Illustrations all over his body. Each illustration represents a tale from the future. The illustrations come to life and tell a tale of doom or impending doom. In this way ray Bradbury can tell related but different tales in this book. Its Bradbury's writing style and dialogue that holds you as much as the storyline.
At first they are intriguing and fresh. Later they don't as much repeat but are similar in form and function.
One of the best "The Veldt" is first. Of course everyone will have a different favorite.
I suggest that you make your cats leave the room if you read out loud.
The Veldt (Classics Stories of Ray Bradbury)
on June 26, 2004
This group of highly imaginative tales, written in 1948-51, do nothing if not illustrate that 1) it's extremely difficult to predict the future and 2) no matter how much we struggle against it, we probably are doomed to reflect our own times and cultural environment. Over half a century after Ray Bradbury wrote these entertaining stories, we have a lot of answers to questions about the (then) future thanks to hindsight. Bradbury's characters still smoke like chimneys, they still use clunky mid-20th century machines for the most part---lugging electrical equipment and card tables across the light years in their bronze spaceships. There's only the vaguest hint of a computer ("The City") and then of the giant, controlling variety. Above all, there is no vision of the infinitely varied America of today---the space explorers in these stories are nearly all white Anglosaxons who speak and behave as white people did in the early 1950s. The cultural oppositions and arguments in the stories are those of mid-century America. While it is true that Bradbury writes of human nature it is also true that the nature he describes is as we saw it half a century ago.
However, Bradbury covers a wide range of topics: child psychology; machine vs. man; imagination and emotion vs. cold science; religion; time travel, and race relations. Some of the stories are unbelievably poignant. In fact, I would say that poignancy---the ability to bring out that quality without being sappy or twee---is Bradbury's strongest suit. If you don't like science fiction, this book probably isn't for you, but it certainly has made its mark on American culture, with 47 printings through 1990. One story, "The Exiles", probably laid the basis for his later "Fahrenheit 451". Bradbury wrote many stories which featured the "wrap-around-comfort, totally mechanized houses" that appear in several works in this volume. How many Hollywood movies of the last 15 years owe a debt to "The Fox and the Forest", a story of people escaping through time from a bad future to a quieter or more prosperous present ? THE ILLUSTRATED MAN is a minor American classic in a perennially shortchanged genre, science fiction. The dated technology and cultural styles may seem primitive today, but even they add a dimension of telling us about the times in which they were written as well as about the future as they saw it then.
on June 3, 2004
read this and change your mind.
The narrator met a man covered in tattos, tattos that moved to tell stories, eighteen of which are told in this volume. The stories, many of which have been published separately, are:
THE VELDT - overindulgence is bad for both parents and children
KALEIDOSCOPE - doomed astronauts floating in space
THE OTHER FOOT - reverse discrimination with a vengence
THE HIGHWAY - sometimes life passes you by and sometimes it doesn't
THE MAN - is it the journey or the destination that matters?
THE LONG RAIN - sometimes madness is the answer
THE ROCKET MAN - career vs. family
THE FIRE BALLOONS - is religion the answer or the question?
THE LAST NIGHT OF THE WORLD - the end with a whimper not a bang
THE EXILES - do people live for art or does art live for people?
NO PARTICULAR NIGHT OR MORNING - again the answer could be madness
THE FOX AND THE FOREST - you can run but you cannot hide
THE VISITOR - sometimes you don't know what you've got 'til its gone
THE CONCRETE MIXER - Mars invades
MARIONETTES, INC. - machines can be asked to do too much
THE CITY - revenge can be served very cold
ZERO HOUR - parents need to parent
THE ROCKET - Desire, envy and the triumph of the human spirit
Although these tales are hauntingly disturbing and many contain rather gruesome images Bradbury writes with a gentleness that takes material that could be shocking in another writer's hand and instead makes it poignant. He allows the more subtle message of the stories to come through by taking the edge off the sensationalism.
It is particularly interesting to read these stories and rember (or discover) what life was like in the fifties and then reflect (investigate) what changes took place in the subsequent fifty year.
For those who have read this and didn't like it try it again in a few years.
While the cover of the paperback that I read states that Bradbury is "The World's Greatest Living Science Fiction Writer", I respectfully disagree. Science fiction is so broad a field that there is significant overlap with horror and fantasy. I would without question call Bradbury the best author ever in the field of horrific science fiction. For, while his stories are generally based on a scientific theme, the real power is in the horrific aspects of the events.
When I was young, my favorite short story was "The Veldt", the first one in this collection of Bradbury's best short stories. A modern house contains what we would now call a holodeck, and instead of the children conjuring up delightful images, they are interested only in a scene of the African veldt, where lions pursue and devour their prey. Complete with the smell, sound and heat of the plains, the parents of the children are concerned that it is unhealthy. The parents try to do something to stop it, but they end up being consumed by the lions conjured up by the room.
