Buddha, Vol. 2: The Four Encounters (Buddha #2)

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To read the start of this series. The second volume continues 10 years later; after we see Tatta eat his meal, we go into a palace which he camps on the outside of and see a young prince Siddhartha who wants a toy some young Shudra (slave) boys are being chased out for being caught eating vaisya (commoner) food. The prince is taught the levels of caste, the highest being Brahmin. After his short lesson he’s escorted to the “play room”, which is more suited for an adult, when he falls asleep, then becomes ill. When his parents discuss his condition and how by his age he should be getting military training and how he’s too weak to begin, the King decides he should at least try to become a scholar, and so begins his education on the old way of thought for the shape of the world (flat), elephants supporting it, etc. (it reminding me how I’ll enjoy continuing Pratchett’s Discworld). Siddhartha then asks his teacher why there is a caste system. The teacher explains how if one’s parents are a certain class, the child is the same automatically.

After, Siddhartha’s classmates invite him to play and they go hunt rabbits in the garden. When Siddhartha fails to shoot the one found, the other boy kills it and Siddhartha gets upset. The boy runs away only to fall in a pond and when Siddhartha is unable to save him he runs to search for help, but too late. Siddhartha senses significance between the boy’s death and the rabbit, when his mother comes and they go back to the palace. Siddhartha asks his first philosophical question about death and a minister tries to explain, making up an answer which leaves much to be desired. He asks his teacher the same question and is given an atheistic answer. To get his mind off of these thoughts, the King brings him to a magic show. The performer, a Brahmin from another city predicts Siddhartha’s question and offers an answer at a later meeting place. When his show ends, Bandaka comes in and decides he is going to teach Siddhartha archery, even though his father decided to give up on his idea. Bandaka ignores him and constructs a bow which Siddhartha would be able to draw, setting a time for training, ending the first chapter.

Siddhartha begins training and when failing to get his arrow to go far enough, Bandaka takes him to the gardens and starts shooting the animals and boasts of being better than Chapra and this is when Siddhartha decides to shoot his bow at Bandaka, to give him a taste of what the animals experience, angering him. Bandaka leaves him there after warning him to not try threatening him again and Siddhartha goes to meet the Brahmin waiting not far from there. After revealing Siddhartha he is psychic, Siddhartha asks the question he’s been plagued with. The Brahmin teaches him how he can learn of death from nature since the animals know best and because they wouldn’t be able to answer in human language, he shows him how he can become the animal and experience it through the animal’s eyes and letting it show him. Siddhartha becomes a rabbit, being hunted by Bandaka, shot, and killed. What he sees after the rabbit’s death frightens him, which makes him vehement on not dying ever, which the Brahmin confides he may not have to and perhaps he will live forever by educating people how to live. The Brahmin prophetizes the tree Siddhartha will go to learn what truths he will teach. When he is attending a festival with his parents, he soon meditates into a bird and sees it through its birth until death, awaking later and confiding what he’d dreamed and after, his father informing him of a bird coming down during the festival and killed by a hawk, similar to his dream.

The next chapter begins with Siddhartha asleep among dining guests and two are speaking of selling silks and so inflating the price in the city. Siddhartha wakes during this and entertainment is started. A few more years have passed by this time and he’s asked what game he would like to play in his room with his guests, Siddhartha comes up with a “game” asking for the implements needed including a couple of bulls. The result does not amuse his father, though and Siddhartha requests he disown him or punish him any way he choose, but will continue to make up similar games every day. His father makes his punishment to stay in his playroom, and so his mother decides Siddhartha should be allowed to leave them, relating this to his father. Meanwhile, Siddhartha sits in his room until hearing a bird on the ledge. The bird had a rope in his mouth which Siddhartha realizes the idea and escapes down the rope, out the window. He’s met by a dog upon reaching the bottom, quickly. The dog leads him to a man, whom we soon recognize. Siddhartha asks if the animals are his pets which they of course, aren’t. He leads him to his canoe, stating to him how he knew he wanted to escape and so decided to help. Siddhartha is then introduced to Tatta, who soon warns Siddhartha of the dangers they’ll be facing . They’re soon attacked by some bandits shooting arrows at them. Tatta realizes it’s most likely caused by Siddhartha’s shiny adornments and advises to chuck them over-board. One dumb bandit tries to claim them, jumping in after and makes quick acquaintance with a crocodile.

Siddhartha sees this and once discovering the bandit’s gender asks Tatta to help her, even though he knows she’ll be trouble, Tatta gives in. After continuing down the river a way’s, Tatta makes all of them help him pole through a new danger, needing quick departure. When escaping, the woman is thirsty, so they go ashore to get stalks to satiate for the time being due to the river water’s contamination. She refuses to partake though and runs off, being found not long after leading them with her screams for being bombarded with an ant colony. Siddhartha comes up with a plan and Tatta brings it to fruition giving her healing herbs after it’s completion and hoping for the best, still wondering why Siddhartha seems so inclined to help her. They continue their journey and talk of how one should live life until death, Tatta realizes through their conversation how clever Siddhartha is. They soon come to the rough part of the river which throws them around. They make it through alive and discover where they landed. They continue walking on until meeting an old woman left to die asking for water. Tatta decides to leave her there, shocking Siddhartha even more than he already was and the woman dies before being able to give her what she wanted, making Siddhartha more sad and traumatized, not caring to go on to the city, but deciding to return home. Tatta decides to escort him back since following the river won’t get him there. They make it to Siddhartha’s palace and he walks in looking the worse for wear. His father is furious and knows what he had done and what kind of person led him.

It cuts back to Tatta barbecuing nearby and confessing to Magaila how Siddhartha will become the greatest king and why he’s planning his revenge through his destiny. We skip back to Siddhartha yearning for Migaila and soon gets ill. It takes him more than 1/2 a year to recover and he stays in deep contemplation long after his illness wanes. His parents put a party together for him to bring him out of his funk and Tatta sees him in his longboat, bored. Magaila feels badly for Siddhartha’s condition and circumstance, giving Tatta another opportunity to rub in her face how she’s crushing on him as they, and his parents both oversee his meeting with a princess who they hope Siddhartha will accept as his wife-to-be. Siddhartha wishes to go about it traditionally if he’s suited to marrying the princess and being forced to marry her regardless of his feelings. Bandaka insists a meeting with the princess as she’s returning to her palace, expressing to her his plan to be her suitor and win her for his legacy, Siddhartha not being seen as a worthy opponent. Magaila sneaks into the palace as a suitor and discovers Siddhartha. She reveals her plan which seems fantastic in it’s impossibility when he suggests she hide from the approach of his father and Bandaka, who requires his approval to enter the contest, which he gives. We then see the start of the competition, Tatta observing by becoming a bird. The first fight commences with Bandaka winning. The second has Magaila fighting against a man seemingly there to fix the fight in Siddhartha’s favor, but when the man goes for the death shot, Tatta distracts him for the win in Magaila’s favor. The semi-finals of the competition begin later, so Magaila goes for a refreshing swim when some passersby notice her gear and recognize her as the suitor, wanting her autograph. Tatta comes to the rescue again though, dive-bombing them until it’s safe for Magaila to surface. She figures out Tatta inhabits the bird and makes her way back to the competition.

