Ray Bradbury's THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, Story by Story

Extollager

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Here's a thread intended to be devoted to discussion of the stories that make up this classic volume. There's another thread on the book that discusses it in terms of a graphic novel adaptation. Probably the movie has been discussed at Chrons.

It's my intention that this thread sticks to the stories. Perhaps they haven't been discussed at Chrons as much as someone would expect because it's just assumed that everyone's read them and loved them.

As with The Martian Chronicles, this is a book that was one of the first sf volumes in the experience of many American (at least) readers, once upon a time, but I don't know if that is still true. Bradbury certainly has never been forgotten, but it is possible that, for a younger generation of readers than my own, he needs to be (re)discovered, they having come to sf via Star Wars movies, comic art, TV series, and YA books.

 

kythe

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My favorite story from "The Illustrated Man" is The Veldt.

I first read it in a different publication many years ago. The Veldt was among the first AI-gone-wrong themed stories I had ever read and is still among my favorites. It has haunted me for years, and I still reread it occasionally.

I like the narrative style of the Illustrated Man as well, where each tattoo tells a different story. It's a unique and fascinating idea in itself.

Bradbury has a style of prose which really brings stories to life.
 

clovis-man

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Not to go on a tangent, but the 1969 film adaptation of the book wasn't half bad. Rod Steiger was great as the tortured title character. My favorite of the stories featured in it was "The Long Rain".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Rain
Available perhaps on DVD, but likely out of current production.
 

Piper

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My favorite story from "The Illustrated Man" is The Veldt.

I first read it in a different publication many years ago. The Veldt was among the first AI-gone-wrong themed stories I had ever read and is still among my favorites. It has haunted me for years, and I still reread it occasionally.

I can't help but think of this story in relation to today's technology- people losing themselves in devices. televisions getting bigger and bigger, the sense of entitlement some of the (sigh) younger generation has. "smart" houses.....creepy and sad
 

Frost Giant

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I always thought The Exiles was an interesting one. The idea that the author suffers annihilation after his works are destroyed was a good indictment of things like book burning. Given the anti-science climate of today, still a relevant notion.
 

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I’m reading this book now, and will comment on individual stories more in due course. Just to say for now, I’m really enjoying it - The Veldt and Kaleidoscope were terrific. More as I go.
 

BAYLOR

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Not to go on a tangent, but the 1969 film adaptation of the book wasn't half bad. Rod Steiger was great as the tortured title character. My favorite of the stories featured in it was "The Long Rain".
The Long Rain - Wikipedia
Available perhaps on DVD, but likely out of current production.
I liked the film.:)
 

Bick

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BAYLOR

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Having read The Veldt I would say that George Hadley's The biggest mistakes , was not only buying a house that did everything for him except breath, It was indulging kids Wendy and Peter with a fantasy land Nursery which could become any place they wanted. It's obvious that theses two kids were staving for attention and had deep seated and serious issues long before he got the Do it all house . The Nursery gave him a way of shirking his parental duties . The constant motif of the Veldt, The screams , finding his wallet , were warning signs failed to recognize .
 

BAYLOR

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I think could could argue that The Veldt is a mediation on the dangers allowing technologies and their conveniences to so dominate our lives that we end up becoming aloof to those around us like George Hadley did. In our current age this story has again become relevant.
 

Matteo

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Just reading this collection (again) now.

Some brief comments below.

And since it's a discussion, there are spoilers. I can hide these if Chroners prefer.

I would agree with Baylor re The Veldt on both points - more strongly on the latter. It's also interesting that Bradbury doesn't hold off in depicting the kids in a very negative light. As for the plot, I like the way that you can sense the impending doom - you know what's coming and are waiting for it.

Kaleidoscope doesn't really do anything for me.

The Other Foot is a good idea but not enough time has passed (twenty years) for it to be credible. Edmund Cooper expanded on the idea (significantly) in The Last Continent (1969).

Highway is told from the point of view of an individual "no-body" and the imminent nuclear apocalypse. But I find it a bit lacking in detail.

The Man is rather preachy but it's an interesting examination of what religion means to individuals and obsession.

The Long Rain is a fantastic story - and I'm fairly sure was in the film version (only saw it once, many years ago). The imagery Bradbury uses to describe the effect of the endless rain is superb and he holds nothing back. The only thing that slightly spoils it for me is the ending. It's too nice. And in fact, catches me out each time I read it. I would have ended with something along the lines of: He stood there in the sun dome. The ruined sun dome. The holes in the roof letting in the relentless, ever falling rain. He stood there a long time. Forever.

Rocket Man is a powerful little story about how space can obsess a man to point that it takes over is whole life and the ending is a gut puncher.

The Fire Balloons is a bit too preachy for me and the second story with a religious theme. However, it does raise an important point re. the western depiction of Christ.

The Last Night of the World is a wonderful little tale. Quite gentle with the inevitability of the event. However, I would have preferred some explanation - as Larry Niven did with Inconstant Moon.

Exiles is fun but a bit silly.

No Particular Night or Morning is a bleak, cold story of the psychological effects of long term space travel. I like this one.

And that's where I left it on this morning's commute to work.
 
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Aren’t the different stories in the English vs USA editions? I read the English version. Lots to like.

No Particular Night or Morning and the Veldt are my two favourites. I didn’t really understand the interlinking Illustrated Man aspect to be honest but it’s a brilliant set of stories.
 

Karn's Return

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It's been a while since I've read this...I'll need to look it back over again if I get the chance, see which ones I liked and which I didn't care for as much.
 

Matteo

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Aren’t the different stories in the English vs USA editions? I read the English version. Lots to like.

