R is for Rocket
by Ray Bradbury
Back when I first read both of them in high school, I used to think of Bradbury in the same breath as Asimov. Only now do I see the vast gulf that separates the two. Bradbury is actually a writer, whereas Asimov was mostly an idea man.
In reading this short story collection, I’m struck by two things: a) the poetry of his words, and b) the sheer breadth of the subjects he broaches and tones he portrays. I never realized how versatile he was. A lot of his stuff is just bizarre (I’m talking about you, “Uncle Einar”), but it all deals with very real sentiments and very real human emotions of sadness, hope and nostalgia. I guess above all I would describe Bradbury as a nostalgic writer, which is ironic since he spent so much of his time writing about the future.
My favorite stories in this collection are “A Sound of Thunder,” “The Long Rain,” the famous “Here There Be Tygers,” and the lengthy “Frost and Fire.” I was surprised particularly at the last one since it seems like a fairly juvenile, middle-schooly premise (“What if humans only lived for eight days?”), yet he makes it work by sheer force of passion.
He begins the book with the weakest stories, IMO, mostly because they’re marred by his stalwart faith in technology and the human pursuit of immortality. Only later in the collection does it become apparent that he is questioning this mindset, and he ends with two very earthy, non-scifi stories that deal only in pleasant feelings of childhood.
After not reading Bradbury in a long time, I think I’m going to have to go revisit more of his stuff. I encourage you to do the same!