The next bit is marksmanship and Tatta attempts to fix it so Magaila will come out on top again, but Bandaka smartens to the sneaky plot and Tatta gets him another way, making him fall from his horse and disqualified. Magaila makes it to the final round to “fight” Siddhartha and the King tries to uncover background on Magaila’s fake I.D., coming up with nothing and wondering “his” true identity.Siddhartha and Magaila begin the wrestling match and make the fight look good. Unfortunately, before the King wonders about why “he” had his face covered, can go any further, Magaila’s disguise falls away with a throw, leading to her capture. Siddhartha attempts to explain his ruse to his father, but he won’t relent, so Siddhartha accepts marrying the princess to save Magaila and have his father release her, to which he agrees. He takes Siddhartha to the dungeon where she’s being held, but before letting her go, blinds her and then releases her into exile. The chapter after we begin with Siddhartha’s wedding day and Bandaka is attesting to Siddhartha’s failure to bring prosperity with his marriage. Bandaka sets bulls to deliver an unsigned message to him, which he ignores and continues the proceedings.

A message from Kosala comes after, for the acceptance of Siddhartha going to get an education in the city, but he refuses. Soon he has a conversation with Yashodara, the princess about his love for Magaila and how she understood his feelings. He confides his plan to look for Magaila and she makes it clear she’ll continue to try to vie for his affection.We then see Siddhartha search for Magaila and identifies refugees in the area because the grain stopped coming in, caused by the Kosalan troops, who were trying to get the refugees off their land. Siddhartha gives them ample payment to pay for their food, after which Siddhartha meets the ruler of Kosala and to make up for insulting him by not accepting his invitation, he requests Siddhartha to locate a queen from his own kingdom. To decide, Siddhartha goes to the garden and is despairing in how to make the decision, when the Brahmin from his childhood reappears and leads him to ruins and gives him the choice to choose between the four gates and whichever he prefers, will be the one he should follow. He is told it is a riddle and whether he understands what he saw. Siddhartha learns what he must become and leaves. He confesses to his parents only of the King of Kosala’s demand and they debate about what is best. They seem to go with a ploy, making a maid pretend to be royalty and send her off to the King, who falls for their trick and a year later, his queen is pregnant and the boy soon arrives, the city celebrating for three days and nights. We learn then what will happen to the young prince’s outlook once he detects the ruse his mother was a part of.

The next chapter begins with some gang killing a merchant and trying to pass on to sell his wares, they free the slaves and take a brahmin back to their chief. The man revealing to the chief, being Tatta, he is a Samanna and so Tatta gives him the task of if he puts out his eye he can leave, surprising him and Magaila when he goes through with it. Magaila learns from him the idea of reincarnation and he mentions to her of his master who, upon hearing the name, Tatta recognizes. Dhepa brings Magaila to meet his master who was blinded from his own doing. When a monsoon hits in the summer, those who survive have famine to deal with. Siddhartha contemplates how to save his people, soon realizing he must leave to know what to teach upon returning. Yashodara tries to convince him the city will collapse without him, which fails so she confesses she’s pregnant, which fails to stop him as well, but he doesn’t go far, sitting atop a tower ledge outside and refusing to come down. When they build a room around him, he climbs to it’s highest point and continues his meditation. A man who served Siddhartha goes to Bandaka to report he’s in a position to take the Kapilavastu throne if he desired. Bandaka takes the idea and kills the man for his treason, knowing he wouldn’t have been able to trust him. He sees Yashodara and his thoughts to claim her resume. When he approaches her with a deal to get Siddhartha down, she accepts, not seeming to realize the consequences.

Bandaka goes for recruits: Brahmins who think highly of themselves and he shares of the reward offered if they get Siddhartha off the tower. They accept the challenge and begin their descent from the mountain they trained on. When they arrive at the palace, the King gives permission for them to try their tricks. It fails to fool Siddhartha and one of the Brahmin asks for his reasons for sitting there and to explain why there wasn’t a difference between castes, the Brahmin soon realizes Siddhartha’s talent and asks for him to join them in training, and Siddhartha accepts, to Yashodara’s sadness and Bandaka’s delight. Siddhartha hears Yashodara’s cries and returns to make Bandaka release her, but he requests a fight and Siddhartha forfeits, proving his power non-violently. Yashodara faints and their child soon arrives. When she does give birth, Siddhartha is happy of the resulting prince, but his father has him locked up until he turns the throne over to him in seven days.

The King has a dream-vision of Siddhartha’s request to leave and being unable to give him what he wants to make him stay, upon waking and seeing Siddhartha asleep, he locks the palace down and Siddhartha’s plan to escape still goes off without a hitch and he goes on his way. Once he cuts his hair, he sends the man who helped him escape back with the horse and the instructions to give his hair to his wife. Siddhartha goes on to the mountain to train. The King summons Bandaka and offers him to become general of his army, which he declines unless he’s made king, which the King accepts after realizing the futility of the situation. When he’s told he must go to a council of Brahmin he has it postponed to go to Yashodara’s chambers and he realizes she will vigilantly hate him and leaves in defeat. We see him next trying to make any “ole” noble his wife. Upon his decision, he makes haste back to the castle to lead the army and when they meet their opponents on the field, he is promptly disposed of. His intensity was enough to make the Kosalan army retreat, though. Bandaka’s choice of wife, one year later has his child and this child will go head to head with Siddhartha in twenty years. Which completes the second volume and it’s going to be difficult to await reading the third. I have yet to be disappointed in this detailed history, I’m thoroughly enjoying it and haven’t given the best parts away. One must read it for oneself to truly enjoy this tale.


