BooksOfTheMoon

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit And Other Plays

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 3 stars

This is a small collection of three short one-act plays that Bradbury wrote in the 1970s that I was completely unaware of, although in saying that, I recognise both the title play (The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit) and one other (The Veldt) as short stories. I don’t know if they started off as plays and were converted, or the other way around but both still work very well as plays. I’m not so experienced at reading plays but it does feel like there’s dialogue but not much in the way of stage direction.

The title play follows six young Latino immigrant workers who pool their resources and buy a single white suit that they share out amongst themselves. It’s about friendship and poverty and what can be learned through sharing and is a sweet little play. The Veldt is an altogether darker affair. It has themes of parental affection, misuse of technology and the tension between work and family life. The final play, To the Chicago Abyss has elements of Fahrenheit 451, although from a different perspective.

I would love to see these performed, just to see how they’d work on stage, rather than on the page, especially the technological magic of The Veldt. Even without that, though, they’re still very enjoyable to read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780553115826
Publisher: Bantam
Year of publication: 1972

We’ll Always Have Paris

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 3 stars

I can never turn down a new collection of Ray Bradbury stories and I did enjoy these, but I felt that it was missing the sparkle of Bradbury at his best. Despite being from 2009, the stories felt very nostalgic, perhaps to be expected from Bradbury of all people, but I would have liked to see a little more modernity to the stories. The one nod to the 21st century that I did see was that there were a couple of stories that had gay characters in them, but other than that, they could have been set in the ’30s or ’40s (as, indeed, some of them were).

There’s not much in the way of SF in this collection. There’s a Mars story and a story of the dead rising along with one or two others, but mostly this is just Bradbury writing about life, love and remembrance.

It’s a nice collection, but it’s not The Martian Chronicles or R is for Rocket.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007303649
Publisher: Voyager
Year of publication: 2009

Dandelion Wine

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this beautiful fictionalised memoir of life growing up in small-town midwestern America. I started it in fits and starts, but once I settled down and spent a whole afternoon on it, Bradbury’s writing worked its usual magic on me and I was drawn in to his descriptions of a world very different in space and time from my own. Our guides to Green Town, Illinois, are Douglas and Tom Spaulding, and this story is told mostly through their eyes during the summer of 1928.

Summer means that school’s out so the kids get to play, and they play as we children of the late 20th or early 21st centuries can hardly imagine. Climbing trees, kicking cans, busting each other’s noses in the presence of adults, all while glorying in being alive and young. Early on in the book, Doug Spaulding really realises that he’s alive, and later that one day he will die. He buys a pencil and tablet to write down all the best things about life: the rites, the ceremonies, and the revelations. It’s little touches like this that really make Bradbury as a writer, in my eyes.

We meet such characters as the boys’ grandfather, who makes wine from the dandelions that grow in their garden; Leo Auffmann, who makes a Happiness Machine; the newsman William Forrester and his tragic love affair and on it goes. Each character is drawn with Bradbury’s usual assurance and comes alive on the page.

Bradbury’s writing is as seductive as ever, drawing me in with its poetic grace. He made me laugh and he made me cry, especially the latter. This book is all about nostalgia, it’s about treasured memories and the formation of such memories. About bottling these up with the home made dandelion wine. About old people remembering their youth and having no regrets as they move on into the undiscovered country, about young people creating the memories that they will tell to their children, about love and loss. The loss of a dear friend who moves away or a treasured elderly relative who’s ready to die. In sum, it’s about life, and a life well lived, and a window into a life that was.

I don’t know what I would have made of it, but I wish I had read this book when I was young. It’s possible that I would have scoffed at it, but it might also be possible that I would have fallen in love as only a young person can fall in love with a book. Either way, I’ll just have to make up for it now. This book will definitely be re-read, I hope, again and again.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007284740
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Year of publication: 1957

Quicker Than the Eye

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 4 stars

This collection is from the later part of Bradbury’s life, with the stories all being from the 1990s. There is a mix of SF and non-SF stories, but all share the wonderfully lyrical writing that I find so appealing.

This wasn’t the strongest Bradbury collection that I’ve read, but there are still some great stories here. In terms of SF, Another Fine Mess is both a slightly creepy ghost story and a warm tribute to Laurel and Hardy. That Woman on the Lawn is another ghost story, this time with a different spin; and The Witch Door tells of two women in two intolerant time periods and what connects them.

The non-SF stuff that I liked include the awfully sweet Remember Sascha?, about a couple who talk to their unborn child; The Finnegan is a Holmes-esque story about either a serial killer or a giant spider; and probably my favourite story in the collection: The Very Gentle Murders. This is a laugh out loud funny story of an elderly couple and their increasingly outrageous attempts to kill each other off. I found At the End of the Ninth Year mostly quite whimsical and funny, except for the way that the husband behaved towards his wife, and the child-like ‘go to your room’ aspect of it, which felt a little creepy.

A nice collection, then, but not one of Bradbury’s best (the wonderful R is for Rocket is still probably my favourite of his SF collections).

Book details

ISBN: 9780380973804
Publisher: New York: Avon Books
Year of publication: 1996

The Stories of Ray Bradbury

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 5 stars

I’m not really sure how to even start with a review of this book, with its table of contents stretching to three pages. And even taking three months to read it was too short a time. Bradbury shorts need to be read slowly and savoured. I binged a bit here.

