Cecily's Reviews > A Sound of Thunder

A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
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bookshelves: scifi-future-speculative-fict, short-stories-and-novellas
Recommended to Cecily by: Apatt

A short story about using a time machine to hunt dinosaurs. The company that runs the trips is explicitly aware of the risks: “We don’t want to change the Future”, hence oxygen helmets, sterilised clothes, and an anti-gravity path that “Doesn’t touch so much as one grass blade”. What could possibly go wrong?

It was more clichéd than exciting for me, but Bradbury wrote it in 1952, whereas the other explorations of these ideas I’ve read and watched mostly date from after that. It’s always a shame when trailblazers seem unoriginal because of their own success.

I was less forgiving of the way it flipped between two very different writing styles: lyrical and sensuous descriptions (which I loved – see below) alternating with clunky and verbose exposition (which I disliked, so haven't quoted).

Changing Morals

This is set just after a presidential election, the result of which avoided “the worst kind of dictatorship. There’s an anti-everything man for you, a militarist, anti-Christ, anti-human, anti-intellectual.”

I’ve seen quite a few social media posts in the last eighteen months where people have longed for a time machine so that they could change the outcome of an election or referendum. If that were possible, would that undermine democracy or possibly secure it? I suppose it depends in part on whether you used facts and persuasion to change the result, or cheated somehow.

What about big game hunting and trophy photos? When this was written, few would think it inherently wrong. Nowadays, it gives the story a different slant. Think of the uproar about the US dentist who shot Cecil the lion – on the edge of a reserve where hunting is allowed. And the number of people who were outraged by a picture of Stephen Spielberg with a trophy of a dead triceratops!


Butterfly Effect

This story is credited with the first use of the idea. However, the phrase itself was coined a few years later by Edward Lorenz, in the context of climate modelling: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterf....

Lush Descriptions

Bradbury loves waxing lyrical about fire (see Fahrenheit 451, which I reviewed HERE)
There was a sound like a gigantic bonfire burning all of Time, all the years and all the parchment calendars, all the hours piled high and set aflame… Out of chars and ashes, out of dust and coals, like golden salamanders, the old years, the green years, might leap; roses sweeten the air, white hair turn Irish-black, wrinkles vanish; all, everything fly back to seed, flee death, rush down to their beginnings, suns rise in western skies and set in glorious east.

The jungle was high and the jungle was broad and the jungle was the entire world forever and forever. Sounds like music and sounds like flying tents filled the sky, and those were pterodactyls soaring with cavernous gray wings, gigantic bats of delirium and night fever.

It came on great oiled, resilient, striding legs. It towered thirty feet above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker’s claws close to its oily reptilian chest. Each lower leg was a piston, a thousand pounds of white bone, sunk in thick ropes of muscle, sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin like the mail6 of a terrible warrior. Each thigh was a ton of meat, ivory, and steel mesh. And from the great breathing cage of the upper body those two delicate arms dangled out front, arms with hands which might pick up and examine men like toys, while the snake neck coiled. And the head itself, a ton of sculptured stone, lifted easily upon the sky. Its mouth gaped, exposing a fence of teeth like daggers. Its eyes rolled, ostrich eggs, empty of all expression save hunger. It closed its mouth in a death grin. It ran, its pelvic bones crushing aside trees and bushes, its taloned feet clawing damp earth, leaving prints six inches deep wherever it settled its weight. It ran with a gliding ballet step, far too poised and balanced for its ten tons. It moved into a sunlit arena warily, its beautifully reptilian hands feeling the air.

Its armored flesh glittered like a thousand green coins. The coins, crusted with slime, steamed. In the slime, tiny insects wriggled, so that the entire body seemed to twitch and undulate.
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Reading Progress

August 5, 2017 – Started Reading
August 5, 2017 – Shelved
August 5, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
August 5, 2017 – Shelved as: scifi-future-speculative-fict
August 5, 2017 – Shelved as: short-stories-and-novellas
August 5, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Tim (new)

Tim Martin Good review. I wonder if that story is the origin of the butterfly effect, not so much as a name but as a concept.

I know what you mean about later stories making the original seem, well, unoriginal. Ran into that recently with the novella that inspired The Thing movies.


message 2: by Cecily (last edited Aug 05, 2017 12:34PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Tim wrote: "Good review. I wonder if that story is the origin of the butterfly effect, not so much as a name but as a concept...."

Thanks for the first and "probably" for the second. See the link in my review, and also this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Sound...


message 3: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Newton Wonderful review, Cecily! We used to teach this story to our freshman English classes. I, too, loved his detailed and lyrical description of the T-Rex. This was one of the stories our kids actually enjoyed! ;)


Cecily Cindy wrote: "Wonderful review, Cecily! We used to teach this story to our freshman English classes. I, too, loved his detailed and lyrical description of the T-Rex. This was one of the stories our kids actually enjoyed!"

Thanks, Cindy. It must be so much easier (and more fun) to teach a text that the students actually enjoy. I hope that after tasting a Bradbury short story, some were tempted to venture into novels.


message 5: by Apatt (new)

Apatt Brilliant review. I'm almost glad I recommended it to you, only almost because you didn't like it much. The "Lush Descriptions" are tastefully picked, but perhaps you could add samples of the clunky bits too, an adjective not commonly applied to Ray Brad.

GR has kindly put up a link to legitimately read this story online: http://www.scaryforkids.com/a-sound-o...

Perhaps you would prefer the 2005 movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318081/

Or, this much better movie, probably inspired by this story http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0289879/?...


message 6: by T.D. (new)

T.D. Whittle Well, now I have to read it, Cecily! :)


Cecily Apatt wrote: "Brilliant review. I'm almost glad I recommended it to you, only almost because you didn't like it much...."

Thanks for the compliment - and for recommending it. I liked it more than "not much". 3* is not at all bad! The best bits were gorgeous, and the worst bits suffered from their age which, as I said, is a compliment to Bradbury's ongoing influence on the genre.

Apatt wrote: "Perhaps you would prefer the 2005 movie...."
Maybe. I see it stars Sir Ben Kingsley and David Oyelowo, which is good.
Or maybe the Ashton Kutcher one, though I think I may have seen that, ages ago.


Cecily T.D. wrote: "Well, now I have to read it, Cecily! :)"

I hope you enjoy it. There's a link to the story in Apatt's comment, immediately above yours.


message 9: by Greg (new)

Greg Ah...the 50s...the golden age of syfy PLUS Capote, Highsmith, and many more.


Cecily Greg wrote: "Ah...the 50s...the golden age of syfy PLUS Capote, Highsmith, and many more."

Indeed. And also the Cold War. Not a coincidence?


message 11: by Jessaka (new)

Jessaka Excellent review.


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