Watership Down

In the introduction we are given some reasons for the rabbits to act like they had qualities similar to the soldiers due to them being based on a few in Richard Adams’ life. As to the beginning of the story, the first rabbits to be introduced are Hazel and Fiver who happen upon a coveted cowslip soon to be taken over by Toadflax because he’s one of the group of strong rabbits. They let him have it without a fight and head for a spot across the brook, but after getting there, Fiver senses danger, seeing blood. Once Hazel gets him back to the burrow we are taken to a sign on the property they live on which doesn’t bode well for them, but possibly helps us understand Fiver’s vision. Fiver has a bad dream, again making him forebode the future at the warren and their need to flee. Hazel decides they should try bringing the vision to the chief to see if he agrees danger will actually come. They get a meeting and the Chief listens politely, but only allows he’ll think over Fiver’s notions of danger. Bigwig, the guard rabbit gets a severe reprimand after Hazel and Fiver depart. Bigwig then decides to join with Hazel and Fiver after revealing to them he’s left the Owsla and they build on the idea of getting as many rabbits as they can to join them, if there is such a danger to escape, which they’ve all become convinced by Fiver there was. So they decide to let the others know before they leave, after nightfall.

It’s explained how animals instinctively decide together the departure time of the group, giving comparisons with birds migrating for the winter. Fiver and Hazel leave closer to midnight, and when we next see them they are with two more rabbits and a third joins them not long after our introductions to the first couple. Before they could leave with their small group, three rabbits appear to “arrest” Bigwig and Silver, another Owsla, for a wrongly believed mutiny and they begin to attack in protest, when the main rabbit reports they’ve attacked the head of the Owsla guard and Hazel threatens if he doesn’t leave, they’ll dispatch him. After repeating the threat, the rabbits go and their departure seems ripe as well, otherwise they wouldn’t have long until they would be caught. Bigwig wishes to consult with Hazel, but he decides it would be better to move before they found pursuit. Hazel leads them into the woods so as to dissuade any followers, the rabbits were easily startled to anything unknown, which definitely kept them on their guard, wanting to flee, but keeping together for having no safe place to run to. Hazel makes a run to check for safety further on and when he reaches his goal and does the agreed upon sign, Dandelion shows great speed at joining him and complementing Hazel’s bravery, cheering him. (I now notice the military tactics, as well.)

We get some rabbit folk-lore which joins some human ones, claiming they borrowed from the rabbit’s mythology. Before running the rabbits to shock, they rest where they are and Hazel asks Dandelion to tell them a story to keep spirits up. After we read the story, we learn it has done what it was intended to do, reminding the rabbits of their strengths and distracting them from their fear of their new and unknown surroundings. Unfortunately, they are discovered by a dog of some kind and flee only to be waylay-ed by a stream too wide and deep for them to cross; none of them wanting to do so, but since Fiver had suggested it in response to Hazel, he believed it must be safer than staying on the side they were on and needed to figure a way of convincing the others. It was fortunate they had made it to dawn by this time. After snacking near the river’s edge, Bigwig is itching to be across, but Pipkin and Fiver are still recovering and when Hazel gets Fiver alone they discuss the possibilities of crossing soon, Fiver believing their need to wait until the day almost gone. After appeasing Bigwig by having him cross first and report back, he comes with bad news. A pet dog has gotten loose and will be tracking their scent soon, since Bigwig saw him not far from them, so Hazel decides to stay behind with those who are unfit to cross whilst those who can, should go. Blackberry remembers an idea which saves them whilst Hazel is becoming too stressed to handle the situation, but Blackberry still tries to keep him in the loop to command and Hazel’s wits return enough to get everyone to swim across.

By the time the sun rose, the rabbits were resting and Hazel was deciding to explore and discover the source of a strong, sweet smell in the air to get Bigwig’s confidence in him back. He discovers a bean-field much better for resting in and decides to bring the others there to rest at nightfall. He shares his find with Bigwig and Silver upon his return since they were both awake, they both agreed to the idea and woke the others to go to the bean-field, but before getting there, they hear Fiver and Pipkin being attacked by a crow, being undersized and susceptible. The crow is soon being surrounded by Hazel, Bigwig, and Silver, who distract it from Fiver and Pipkin. When it leaves, Hazel notices Pipkin’s limp is more pronounced and decides to examine him more closely upon arriving at the bean-field. He discovers the problem and helps extricate the nettle and suggests Pipkin to comfort his hurt paw and try to sleep. Hazel wakes Buckthorn so he can take over watch and try to sleep himself. When Hazel has finally been able to drop off, he’s woken with a start and not long after his original worry is quelled, a shot rings out, making the rabbits scatter for cover, after they eventually regroup back at their first resting area in the field, Hazel begins to wonder about their real safety in this unknown area and how long they will all last before making it to Fiver’s desired “high place”.

This next bit isn’t going to be as descriptive due to the inability of having the copy save properly, but they do finally get a move on and make it to a spot where they decide will suit them temporarily. They begin some rudimentary scrapings to shelter temporarily against the bad weather and then see a lone rabbit off near some trees. Hazel and Blackberry go to see what the rabbit wants, to learn other than being a bit odd, seemed harmless and even had gone back with them to introduce himself to the others, his name being Cowslip and offering them a place in his group’s warren since their little scrapes wouldn’t help them much from the normal direction the winds came from. The rabbit leaves and the group debates going, eventually deciding to take him up on his offer, even though Fiver is the only one who seems to have serious reservations. When they do get there and integrate in the main part of the warren, Hazel is introduced to Strawberry and his partner. After, Dandelion provides a story to the group of the King’s lettuce, a story of Prince Rainbow and El-ahrairah which gets polite reviews and they hear a story by a young rabbit called Silverweed who under normal rabbit society wouldn’t usually be given the opportunity to speak, but realize he has a talent for poetry.

Fiver then leaves the warren again in preference of staying out in the open for the other rabbits’ odd behavior. Hazel convinces him to sleep in a hollow in the warren with them, but eventually decides to leave, which Hazel decides to go with him to see if he can make him reconsider. Bigwig is completely annoyed by his conduct and expresses this plainly, before leaving but then Hazel and Fiver hear a strange sound and see it’s Bigwig who got caught in a trap. They try to help him out of it and Fiver gets sent to notify the others of Bigwig’s predicament, but it seems Bigwig doesn’t make it in time. After some other rabbits do return and they finally get Bigwig loose and he still isn’t moving, they begin talking of how Fiver was treated by Cowslip when he had gone to report to the group of Bigwig’s trouble, which gets a response from Bigwig, showing he’s made it through. They now are ready to get away from there and Strawberry wishes to come along as well, being shunned by Hazel’s group, but gets the OK from Hazel, making the rest follow his lead. They start out and everyone is more willing to trust their strengths with each other, making the journey more tolerable, but no less perilous, one getting bitten by a rat, but most making it in one piece. They uncover temporary shelter and then move to a spot in the woods nearby, Hazel deciding they will make their own warren.