Most of the other stories deal with the same theme, technology gone wrong. Atomic and biological warfare appears in many of the stories. However, the best part of all the stories is the tension and the unusual endings, often based on the frailties of human psychology. The intertwining of science fiction and horror makes these stories unique and I see a lot of similarities between Bradbury and Stephen King. In this area, he is better than King.
on January 24, 2004
I think there are two types of people in the world--those who appreciate Ray Bradbury and those who don't.
Granted, this is a short story collection, and, as is the case with any collection, some stories will be stronger than others. Every one of these stories is powerful and haunting in its own right, however, and I don't know of one single story that is the 'standout' in this collection...
for me, 'The Veldt' is one of the top short stories of the past century--but 'the long rain' and 'fire balloons' are other favorites.
others might say that 'kaleidoscope', 'zero hour', 'no paticular night or morning', or 'the last night of the world' are even more thoughtful, haunting or thought-provoking. and they'd be right, too. That's what makes the framing device of the 'illustrated man' and his tattooes so effective in this collection.... the darkness and unreality of these tales, their stylized nature, and yet, the way they stay with you.
If someone doesn't like this book, they probably won't like Bradbury. For the rest of us, it's a classic.
on June 8, 2003
Sometimes it's hard to remember that Ray Bradbury approaches the art of the short story in a very unconventional way. His collections of short stories are often tied together by common sub-themes or settings, although each story could also stand on its own. Such is the case here, though the running theme to the Illustrated Man collection is mostly an abstraction. Apparently the stories here are told by a man's haunted tattoos, but don't worry about that too much. The true theme holding this group of stories together is examinations of human nature and mankind's place in the universe. Bradbury's frequent use of Mars (and occasionally other planets) as a setting, with the obligatory spaceships and technology, is merely his method of creating alternate realities to bring human nature into bold relief.
Bradbury's classic examinations of the dark and melancholy side of humanity are well represented here as always, with his trademark poetic writing style and underlying sense of creeping dread. The classic virtual reality tale "The Veldt" is found here, with the typical misuse-of-technology theme presented in an unexpectedly haunting fashion. More evidence that the stock sci-fi themes are merely a thin backdrop can be seen in "The Other Foot," a chilling examination of race relations; or "The Rocket," which deals with the yearning of regular people to reach beyond the confines of Earth. Other winning stories include "Kaleidoscope" and "The Long Rain" which are haunting tales of how human nature can still undermine the greatest achievements of cold technology. So don't concern yourself with the typical sci-fi backdrop, and get in tune with what Ray Bradbury is really talking about.
on March 7, 2003
"Prologue: The Illustrated Man" and "Epilogue" are used as a binding element for this short story collection, linked together by images on the Illustrated Man's skin.
The name of "The City" was and is Revenge, upon the planet of Darkness - and after 20 millennia of waiting, Earthmen have come calling.
"The Concrete Mixer" Ettil objects to the Martian invasion of Earth - he's been reading illegally imported Earth fiction, and knows how all such invasions end.
Meet "The Exiles" - the reverse image of Bradbury's "Usher II".
"The Fire Balloons" Father Peregrine and his colleagues have come to Mars as missionaries to the Martians. But there are two species of Martians - the dying race of the Martian Chronicles, and a species of fire globes that humans can't communicate with yet.
"The Fox and the Forest" Fleeing from a war-torn future, two time travellers have taken new identities in 1938.
"The Highway" provides occasional windfalls for Hernando and his family - tourists driving south into Mexico who want to photograph him as a picturesque poor farmer, for instance. The drivers always complain - until today, as they flee the atom-bombing of the cities.
"Kaleidoscope" Although the crew were spacesuited when the ship was torn open, none had propulsion units - so here they are, falling, scattered so that they mostly can't see each other, unable to do anything except talk to pass their last few hours. (One twist is that they aren't all caught by Earth's gravity - some go one way, some another.)
On "The Last Night of the World", all the adults *know*, from having had the same dream, that the end has come. 'You don't scream about the real thing.'
"The Long Rain" Bradbury's Venus is a jungle suffering near-perpetual rain - in this story, rain that *never* ceases. The planet's only continent has been seeded with Sun Domes for lost spacemen - but the natives occasionally manage to destroy them. The survivors of a rocket crash are trying to make it to shelter before the endless water torture cracks them up...
"The Man" Hart, Martin, and the crew of their rocket have discovered a new world - but none of the inhabitants take any notice, because something *really* big has just happened - a messiah appeared the day before. Hart's first reaction is to ask if his competitors have beaten him here. :) ('I sympathize, Martin. I overlook your petty insubordination.' 'I don't overlook your petty tyranny.') Hart is driven to go on and on, so much so that he can't quite recognize what he's been looking for.