There are Martian stories in this collection, there are Mexican stories, Irish stories, stories about the supernatural Family and the joys of childhood. There are the famous stories (A Sound of Thunder, The Fog Horn etc) and so many more.

There are creepy stories of childhood and children (exemplified by The Small Assassin) and stories of the joys. Stories of happy marriage and stories showing it falling apart in slow motion. Every aspect of human life is examined by Bradbury in this collection and turned into a gem. Some stories are better than others (I really didn’t like Interval in Sunlight very much, for example) but taken as a whole, there’s no denying the power of Bradbury’s work.

Learn from my example, though, and don’t read more than a couple of stories a week, for maximum effect.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841593265
Publisher: Everyman
Year of publication: 1980

Something Wicked This Way Comes

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 5 stars

After hearing about Ray Bradbury’s death last week, I resolved that the next book that I would read would be one of his, and I had picked up this one at this year’s Eastercon as I’d never read it, so it was the obvious choice. The book was beautiful to read, as Bradbury’s work almost always is for me, and has a sense of horror permeating it, as two boys fight the horrific Mr Dark’s carnival when it rolls into town one October.

Like much of Bradbury’s work, this is set firmly in time and space, taking in that wide-open small-town midwest America that Bradbury loved, in a time that felt not too far removed from his own childhood, as he showed with his loving crafting of Will and Jim, his two protagonists, on the cusp of growing up, but still young enough that running together is the best thing you can do, and love is a word to be approached warily. The evocations of autumn also strongly place this book, with the word pictures blooming vividly in my head, something that Bradbury was the master of.

Mostly when I’m reading, I skim the actual text, so that I can get a sense of the story and what’s going on, but with Bradbury that misses half the point. His language is practically prose poetry and you need to read it slowly to appreciate that. In fact, I think Bradbury would be incredibly well-suited to audio books, as there is a rhythm and cadence that comes out when spoken aloud.

This is a book that I sort of wish I’d read in my youth, as its young protagonists would have certainly chimed even more closely with my teenage self than they do to me now. I’m just glad I got to know them at all.

Book details

Publisher: Bantam
Year of publication: 1962

Long After Midnight

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 5 stars

This collection is a mix of SF and non-genre stories that blend together remarkably well in that way that only Bradbury can do. There’s no real theme to the collection, although three of the stories are about other writers (a parrot that could recite Hemmingway; an android of GB Shaw; and a time-travelling Thomas Wolfe). Several of the stories are also about growing old and moving on, and one or two of these had me close to tears.

Favourites include One Timeless Spring which offers an alternative viewpoint on growing up; The Messiah, about a priest on Mars who receives a visitation; A Story of Love, telling of a love that can’t be; The Better Part of Wisdom in which a dying man goes to visit his relatives and the conversation he has with his grandson; and Have I Got a Chocolate Bar for You!, following a Catholic priest and one of his flock in the confessional.

Honestly, I could probably go on and name almost every story in the collection, but then I find Bradbury’s short stories almost uniformly entrancing.

Book details

ISBN: 9780553108828
Publisher: Bantam Science Fiction
Year of publication: 1976

The Martian Chronicles

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 5 stars

Any review I give to a Bradbury novel has to be read with the understanding that he’ll get an extra star from me just for being Bradbury. I find his prose incredibly lyrical and beautiful to read, and this incredibly melancholy set of linked stories blew me away. Being a future history of Man’s conquest and abandonment of the red planet within a single lifetime, it’s a warning and a guide showing us that there is no truly blank slate; wherever we go, we take our own prejudices with us.

I’ve read several of the stories before in other collections, but when assembled here, in order and in context, the wider themes come through and although the individual stories are excellent, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

The book was published in 1951, over a decade before the first probes were sent to Mars, so Bradbury can be excused the lack of scientific rigour in his red planet, but the setting is just a way to find a new frontier in which he can tell a story of pains of colonisation, and read that way it’s extremely satisfying.

Book details

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Year of publication: 1949

The Machineries Of Joy

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 5 stars

I loved this collection of short stories. What can I say, Bradbury’s writing just hits the right spot in my brain. I was hooked from the first paragraph of the first story. The style and use of language just press all my buttons. In saying that, there was one story, El Dia de Muerte that just completely failed to gel for me. I read a few pages but I just didn’t care for or about it at all. It’s difficult to describe but it’s like not being able to focus on a magic eye picture. With Bradbury I can mostly ‘see the picture’ from the first sentence or two and get completely entranced, but that just didn’t work for me.

The cover bills this as a collection of horror stories, but it’s really not. Some have an aspect of horror, some are plain science fiction, some are fantasy, several are actually non-genre and some are just immensely sweet. The last story in particular, The Anthem Sprinters was one that I read just before going to bed and I was able to turn out the light with a smile on my face that didn’t fade for several minutes. A wonderful way to end a brilliant collection.

Book details

ISBN: 9780586043615
Publisher: Granada
Year of publication: 1964

Now and Forever

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 4 stars

I love Bradbury’s writing, and this collection of two novellas is as much of a joy as anything else of his that I’ve read. The lyrical writing, the wordplay, the desperate bittersweet nature of the stories, one being about a town in middle America whose inhabitants never grow old, and the other being a retelling of Moby Dick with the titular whale replaced by a comet and the crew chasing it are now that of a spaceship, all combine in a sweet spot for me. Glorious stuff.

Book details

ISBN: 9780061131561
Publisher: William Morrow
Year of publication: 2007

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