After having a nice shelter hollowed out, Bigwig, Dandelion and Hazel hear a strange sound, Bigwig thinking it’s a mythical rabbit they’ve heard of, but it turning out to be Captain Holly from the Owsla, who is hurt and with Bluebell. They bring them back to their shelter and they rest before Holly relates the story of how they got there, which every rabbit who hears them, empathizes greatly, because they suffered through a terrible massacre. Meanwhile Hazel goes to check on a mouse they had saved not long before and being told by the mouse, since he saved his life, which all Hazel would have to do is ask a mouse for help and he’d have it. Hazel goes back in time to hear the start of Holly’s recounting and after, Bluebell shares his story of Prince Rainbow and El-ahrairah, which is quite amusing and lightens the mood.

The next chapter begins with Bigwig and Silver seeing an unknown creature and identifying its species. They realize what it is fairly easily and go back, informing Hazel who goes and has a look at the creature, which is a bird of unknown origin, perceiving he’s hurt and barely understandable in the shared language. Hazel decides to locate a snack for him and soon has the time to express his idea for the bird to the others, deciding to help him so he would be willing to report of the surrounding area. Bigwig learns the most for admiring the bird’s strength. We then are given the bird’s name, it sharing the title of the chapter. Getting back to Hazel’s idea, he wanted to see if the bird would scout the area for other warrens so as to invite does for the all-male group. Bigwig takes on the task of asking and the bird accepts and would go searching after his wing healed. When he comes back with news, they talk among themselves of the journey they’d have if they were to go where the bird spoke of, until going to sleep.

The next day it was agreed they wanted to determine if this warren would allow them to ask around for does who wished to return with them and now must figure who would be sent. Holly, being the first easy choice, was agreed upon quickly and the rest were decided upon not long after and the group set off, everyone hoping they made progress and safe return. Hazel soon began thinking of impressing those that had gone, by collecting some does himself, the back up being the ones in cages highlighting his memory. Hazel decides to get Pipkin to come along and soon they’re off to look for the farm. They reach it with some helpful directions from a passing rat and are soon speaking with the boxed rabbits. Hazel confides his reason for coming and whether or not they’d like to join his warren, they having a chance to escape when he returned, then Pipkin sees a cat and they leave with some excitement in the getaway, but make it out unscathed. They arrive at the warren late because of rain and when they do, Hazel is noticed by Fiver revealing to him of Holly and the group’s whereabouts and realizes how long Hazel must have been away if he hadn’t known of this information already. Fiver tries to show him he’s being careless by going off to the farm, so Hazel takes it to the rest of the group to see if they’re interested in going back with him. Bigwig of course is for the plan, the others soon following suit.

Unfortunately, rain puts their plan on hold and used the night instead to tell stories. Fiver tries to convince Hazel out of going back to the farm and Hazel would be more inclined to listen if Fiver’d had a vision of it, but since they only happen intermittently, Fiver tries to get Hazel to wait until Holly returns, but instead Hazel tries to compromise with him by agreeing to wait for their group outside the farm, hoping the agreement would be safe enough. They wait until dark to try their raid again, Pipkin and two others staying behind this time. Bigwig runs into a cat fairly quickly upon reaching the farm. They work well scaring the cat off from a long scuffle and make it to the shed where the rabbits are held. When they speak with the main rabbit, Boxwood and how they want to escape, they begin the plan, running into a snag when the door hinge won’t collapse all the way. They do succeed after a few minutes more and Bigwig tries to hurry them back to where Hazel is waiting, but at first the rabbits are nervous to continue, but Blackberry comes up with a way to convince them of following. Unfortunately, the naive rabbits reached a state of fear they couldn’t be talked down from, due to the newness of their surroundings as well as a second cat closing in and then the dog waking up and noticing them, starting to bark. They all retreat, but for two too scared to move. Hazel and Dandelion go back to see about the ones left behind. Hazel tries talking them into moving when a car drives up and sees the loose rabbits, making them freeze.

Soon Hazel realizes they’d have a chance to escape if they close their eyes and run, so they do and only leave one behind this time. They escape to the opposite side of the ditch they need to be on, so Hazel runs in front of the men so Dandelion and the doe can escape to meet at their hiding place once Hazel loses the men, which he does, but only after getting wounded. Dandelion and the doe spot Bigwig and the rest of the group, expressing to him what they heard and saw. Bigwig goes back to see if he can detect Hazel, only seeing the blood and boot prints left by the men. When they get everyone back to the warren, Fiver figures out what happened and not long after, Holly returns with no more rabbits than he left with. We observe Fiver resting in the warren during the day, thinking of Hazel every time he wakes and his thoughts soon wander to the limping rabbit he imagines and where it was headed. His mind then moves to a man putting up a board which he soon realizes is a sign, upon speaking to the man. Fiver realizes quite a bit before being woken by a bit of the roof falling on him, Blackberry informing him of what had occurred, then updating him to the status of the others which Fiver seemed to not be listening to, rather he asks for Blackberry to show him where Hazel was last seen, he not believing he was dead.

Fiver convinces him to accompany him and not long after taking a look around the spot, perceives Hazel’s hiding place. Pipkin was acclimatizing himself to the idea Hazel wouldn’t be coming back, like the others in their group. Holly meanwhile, was trying to put the does at ease and sensing his efforts fruitless on one of the two. He then begins explaining what happened on their journey to the other warren.They met a rabbit on the way and ask directions, getting troubling advice before being met by three large rabbits asking to see their “marks” Holly conveys his lack of understanding and they escort his group to the warren. Holly explains how strictly these rabbits “live”. They are dealing with an over-crowding issue, but won’t allow any to leave, including them now. Holly figures out a way to escape though, but almost gets caught upon its carrying out. They are mysteriously saved from being captured by the other warrens Owsla and make the long journey back the next morning, completely worn out due to being unable to truly rest on the way back. Holly had been asked to become the Chief Rabbit of their group, but couldn’t accept at the moment for exhaustion, also mentioning Hazel’s loss being the worst thing which could happen to them.

The next chapter begins with Bigwig feeding with Clover, one of the farm rabbits, before seeing Blackberry who relates the whereabouts and condition of Hazel and Fiver, surprising everyone. Bigwig decides to visit them at their current shelter and stays overnight with them, being met the next morning by Kehaar who reveals they should look to make sure Hazel didn’t contain the bullets in his wounds still, looking to be certain and removing them, informing the trio he’ll let the others know what’s happening, since Hazel shouldn’t try moving for a day or two. He ends up staying an extra day then and Holly and Blackberry come to see them. Hazel starts the conversation of raiding the huge warren again, but through trickery, since the other warren is too well organized for anything else. Holly still isn’t convinced and Blackberry is asked to come up with the plan, deciding to talk it over with Fiver.

