Spotlight On: Ray Bradbury
When it comes to science fiction, fantasy, and horror in the literary world there seems to be one name which stands above so many others, Ray Bradbury. Originally from America’s Midwest, Bradbury is largely credited for bringing genre literature into the mainstream with his imaginative and timeless novels and short stories. With a career which spanned several decades, Bradbury earned numerous awards and heaps of critical praise; but most importantly he inspired those who read his work. With a unique style which was whimsical yet thought-provoking, it is little doubt this esteemed author’s influence is still felt today.
Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury takes us to a dystopian future where houses are fireproof, and the new job of firemen is to start fires and burn ideas. One loyal fireman, Guy Montag, who follows the orders of the state and dutifully burns books and punishes those who keep them. He does his part to maintain a status quo, where books are banned, and everyone engages in braindead “parlor walls” for entertainment. But under the influence of his young new neighbor his mind begins to open and Montag builds a stash of literary contraband. As he grows spiritually, emotionally, and mentally because of his newfound love of reading, he knows it is only a matter of time before he has to answer for what he has done while society continues to crumble.
The Martian Chronicles: The planet Mars has long been the subject of fascination for science fiction authors, so naturally one of the giants of the genre would put his own spin on the Red Planet. This proves to be a fascinating work from the author as the Martian Chronicles is structured as a cross between a novel and a short story collection. Bradbury himself called it a “half-cousin” to a novel. The Martian Chronicles takes place in an alternate timeline where humanity has set forth to colonize the Martian surface. Through a series of short stories, a history unfolds of how our race journeyed and settled Mars, as well as what impact humans made on those who already lived there.
Something Wicked This Way Comes: Ray Bradbury always claimed his own life was changed when he met a carnival performer named, Mr. Electro when he was a boy. Naturally for him, the carnival is a place of wonder and mystery in this horror/dark fantasy masterpiece. Any excitement for the arrival of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show brings is quickly extinguished, when Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade discover the carnival’s owner Mr. Dark brings an evil power with him. Being kids nobody in town believes them except for Will’s aging father Charles Holloway, the local librarian. What follows is a battle between good and evil for the soul of a town as the kids and Charles must find a way to drive Mr. Dark away from their town. Disney adapted the book into a film starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce in 1983 which is also well worth checking out.
I Sing the Body Electric: This particular collection of short stories is anchored by an adaptation of the classic Twilight Zone episode Bradbury penned, “I Sing the Body Electric”. The stories presented in this book play up the legendary author’s lighthearted side. Tales abound of a time-traveller meeting Ernest Hemingway to a family stuck raising an interdimensional monster to Charles Dickens checking into a boarding house in the American Midwest. I Sing the Body Electric is the perfect showcase for Ray Bradbury’s imaginative and lyrical style of writing.
Dandelion Wine: This book has often been held as possible the author’s most personal work as he salutes the season of summer and all the possibility it brings to kids. Dandelion Wine centers around the summer of 1928 as experienced by 12 year old Douglas Spaulding. During this three months we meet the townspeople Douglas runs across as he sets out to make this the best summer ever. Despite what may have been planned, this summer turns into a season of change for the young man as; friends leave, the towns changes, and some things can never go back to the way they are. Ray Bradbury’s ode to this season is filled with; humor, heartbreak, scares, and of course imagination.
The Illustrated Man: This nominee for 1952’s International Fantasy Award collects many of Ray Bradbury’s most popular short stories. Framed by a mysterious man covered in tattoos, each image inked onto his skin tells a different story. While each tale is one of fun fantasy and science fiction, each entry will also force the reader to stop and think about the topics presented. Topics like; racism, religion, mortality, war, and technology are all tackled through many of Bradbury’s greatest tales. Despite this none of these stories, beat the reader over the head or come off as preachy rather they present a story that will stick with you.