Werner's Reviews > The October Country

The October Country by Ray Bradbury
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May 27, 08

bookshelves: general-fiction, science-fiction, supernatural-fiction, short-stories
Recommended for: Fans of macabre, scary, or just plain unusual stories
Read in May, 2008

I'd started reading this book several years ago, in the library at another college, while I was attending a library convention, and I've just now gotten around to finishing it. At his best, Bradbury is a master of short fiction; his output in that form ranges across the genres, from the speculative realms of science and supernatural fiction to the everyday world of descriptive fiction. But the unifying thread in all of it is a flamboyant imagination, by turns whimsical or chilling, that can transform the ordinary into a strange and alien landscape. And the whole is presented in a uniquely lyrical and evocative prose style, rich with metaphors and similes, and appealing to all of the reader's senses to a degree that few writers have ever equaled. The 19 early stories here (several of them reprinted from his earlier collection, Dark Carnival) well illustrate these characteristics, with an emphasis on the scarier side of his work.

Of course, given the sheer volume of Bradbury's output, and the speed with which he produced it in his early years, some of his stories inevitably miss the mark. Here, the science fiction stories generally share the common theme of making some harmless feature of ordinary life somehow lethally menacing --one's own skeleton, the wind, a newborn baby who wants to kill his parents in "The Small Assassin." Bradbury doesn't succeed in making any of these premises credible, or in carrying the reader along despite the incredulity; these works illustrate the dictum of one critic that the author's besetting fault is "silliness." But most of the stories here succeed very well in being what they're designed to be. The ghost stories are very effective, and "The Homecoming" is a supernatural genre masterpiece. Much of the descriptive fiction is a powerful evocation of the real horror in this world: death, madness, murder, suicide, and the major and minor cruelties we inflict on each other. "The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse" is exaggerated social satire that derives its bite precisely from its deadpan exaggeration; and "The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone" is a serious meditation on life's priorities, of special interest to those of us who are writers.
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Steven Harbin Excellent review!


Werner Thanks, Steven!


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