The next day they do return to a welcome only rabbits can give, then continued the discussion of going back to Efrafa. Hazel makes valid points which differ from Holly’s polar and firm opposition to the idea, but Hazel still has takers to join him on their return journey, also getting confirmation from Blackberry of the good qualities to the plan from Kehaar waiting outside, to whom Hazel goes out to speak with after ending the meeting. He ascertains when Kehaar plans to leave them, but would come back in another season. The chapter after begins with the start to Efrafa and Hazel starts off with the same group which had been with him from Sandleford. Before being on their way though, Holly did give some words of advice to Hazel out of earshot of the rest of his group going with him, which were to be careful and not to underestimate the danger. They had two days of above ground journeying before getting close to the warren, and the going was slow due to the size of their party. They reach the woodland which had given Holly the creeps and Fiver offered to take a look around. Bigwig had started acting strangely, as if nervous by the dangerous situation they were walking into. Hazel begins contemplating a “safe” place for the group to stand-by as near as possible to Efrafa. When they detect a spot and Kehaar locates them, he reports what’s going on back at their warren, which is the leftover boys are fighting over Clover and Holly is convinced none of them will return. Letting go, Hazel asks Kehaar the closest place to the warren he knows they could all hide, which is across the river nearby. When they rest for the night, in order to quell their leftover misgivings and nervousness of their plan, a story is asked to be told by Dandelion, and after only a small argument to what story would be told, Bigwig gets his request which begins the next chapter.

The story of King Darzin begins with how he came to realize he’d been had by El-ahrairah and he would get revenge upon him at some point. El-ahrairah expected this and warned his people from then on, to be careful. Then Rabscuttle and some rabbits leave to forage near a garden some distance away from their warren and got lost on the way back, Rabscuttle getting separated from the others and being caught by some of the King’s guards, taking him to the King. King Darzin saw his chance for revenge and put Rabscuttle to work, but El-ahrairah got wise to the situation and dug a tunnel with some of his does to help Rabscuttle escape, which was a success, only enraging King Darzin to the point of making war upon them, but his guards weren’t used to the tight quarters El-ahrairah’s group were used to fighting in and got their rabbit hind-quarters kicked, instead waiting outside the warren for them to come out. Unfortunately El-ahrairah’s people couldn’t hold out for as long as the King’s soldiers could and began to pray to Frith for support, getting an idea and giving it a long cogitation, eventually talking it over with Rabscuttle and sharing with his Owsla what he planned. It ended up doing exactly what El-ahrairah intended, and not long after, for the first time, the story is stopped for Pipkin who becomes scared by it and is led out by Fiver to watch spiders, soon resuming with El-ahrairah meeting the Black Rabbit and trying to sacrifice himself for his people, which wasn’t accepted, but being offered to stay and eat if he so wished.

El-ahrairah declines, knowing his thoughts will be known if he consumes anything in the Black Rabbit’s warren, so instead the Black Rabbit offers a bit of entertainment in the way of a game, which El-ahrairah bets if he wins, the Black Rabbit must help his people, which he agrees to, but makes the bet if he loses he will give his tail and whiskers. They began to play and El-ahrairah sensed he wouldn’t win. After his supposition is confirmed, they are allowed to stay in a burrow close by, given the option to leave whenever they want, but El-ahrairah stays, going back to the Black Rabbit later, again offering his life for his people, which the Black Rabbit accepts with the wager they each share a story and if his is better, El-ahrairah must sacrifice his ears. After the Black Rabbit’s story though, it scares El-ahrairah to the point of failure and upon waking from the sleep he is put under, his ears are gone, with Rabscuttle pleading for him to be allowed to take them both home. El-ahrairah declines, still thinking of a different way to get what he wanted. He tries to go into a hole which contains different diseases and thinks he has infected himself with one, only to be told by the Black Rabbit later, the one he tried to infect himself with would be impossible without his ears and due to his inability to give up, the Black Rabbit grants his request for his people to be saved and is told to return home. It takes them three months, having more adventures on the way which also became stories and upon reaching their warren, the group they asked to identify one of the Owsla captain’s was met with ignorance, also not knowing of the war they had fought. When El-ahrairah declines for the young buck to go searching for his captain and retreats to think over the situation, he is met by Frith and is about to receive new ears and whiskers, also being told Rabscuttle is about to be gifted with something as well, when Pipkin interrupts again with news of a fox coming their way.

The next chapter begins with the knowledge Hazel nor any of the other rabbits had seen a fox before, but knew they were safe if they saw it in time and fled the area. Fiver spots the fox first and Hazel realized the fox was still some distance away from them. It was trotting off seemingly uninterested in their scent and to a point where Hazel and Fiver could no longer see it, they then head back to the others. Bigwig goes off anyways, despite Hazel’s acknowledgement to the opposite. They all watch as Bigwig approaches the fox. He leads the fox off in another direction and when they hear him squeal and believe he’s been hurt, they see him bolt back into their group, Hazel ordering everyone to stay put whilst Bigwig is trying to get them to move. Soon Fiver motivates him to action and after some time they rest and Hazel gets Bigwig alone to discuss his reasons for running after the fox like he did, learning it had to do with the inevitability of going back to Efrafa and feeling desperate, but after the fox debacle, he felt much better. Hazel also realizes Bigwig wasn’t the one to squeal and what had happened when he’d led the fox into the bushes. Silver brings to their attention they’ve stopped much too close to Efrafa and so they move to another area and ponder how they’ll get to the iron road. After crossing they rest and feed, but Kehaar warns a patrol from Efrafa is tracking them, so Hazel commands the group to hide in a field, but fortunately they aren’t found and they sleep the rest of the day.

