Illustrated Man

Illustrated Man

by Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Mass market paperback, 304 pages
List Price: $7.99 Sale Price: $6.79

The only way to review a book of Ray Bradbury short stories is to sing about them.

No American writer has so effectively used poetry to undermine the rational defenses of our imaginations and set them on fire. Not that Bradbury is a poet—but to misquote Coleridge, Bradbury's prose is the best words in the best images. His writing is visceral, and though his stories are of the fantastic, they breathe and live and move.

Kind of the like The Illustrated Man himself. The conceit of these stories is that a man on a walking tour of Wisconsin (do people even take walking tours of Wisconsin? fantasy permeates Bradbury's writings) meets a man with tattoos all over his body. And just when parents get edgy, thinking this will encourage their rebellious teens to ink themselves, you find out that the man's tattoos are alive, perpetually telling stories.

And the stories are as strange as this setup. The first story, called "The Veldt," is about two kids with a nursery that transforms into an African plain through the magic of technology....and then through the darker magic of human evil becomes something much more frightening and cruel.

Another story is called "Marionettes, Inc." The title speaks for itself. A small prototype of Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives, Bradbury's take on voluntary human duplication is a little funny and deeply unsettling.

There are eighteen stories, and in each of them the dark side of make believe is alive and well. The bits about the Illustrated Man littered between stories lead to a climax that will have you looking over your shoulder for days.

Bradbury is often called a science fiction writer. Others call him a fantasy writer, a dark fantasy writer, an author of horror fiction, or whatever happens to be the reviewer's favorite genre. The truth is that Bradbury is a Bradbury writer. He takes the everyday and gives it the Bradbury treatment, and after we imbibe his strange wine we see everything from trees to concrete mixers to our own skin differently and new. He's a writer in his own class altogether, a writing wizard, and this book showcases the height of his powers.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating
FLAWS: Violence, scary elements
Summary: Science fiction and horror short stories introduced by different tattoos found on the body of a mysterious carnival personality.

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