"Marionettes, Inc." Unlike _I Sing the Body Electric!_, here robots are illegally sold as replicas of specific people. Braling wants to escape his marriage, but gets more than he bargained for.
Hitchcock lives only in the moment, rejecting the pain of both memory and anticipation. But in space, it's "No Particular Night Or Morning".
"The Other Foot" - In _The Martian Chronicles_' "Way Up High in the Middle of the Air", African-Americans left Earth's segregation for Mars' freedom. Now the first rocket for 20 years brings the first white men the children have ever seen, while their parents aren't feeling charitable to these survivors of an atomic war. But Hattie Johnson doesn't want to see her husband turn into everything he hated.
"The Rocket" - The Bodonis dream of Mars - but have money for only one ticket.
Doug's childhood memories of his father, "The Rocket Man", are of a man gone for months at a time without a word, for fear he'd want to be with his family, "home" for three days or so, then gone again. Doug's mother treats space as though it doesn't exist, wanting her husband to stay and have a life with his family - hard, knowing that you can see all the places where he's been, while they're forever out of reach.
"The Veldt" - The Hadleys live in the kind of automated-to-the-max house seen in "There Will Come Soft Rains" in _The Martian Chronicles_. The adults worry that the nursery, with its full-sensory storytelling experiences, has supplanted them in their children's hearts - and what with the African stories they've been reading lately, the screams coming from the lions' kills are unnerving.
"The Visitor" - Victims of 'blood rust' are permanent exiles quarantined on Mars, and they suffer most from homesickness. When a newcomer displays a gift for creating illusions of home, though, whose home will it be?
"Zero Hour" - Children under nine have suddenly taken up a new game: invasion. It's creepy how Mrs. Morris' friends across the country *all* say their kids are pretending that the Martians are coming...
on November 26, 2002
This was the first Bradbury I've ever read, and was much better than that horrible show on cable. Essentially, this is an anthology loosely linked by a wrap-around story involving the titular "Illustrated Man". A carnival worker laid up by a broken limb, he decided to get fully tatooed in order to get another job. Unfortunately, the artist who turns our hero into a walking canvas is something of a witch. It's peak season for carnivals when, on a later summer afternoon, he meets our narrator.
..... and there doesn't seem to be a carnival in America that will hire him. His tattoos become living stories when stared at by customers. With spaceships, monsters and other oddities covering every inch of his body, he has become an unwitting page on which Bradbury writes his awesome stories. (None of the fictitious carnival-goers care for the stories since, we're told by the Illustrated Man himself, they all end with the viewer's horrible death). As night falls, the illustrations come alive, and the narrator comes to see tales of:
- astronauts forced to confront their doom as they drift in space after their spaceship suddenly explodes (years later, this would be parodied in the movie "DarkStar".)
- a living city built by a race of aliens annihilated by Earthlings and unwittingly discovered by exploring humans;
- Human explorers seeking their outpost on Venus where it never stops raining (this was a strangely prophetic take on Vietnam, right down to references to congressional funding for additional outposts)
- A mother and son driven to desperation by the occupational hazards of the husband's/father's job as a rocket pilot;
- A community of African Americans driven to colonize Mars in an effort to escape earthbound prosecutions now confronts survivors of Earth's last great war;
- Tourists who are really refugees from an oppressive future and will do anything to keep from having to back (or forth I guess);
- A family in a future age in which artificial intelligence and virtual reality affect almost every aspect of their daily existence ("The Veldt"; this cautionary and visionary tale of AI and VR run amok seems to have provided the basis for far too many episodes of ST:TNG, none of which have come close to matching its subversive quality.)
And other tales of exotic aliens, distant planets, rocket ships and the end of the world. This is what science fiction sounds like when your characters can't mask what's going on with meaningless techno-babble.
on October 25, 2002
My first Bradbury book was "Something Wicked This Way Comes", which I read for English class as a sophomore. Upon finishing it, I immediately rushed out to the nearest Half-Price bookstore and bought a truckload of his books. After reading Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, and Death Is a Lonely Business (all of which I loved), I settled down to read this one. And although I read it cover to cover in one afternoon, I felt as though I had been enlightened.
Granted, this is Bradbury in his so-called "Forties Period", in which most of his stories dealt with killer babies, end-of-the-world scenarios, and general all-around nihilism. But, boy, is it fun! Personal favorites are "The Man", "The Highway", "The Other Foot", and "The Long Rain". I don't happen to like "The Veldt" all that much, but that's just me. But my favorite of all of these is "The Last Night On Earth", which actually made me smile and say, "aww...". My least favorite is "The Exiles", which for some reason didn't sit well with me at all, which I think is just because I'm a booklover (just in case I haven't already made that clear). And I happen to love the framing story, although I could see the end coming.