Matt's Reviews > The Illustrated Man

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
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's review
Jan 23, 11

bookshelves: short-stories, science-fiction
Read from January 19 to 23, 2011

(Cross-posted to Android Dreamer, my science fiction blog.)

For the general reading population, Ray Bradbury is just "that guy who wrote Fahrenheit 451." To people who have an investment or strong interest in science fiction, he is known as one of the Grand Masters. I've been into sci-fi pretty heavily for the last couple years, but had generally stayed away from Bradbury due to rather lukewarm feelings towards the aforementioned dystopian classic. I remember being fifteen, and loving every minute of that book, until the last 20 pages or so. The ending angered me, and left me really disappointed; I wanted more. Luckily, I decided to give Bradbury another try when I came across The Illustrated Man in a clearance bin at Borders for two bucks.

It wasn't really what I expected. At first, I thought the general premise of it was weird, but I was broke. As it turned out, it isn't even a novel, but a short story collection with a framing narrative. The Illustrated Man is a character with living tattoos all over his body, each of which tell a story. Whether you see that as unique and cool, or cheesy and retarded, the stories really speak for themselves.

Generally, I think I'm a bit rough on short story collections. I have never given a short story collection a perfect score, aside from Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected which is technically a best-of (and not science fiction). Luckily, The Illustrated Man ends up being really close. Aside from maybe two or three weak stories out eighteen, it's all really good, and some of it is excellent.

Bradbury's short stories in the collection are often poignant and very memorable. Among the best of these is "Kaleidoscope," a story of a handful of astronauts floating in space to their doom following the hull breach of their rocket. They have a final conversation of their intercom systems as they all float in opposite directions to their doom. It is the second story in the collection, and easily now one of my favorite short stories period.

Also notable in the bunch are "The Long Rain," about a group of astronauts on the surface of Venus trying to make their way to the safety of a dome while the acid rain pelts them endlessly and drives them insane one by one. Another more humorous story is "Marionettes, Inc." in which a man plots to escape from his wife for a time by purchasing a robot clone of himself to keep his spouse occupied while he goes on a trip to Brazil.

These are only three of the stories, and there are many more that are very worthwhile in the collection. Although I should probably reread Fahrenheit 451 as it sits right now I greatly prefer this collection to that novel, despite it's status as a classic.
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01/19/2011 page 17
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Megan I feel the same way. I've enjoyed his short stories way more than I did Fahrenheit 451 (from what I can remember of it anyway, since that was in high school). I should probably reread it sometime though to give it another chance.


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