After everyone was awake, Hazel began noticing his leg was bothering him and whether he’d have trouble continuing, once Pipkin asked after him, he plays it off as nothing and asks whether he’s seen Kehaar, to discover if there are any more patrols about. Hazel waits for Kehaar to return and then shows them the bridge they must cross. After everyone settles for the night, Kehaar inadvertently wakes up Hazel with his pacing wanting to start his plan to get the does. Hazel figures they should try and come up with a good finish to the plan, becoming stumped at how they’d escape unnoticed. He, Bluebell, and Blackberry investigate what’s upstream which they could use to hide if necessary. They discover a more hidden bridge and cross to see if anything is there, which there is, helping Blackberry finish figuring out what the end of their plan will be, with Bluebell’s helpful imagining of becoming a “water rabbit”. Bigwig then starts his part in their plan to get the does out of Efrafa. After that we learn about Efrafa and General Woundwort’s history and how Efrafa came to be and also how the Wide Patrols got started. Then we are given their side of what happened when Holly and his group were captured and what had happened to the captains since their escape, as well as the group of rabbits that Bigwig had run into when the fox was chasing him. By the end of the chapter, General Woundwort is told of a rabbit being held and wanting to join the warren, calling himself Thlayli, it’s obviously one of Hazel’s crew. Woundwort has been wanting someone like Thlayli to replace all the officers he’s been losing the last few months, so his timing is perfect and after seeing the Council and being marked, he becomes an officer under direction from one of the Captains. Then we see Thlayli being led around to familiarize himself with the warren. He started to notice the lack of hope the rabbits seemed to have and after meeting the same doe whom spoke with Holly during his incarceration at their warren, he had a confidant to help get as many does as she could manage before their escape the next evening. Bigwig has a close call with talking in his sleep and having a buck overhear his words before he had to go out to silflay, also good timing is the bad weather they’re expecting.

Bigwig is confronted, as anticipated by Hyzenthlay, the excuse given working as she’d planned. When he goes out to silflay he meets Kehaar as planned and they discreetly discuss their next move. One of the other Efrafan officers notices Kehaar though, and approaches, bringing their conversation to an end. Chervil, the officer, warns Bigwig of the birds and now they must report the strange detail or they’d get an earful for it later. When he informs Hyzenthlay the amended plan she gets the other does ready and they wait. When it’s the hour to start, Bigwig is unexpectedly waylayed by Woundwort. He soon senses Woundwort is giving him the third-degree over the officer killed by the fox he’d goaded into chasing him and how one of the officers back at Efrafa had recognized him as the one being chased. Woundwort continued to try and probe him for details on the group of rabbits in the area and Bigwig told him he hadn’t any idea who they were and where they’d gone. Bigwig’s answers, whilst appropriate also didn’t divulge anything vital and Woundwort told him of how they would be crossing the iron road and he should start trying to impress him. Woundwort’s questioning ruined the timing of the escape and Bigwig retreated underground again. We then are taken to where Hazel and Fiver are waiting when Kehaar shows up. They wonder what could’ve happened to make Bigwig not appear and whether he’d been found out. They also had to figure whether they should start moving for the bad weather or wait. They go back across the iron road to await until the same time the next day to try again. Then we get back to Bigwig and Hyzenthlay conversing about the same subject and how she’d made ready the does, all of them now knowing the plan and having to stay quiet until the next evening which made them all nervous to being found out too soon. Bigwig tries to ease her mind and they go to sleep for awhile. When he wakes he goes up and takes over for the sentry waiting there and when the does come up, the young one makes a puzzling comment which makes one of the other officers suspicious which Bigwig tries in diverting his attention from, not seeming to succeed. Then Kehaar shows up and Bigwig is ordered to stay away from him, to which he replies he knew of a way to make him retreat. The officer agrees to try the rhyme Bigwig comes up with and it seems to work. Bigwig also gets the chance to speak with Blackavar alone and gets him ready for their escape.

We see how the plan is shaping up on Hazel’s side after, everyone finally getting him to reluctantly agree to be on the boat when the others would be ready to go and back up Bigwig and the others escape. We then go back and observe Hyzenthlay urgently is waking Bigwig up for the news the young doe had been arrested and so he advises her to get the others and wait in his burrow. He’s met by Officer Chervil and told to get sentries and stay posted at the openings of the burrows until further ordered since the young doe’s arrest would upset the others. After, the plan begins and it’s exciting as could be expected, everyone including Blackavar making it at the start of the escape. Then we see what’s happening with the young doe whom was arrested and what Woundwort can get her to confess and soon after they’re following Bigwig’s trail. Then we skip back to where Bigwig is leading the does and Blackavar toward Hazel and the others when he runs into another officer of Efrafa he respected. Soon Woundwort and the others are overtaking them as well and Blackavar is resigning to their defeat to escape and Woundwort finally catches up ordering his underlings to take the does back and he will deal with Bigwig and Blackavar, when the rain starts down and proceeds to immobilize them all, giving Bigwig the chance he needs to overtake Woundwort when his buddies finally come to help him. They have a dramatic face-off at the boat and make their escape with no casualties.

Hazel, Fiver, and Blackberry were the only ones to realize the possible danger they could be in for not knowing where the small boat would take them, but everyone else was essentially comfortable despite the rain. Then a small trouble of the bridge they’d crossed was coming up and Hazel ordered all the rabbits to get to the middle of the boat, where it was wettest, but so no one would get knocked out if they floated under the bridge. Unfortunately one of the does gets injured, but Hazel couldn’t figure how much so, also Speedwell got hit, but he seemed alright. Once they drifted for awhile more they finally hit the bank near a second bridge, but had the trouble of trying to figure a way out of the boat now. Kehaar tried to show them how easy it was to get to shore if they swam a little, but Hazel thought the bank would be too steep even if they’d made it and as Fiver volunteers to try, they hear men approach. After they walk off, their getting so close makes Hazel’s resolve to swim across solid and decides to take the first leap, which Pipkin joins him on and they make it to the bank relatively easily. It took more time to get the rest to follow, but finally they all did get out and make it to shore finally discerning a spot near a tree trunk to sleep.

The doe whom was injured died the next morning and Hazel contemplated the need to leave the area, but not being able to due to his own injury and of Biwig’s, also keeping in mind the does who weren’t used to being out of a warren and how close they were to a road which was less deserted than they’d have preferred. Blackavar becomes a valued asset to the group as well, helping plan out their movements, which Hazel gladly listened to and worked well with Bigwig whom he respected. After moving for a few days, the rabbits are ready to stop and rest for a bit, which Fiver doesn’t believe is a good idea, but the does might need the time, so they make a few scrapes to stay in for some time, which Blackavar thought better of due to believing the area they were staying in was fox country, but Bigwig was tired and hurting and wanted to stop as well, acting crisply to Blackavar’s supposition. Hazel makes the final decision, staying being the popular vote, but it comes with a cost to one of the rabbits, after which they do move on. Blackavar forgets his warning to the rabbits about the fox, an Efrafan tradition which seems to be on the level of brainwashing and Bigwig feels guilty for having ignored his advice, but Blackavar explains why he acted so indifferently after the doe had been taken and it had also reminded me of how a high school student had told me all he’d remembered from this book was how the rabbits would ignore when one of their own was killed, which seemed to have disturbed him, but now I understand what he meant in a clearer way. Moving on, the rabbits leave the area, running into a group of Efrafans who thought they could take the small group had shown themselves, not knowing how big their group actually was and being duped into believing they could call Kehaar whenever they wished, they retreated even though Blackavar thought they would need to be killed. Hazel and the group continue on and make it back to the warren, with Blackavar being paranoid of the Efrafans making more trouble, which was shown to be accurate by the end of the chapter

