My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On the whole I’m not a huge short story fan but I do occasionally read them. One collection has always stood out in my mind, Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. With his recent passing, I wanted to reread some of his works and the library had a copy of this collection. I don’t remember realizing when I read this the first time, that the titular character was basically just a frame to hang the collection of shorts on, but that was over thirty years ago that I read it and it’s entirely possible that old edition didn’t have the stories credited.
Either way, that really is what The Illustrated Man is, a prologue and epilogue to allow for the gathering of a group of short stories published in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. The titular character meets a man who is doing a walking tour of Wisconsin. He complains bitterly about not being able to hold down a job, of how he is always run off because of his tattoos. He goes on to explain that a witch tattooed him and that the tattoos move and tell stories, they can tell the future, especially the one bare patch on his otherwise covered skin. That spot tells the future of anyone who spends time with him. (which was pretty funny since earlier today I was watching a Criminal Minds where the writers made a mistake saying that detail was only in the movie. Um, nope it’s in the book). Naturally the man doesn’t really believe this but he does sit up at night to see if it’s true. Of course, it is.
Including the framework, there are twenty short stories in the collection. It was interesting, seeing all the blog posts about Mr. Bradbury the day he passed, many of them talking about the hope in his stories, even if they were dark. Honestly, in these stories there isn’t much hope, but then again, they are meant to be nightmares. Most of these stories are very dark and it’s a very good insight into the fears of a nation in the 40’s and 50’s. Atomic war. I knew that, of course, from my parents and grandparents but you could really see it here. Many of the stories were about pending atomic war or the aftermaths of it. They feared disease and invasions, understandable as antibiotics were in their infancy and two world wars had happened within the last thirty years. Several stories were about invading (often with use of atomic bombs or disease bombs). Rocket ships and Mars, when these were written we hadn’t gone to the moon yet and the love affair with Mars (and occasionally Venus) where in full bloom. A far number of these stories were about Mars.
You can see the roots of other SF classics in these stories. Bradbury’s own Martian Chronicles, the holodecks of Star Trek (story: The Veldt), or the energy people in an original Trek episode (story: The Fire Balloons) and many others.
The two stories I liked the best actually were the ones with seeds of hope, ‘The Other Foot’ and “The Fire Balloons.” What makes it more unusual that they dealt with topics I don’t general like to read about racism and religious fervor. The former shows a world where in the 1960’s there wasn’t an end to segregation but a much more complete one. All Africans went and colonized Mars. Nearly thirty years later a rocket with a White man in is landing and all the kids are very excited. They’ve never seen a White man but their parents remember what it was like on Earth. They somehow know that the earth has been involved in a world war and now the Whites want to colonize Mars. Willie, the point of view character, starts talking about all the horrible things that happened to Blacks on Earth and how they are going to do all those things to the Whites once they get there. Hattie, his wife, stays busy pointing out that it would be just as wrong to do that to them, that it was the same kind of hate. That doesn’t stop the mob from meeting the ship with noose in hand but then things shift.
The latter deals with two priests, Father Stone and Father Peregrine, who have gone to Mars to spread the word of God. Mars colonies are likened to the Old West Frontier towns, lawless and sinful. Father Stone is more interested in going to the town and getting started ministering to the wicked. Father Peregrine is more interested in the tales of the Old Martians, especially those of the blue balls of light that seem to help lost and endangered travelers. He wants to bring the word of God to them. It’s a very interesting story.
They all are, more or less. It’s a classic for a reason. If you’ve never read it, you should If you have, well I can’t think of a better way to remember Mr. Bradbury that rereading his works.
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Raiders, Vol. 6 by JinJun Park
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Vol 6 wasn’t quite as disappointing as vol 5 had been, with its overly long fight scenes. Still there are many panels of battle in this as well. I think maybe my disappointment is in more in where the story is going. It’s beginning to lose some of the character development it had in earlier volumes. Again, if you don’t like stories that take Christianity and turn it on its ear, don’t buy this. Consider that your warning. I’ve seen Atheists bash religion more gently than this manga.
In the last few books, the storyline has split into several, Lamia going her own way, Irel’s lady friend hooking up with Detective Chris to keep her alive and Irel and Clarion. They start to dove tail again.
Most of the storyline is Irel fighting the undead monsters being sent after him by Peter (yes, that Peter, the father of the Christian faith). His abilities given to him by the blood of Christ are growing exponentially. In his storyline, Chris has been charged to stop Crossline (the organization that Ian (i.e. Jesus) and Peter have developed) and he gives Irel’s friend an earful on what he thinks about Christianity (in two words: not much). Lamia is with Judas (yes that one) and he tells her what she really is and for that matter what Christianity and the Bible really are (a novel made up by him and Ian but one thing doesn’t make sense. If they are creating God, where did these powers come from)
I’m not sure how long this series is. I feel like it’s about to end in the next volume or so. At this point, I might as well get at least one more volume and see. At least the art is very nice, barring the Werewolf girl. Her claws look more like she’s wearing elbow-length cat mittens.
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