No Particular Night or Morning and the Veldt are my two favourites. I didn’t really understand the interlinking Illustrated Man aspect to be honest but it’s a brilliant set of stories.
The version I have was published by Corgi in 1974 in the UK. Taking a quick look at the ISFDB the US and UK versions seem the same except in the original hardback which has fewer stories.

And I agree the link is a bit weak.

Anyway, I read others since my last post:

The Fox and the Forest
A time travel tale of two people escaping a bleak and war-torn world to live 200 years in the past. The depressing ending can be guessed (these days perhaps, more than when it was published??) but a great little story.

Visitor
A bit weak. Basically a morality tale of greed leading to destruction.

The Concrete Mixer
Another morality tale showing how commercialism can take over.

Marionettes Inc.
This is fun. Again, one can see the ending coming but the somewhat misogynist beginning has a nice little twist at the end.

The City
This one is great with fantastic description (pure Bradbury) and a cold ending. To be perfect, it needs a bit more background (as it's rather vague) but I like this one.

Zero Hour
Kids again, and not very nice ones - again. It's fun but doesn't really hold up to too much scrutiny.

Rocket

A sweet little tale of a father mocking up a trip to Mars in his scrapyard for his children.

For me, the standout stories are: The Long Rain, The City, The Veldt, No Particular Night or Morning and The Fox and the Forest.
 

clovis-man

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I’m reading this book now, and will comment on individual stories more in due course. Just to say for now, I’m really enjoying it - The Veldt and Kaleidoscope were terrific. More as I go.
I'm fortunate to have gotten the author to sign my copy.
 

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I realise I said I would comment on the stories in this collection but I never did, so I'll try to recall them as well as I can (I read the book about a month ago), and pass some commentary now:

Prologue: The Illustrated Man ****
Excellent introductory piece, a good short story in its own right.

Veldt ****
Excellent - one of those classic stories that feels slightly dated to me, but was well constructed and written and a fine idea. A good old fashioned twist.

Kaleidoscope ****
Albeit there's a very fifties feel to the language and attitudes of the poor men in this story, its very nicely done, and a super idea. I'll remember this one for many years - perhaps my favourite from the collection.

Other Foot **
This was probably an important story in its day, reversing the black-white divide of America, with the whites taking the role of the dispossessed minority on Mars. Outside of the political and moral merits that doubtless made this stand out when published, the story itself is no better than average to my mind.

Highway ***
A short little post apocalypse story, but I rather liked it - the near-focus world view, rather than a global perspective, gave it humanity and pathos.

The Man **
I didn't care for this one so much - its okay, but its a bit hokey.

Long Rain ***
This is one of those old solar system tales, where men wander around Venus in trilby hats (figuratively). But, allowing for the oddity of this (Bradbury never let science get in the way of a good story) its a classic SF short, and I did enjoy it. The sense of tension if well developed and the incessant rain is well described. Not one of his absolute best in my mind, but good nonetheless.

Rocket Man ****
I liked this - it reminded me of Asimov in a somber mood, and was well delivered. Its a simple little fable, but Bradbury writes it well.

The Fire Balloons **
A mars story that could have fit into his Martian Chronicles, except that perhaps he felt it was too religious in theme. I didn't care much for the message, but the story was okay.

Last Night of the World ***
Another classic, and a very short piece. It didn't entirely work for me, being too neat and short, but I recognise that in the time it was written it will probably have had more impact and relevance.

The Exiles **
Okay, this is a weird story - its a an interesting fantasy concept, that great authors are resurrected on Mars until their books are destroyed, but its so odd it didn't really work for me. I accept its a light comedy piece, but I thought it was only so-so.

No Particular Night or Morning ****
Another contender for best story of the collection. Very well done, and with real depth to Bradbury's (or the protagonists) philosophical musings. It's funny how the characters smoke cigarettes on the spaceship, but that aside, this is pretty timeless.

The Fox and the Forest ****
A very well written time-travel story. Excellent in all regards, and one of my favourites here. Good tension is built and you care for characters within only a few pages.

The Visitor ***
Another Mars story and a pretty decent one. Enjoyable but a not classic - it falls just a little short of most of the Martian Chronicles stories I think.

The Concrete Mixer **
A conscientious objector story from the perspective of a Martian asked to invade Earth. Its okay, but nothing great, it felt a bit like filler to me (or concrete?).

Marionettes, Inc. **
A robot-as-spouse-substitute story, it reminded me in theme to del Rey's Helen O'Loy or some of Asimov's early robot stories. Its nice enough, but I'm not sure its aged well. Kind of amusing though.

City **1/2
This was an unexpected digression from Bradbury's usual tales, I felt, as it was overtly dark, and a bit grim. I quite liked it, and I'm hovering between giving it 2 or 3 stars, in my highly critical starring system. Perhaps it deserves 3.

Zero hour ***
This has a ring of "classic SF tale" about bit - kids inadvertently involve themselves in alien invasion. Its rather nice and the small town, close focus, on nobodies is reminiscent of Simak for me. I probably liked it for that reason as much as anything - the approach being, presumably, to present a little local tale, to enable the shock of a global consequence at the end. These days, after we've all read so much SF, it's not exactly a surprise ending, but its a terrific old story nonetheless.

Rocket ***

This is barely SF, in a sense, as its a nice little fable about poverty, privilege and making the most of the life available to you. There's (sort of) a spaceship in it, so it qualifies as SF. Its nicely done, but doesn't exactly end the book with bang.
 

Bick

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For me, the standout stories are: The Long Rain, The City, The Veldt, No Particular Night or Morning and The Fox and the Forest.
Very similar list to me Matteo (I would substitute Rocket man for City perhaps).
 
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