We jump to how well everyone’s getting on and not much fighting amongst them for Hazel to break up as Chief, Blackavar, and Holly became chummy by their shared interests of patrolling and scouting, etc. Soon Dandelion is sharing a story he hadn’t told before about El-Ahrairah and Rabscuttle growing tired of eating hay and wanting to raid a vegetable garden nearby in relation to Hazel being told they would soon need to prepare for winter. The garden was guarded by a man’s dog, Rowsby Woof, a brute of a hound who becomes a hero in his own mind by the end of the story. The chapter after has another visit from the mouse Hazel saved and how he’d seen other rabbits making a warren, which worried Hazel and told Bigwig he’d forget about it after they made sure it wasn’t true, since Bigwig thought it was nonsense. After sending Holly and Blackavar to check and their hysteric return, which Blackavar insisted they should leave for his mother’s experience in her warren with Efrafan rabbits, Hazel still insisted on staying. They would close off most of the entrance/exits and then Hazel decided he’d go to speak with Woundwort to see if he’d change his mind and see sense, knowing the method of fending off their attack would be futile, otherwise.

We then get Woundwort’s perspective of the escape and how they found their trail again. We then catch up to where Hazel has gone to speak with Woundwort, from Woundwort’s perspective. Hazel had come up with a fair compromise which Woundwort was too proud to accept, relaying the message he’s to send back being he having the expection of all the rabbits escaping from Efrafa, including Thlayli and waiting to go back when he arrived or he would kill them all. After, they soon begin to try and dig out Hazel’s warren, the rabbits getting a good beating for their trouble. Soon Woundwort comes up with a plan which set some of Hazel’s group to thinking they could be in for a mess if they didn’t think up a counter-plan very soon, with them digging a couple entrances above them. Fiver goes into a trance which spurs Hazel to remember something which gives him inspiration for a plan, getting a couple more rabbits to join him. The plan starts off well enough, with the surprise of one farmyard animal they’d run into before catching Hazel in a bad way.

The next chapter has Woundwort starting his attack on the warren, bringing a few rabbits with him to begin and seeing a dead rabbit in the place they’d fallen into, not revealing to us whom it could be. From Bigwig’s perspective, the dead rabbit could well have been Fiver and he had come up with a plan to counter the entrance of Woundwort. We skip back to Woundwort’s perspective to learn Bigwig’s plan had worked to his advantage. They both get the better of each other with Bigwig seeming to come out on top. Then we see how Blackberry and Dandelion were doing with their part of Hazel’s plan, quickly and then slower going until joining up together to get the dog back to their warren. We then see Bigwig is still dealing with Woundwort, both giving more deadly blows to each other. Soon Woundwort retreats and sends one of his officers to try and kill Bigwig, who also fails and so Woundwort goes back to where Bigwig was left, now realizing he didn’t have the strength to take him out. When Woundwort notices one of his rabbits had left with a couple others, he detects the “dead rabbit” has woken, scaring the captain Woundwort had ordered to kill the newly revived rabbit and leaving the warren where Woundwort then had the task to try and rally his group after Dandelion and Blackberry had shown up with the dog, the only one staying, being crazy ole Woundwort.

We then get Hazel’s whereabouts and fate through the eyes of the young girl who lived in the farmhouse. Then we are told what had become of Woundwort with the dog’s arrival at the warren. It seems many of Woundwort’s group had gone missing after the dog arrived and Campion was only able to bring back around seven of those who had gone. The rabbits who had gone back down into the Honeycomb surrendered to Fiver who didn’t even realize what they were doing, for still reviving from his trance. Pipkin insists on going after Hazel which Fiver agrees to join him and when they all return together, Bigwig wants to know Hazel’s story which he couldn’t believe the small part he was told.

The “captured” Efrafans were welcomed into Hazel’s warren and life for them was at first isolating and then acceptance set in for the other rabbits, since Hazel was determined to make them feel welcomed. We also have the sense their lives are starting to calm down and perceive a stride they are comfortable with. Bigwig is starting a new Owsla with the eldest firstborn bucks and Hazel still has the plan of starting another warren once the warren starts becoming overcrowded and determined to work with Campion, who is now leading Efrafa, to join up any overflow they may be having. We are shown one of Fiver’s offspring is more like him than the others and how Hazel stayed alive much longer than a normal rabbit also learning they were able to start the third warren, bridging the two. The epilogue ending was a bit corny, but what would one expect with mythological tales about rabbits throughout? I enjoyed it, had plenty of adventure and drama, action and suspense. I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it.

Bradbury Stories

I bought this collection a good year before circulating it into my reading selections, mostly because I was already reading some behemoths and wanted only little novels to occupy the rest of my time, but now I’m trying to incorporate the bunch of books I’ve acquired since then, instead of borrowing from the library constantly. Plus, I’ve loved the fact this collection was personally chosen by the author and I haven’t read any of his short stories, other than the one in a children’s short-story collection I had, which I truly enjoyed called Switch on the Night.

