Chloe's Reviews > The October Country

The October Country by Ray Bradbury
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's review
Sep 29, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: library_book, not-owned, short_stories, scifi-fantasy

It is no secret that science fiction tickles my fancy like nothing else. I've penned dozens of reviews by now declaiming the same thing. Yet for all of my heartfelt ardor for the genre as a whole, I have never been a big fan of Golden Age science fiction. By Golden Age I mean those authors writing either before or during the initial space race, authors whose imaginations were set racing by the vision of Sputnik orbiting overhead and whose Eisenhower minds drew long gleaming phallus-looking rockets flown by Aryan supermen set to spread the ethos of Manifest Destiny to the stars. There’s just something too clean about these visions of the future- nothing worn or battered, nothing broken down. It’s all just a little too neat and tidy, as though these futures had swept the problem of civil rights, women’s lib, or upstart youth collectively under the rug and forgotten about them.

All of which brings me to Ray Bradbury. While he only rarely set his stories among the stars, Bradbury has always seemed to embody much of what I dislike about scifi of that era. I remember well the torment of forcing myself through the slow tedium of Dandelion Wine as a pre-teen, not to mention the enormous disappointment of The Martian Chronicles (that’s a review for another day). His style has always struck me as just a tad too simplistic, events occur that are far too coincidental, everything gets wrapped up nice and pat. What I’m saying, in my typically convoluted manner, is that I was predisposed to dislike The October Country from the beginning.

A compendium of short stories originally published in various trade magazines, The October Country shows Bradbury flexing a little bit of his gothic might with tales both ominous and, occasionally, humorous. There are a lot of sideshows and carnivals, wide-eyed young boys straight from the pages of Boy’s Life investigating mysterious new tenants in cheap boarding houses, buxom wives with nary a thought in their heads, mad shut-ins, and even the stray mummy or two. While some of these tales are enjoyable- "Playing With Fire," "The Scythe" and "The Jar" are all a lot of fun- for the most part they come off as dated and cliched- never more evident than in "Next in Line" or "Uncle Einar."

Of course the very reason that they are cliched is because Bradbury's writing formed the background for generations of writers that have come since then. I can't hold it against him for being inspirational, but at the same time it slows my enjoyment of his works when I see where these tropes have evolved since him.

One final note on this book- the illustrations really add to the overall ambiance of dread that Bradbury tries to conjure with this collection. The pen and ink drawing of the old Victorian clapboard house that opens "Playing With Fire" was especially striking, but I found that any story that began with one of illustrator Joe Mugnaini's drawings was inevitably one that I enjoyed more than the stand-alone stories. Kudos for that, Mr. Mugnaini.
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Reading Progress

September 29, 2009 – Shelved
September 29, 2009 – Shelved as: library_book
September 29, 2009 – Shelved as: not-owned
September 29, 2009 – Shelved as: short_stories
September 29, 2009 – Shelved as: scifi-fantasy
Started Reading
October 16, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-1)

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message 1: by Mandy (last edited Oct 18, 2009 03:36PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mandy Great review, Logan. I just read "Next in Line" and blah, seemed like that was a waste of time. The first two are the only ones I've read so far but it seems like nothing much happens, or nothing that I'm interested in anyways. Shall keep plodding along though and will look forward to the three you mentioned were fun - so far no humour here :(

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