  • I‘m getting back into the Bradbury flow straight from the start; He’s playfully poetic with his description of the surroundings in The Whole Town’s Sleeping. We soon learn through gossip a strangler is loose, but Lavinia and a friend are off to see a Charlie Chaplin film despite the possible danger. It reads like a ’40s movie,  even Alfred Hitchcock-esque; Quite, disturbingly good. I’ve forgotten how Bradbury would make his characters do the exact opposite of what one would be expected to do; It’s wonderful. Midway reading through this, I re-read the author’s introduction and it only confirms my notion of how much I’m curious about his short stories. He even gave me a couple more authors to research. He’s put much love into his writing, but I’ve digressed enough. This story rocks my socks; Bradbury knows how to thrill the bananas out of me, I realize now. It’s a typical scenario, but dang, he gives it some hella style. I’m already satisfied by what is coming to me, haha!
  • The Rocket involved a man with the dream of flying in a rocket. He speaks with an old man who also enjoys rockets, but was trying to dissuade Bodoni from spending his money to try and attain it. Bodoni eventually takes the idea to his family, stating to them the circumstances and only one of them being able to go and who it should be. It becomes a psychological strain and sadness comes to them after learning who is chosen, those who were, making excuses as to why they couldn’t go after the initial excitement. Later on Bodoni is given the opportunity to buy a full-scale model of a rocket ship, which he couldn’t bear to pass up. Bodoni’s dream and love for the physical replication became so obsessively fantastic he started to believe he could get it to fly. This one was purely for the dreams of his children. This one is more exciting than anything horrific.
  • Season of Disbelief begins with an old woman, Mrs. Bentley, acting kindly to three children sitting in the grass on her yard and once getting them ice cream and introductions are made, the little girl refuses to believe Mrs. Bentley was once their age, peeving her to no end, so to prove her youth to them, she shows them items from her childhood and a picture, the girl always making some excuse to disbelieve and eventually running off with the trinkets which only the little boy apologizes about their behavior. She makes a decision through a made up conversation between herself and her husband, we discovering what her plan is. With this one Bradbury lets us be the dealers of reality.
  • And the Rock Cried Out is apocalyptic in nature, having most of two major countries dead and a couple driving in a jungle and running over a broken machete, destroying one of their tires. We soon realize they are being attacked from a distance, passive-aggressively by the locals. They use a second tactic of aggression after their roadblock fails a second time. The couple make it to the border only to be told they can’t go through, passports aren’t any good, the other country won’t have them and money won’t buy them passage; They’re in trouble, being American in this story is bad for one’s health. After having his bribe accepted and still turned away, they locate a gas station which won’t sell gas to them and decide to leave their car to the attendant, with the keys, since they didn’t have a choice (even though the man, John Webb was carrying a gun). As they walk away, they see the gas attendant and entourage speed past them, waving and singing as they do. After almost reaching a town, an old man is seen driving and stops to offer them a ride the rest of the way, which they accept gratefully and soon distinguish the man, Garcia reads newspapers a week late, to allow for the news to sink in or to even prove true at all. They ask to be let out early so as to not make trouble for him. They get to a hotel they once stayed at years before and are “lucky” to have the owner remember them and let them stay the night. They get a report from the hotel owner of the happening of the area they were trying to get to, being told it would be better for them to hide, perhaps for 48 hours, until the riots dissipated. As the townspeople celebrate, a man gives a speech about how they’re no longer oppressed and the American couple see he’s looking up at their room with a hateful look in his eyes. The next morning, after a loud night of arguing, Esposa, the manager informs them of his part in saving their lives by announcing to his friends the couple were employees at the hotel and to consider the offer if they hoped to survive. Webb considered and the outcome is standoff-ish. Another story leaving one with tension at the end.
  • The story after is about The Drummer Boy of Shiloh and his pep talk from the General to make sure he sets the right pace for the soldiers. It’s shorter than the other stories, but a good one.
  • The next takes place in Dublin, with a man and his wife in their hotel room and the husband recognizing a man who approaches him a couple days earlier with a story about a job he had in Belfast and needing a pound for train fare. Realizing the man a tourist he tries to get two pounds more from him, with success. He continues his story of “if he had…” so much more pounds and ends with getting five pounds from the naive fellow. All with the promise of it being a loan; Hm. The wife recognizes the man as well, pulling a similar story, unsuccessfully. Soon they’re talking of how to get past the beggars on the street, his wife unfazed, but he, being accosted almost upon stepping out the door. The first reason for their going out being the man wanting to show his wife The Beggar on O’Connell Bridge. Whilst on their way a woman beggar stops them, crying about her sister’s cancer and when his wife notices he is weakening, she asks bluntly if the woman was the same one outside their hotel; Crafty beggar stayed vigilant in not answering, or we aren’t privy to one at least. When they make it to the bridge they see the man they’re looking for with a concertina and the husband confesses to his wife how he’s unsure as to whether the man is actually blind, his wife assuming he was. When the beggar begins to sing is when his wife goes noodly for his natural singing talent, as if being pied piper-ed to opening her purse, which is when her husband takes her to another side of the bridge. Later the husband decides to buy a cap for him, since he didn’t wear one whilst it rained, but when he goes to locate him, he learns from the “replacement” beggar he’s sick at home. From then until leaving, he checks periodically and is told from the hotel manager what became of him. Another solid story, although the last question to end it made me snigger for it’s emotive wallflower feeling, due to it’s being overdone nowadays.
  • The Flying Machine takes place in 400 A.D. China with a servant informing the emperor of a man flying with paper bamboo wings. The servant accepts a cup to appease the emperor’s non-belief, insisting he was dreaming, the servant eventually getting him to follow to where he saw the fantastic sight and they being still in time for the proof. In seeing the truth of his servants words, he grows serious and once learning they were the few to know of this peasant’s flying apparatus he bids him to join him at the palace where he calls his guards and the executioner and confides in the man of why he’s decided to dispatch him, showing him his own creation, a beautiful machine. The emperor shares his fears of what other men could do if they were to copy the peasant’s creation and decide to use it for the destruction of the Great Wall. He let’s his orders be carried out and destroys all evidence, commanding his servant to treat his knowledge as if it were a fanciful dream and to warn the farmer in the field to do the same or they would share the same fate. Enjoyably dark and foreboding.
  • The story after focuses on a young man known as Heavy-Set who is first viewed from a window by his mother, watching him work out in the yard. He withdrew from social settings instead focusing only on working out, even though he was called upon by both genders, until Halloween when he decides to go to a party. His mother dotes on him and he responses to her are aloof. We learn more background about Heavy-Set which shows us the times he had gone out on dates and how he’d been let down (he starting to sound autistic, but may be too early to speculate.) Heavy-Set, at 30 seemed only to hang around the 18-19 year old age group and when they moved on and grew up, the same age group would continually become fascinated by him. When girls would invite him out, he usually tried to make excuses to avoid the situation; we get another example of this. Then his mother goes through the motions of checking for his return, seeming to dread his not coming back, but reminding me of the speech in Good Will Hunting where Affleck hopes Damon would do what Heavy-Set’s mother fears. He comes back an hour after her last check at the door, pleased, but Heavy-Set isn’t, due to being the only one at the party in-costume and the eight who showed up not doing anything but standing around. One thing is certain, he’s a big guy with a child’s mind, not giving a whit about what was on the other “party-goers” minds and because of his failed attempts at party games, he gets mad and dismisses the girl whom asks him to walk up the beach in preference of returning home. He declines another outing of football from one of the boys who visits his home, making excuses and using his punching bag, obviously quite upset since he goes on a few hours longer than usual. His mother lies awake and Heavy-Set comes in after and lies down on the bed squeezing the steel, bunched springs one uses for exercise, possibly crying whilst using them and his mother continuing to lie there silently, desperate for his comfort. This one is forced-reclusively depressing.
  • The First Night of Lent is a first person narrative about a writer working on a screenplay in Dublin and his cabby called Nick. It quickly moves to the Narrator’s night with Nick on Lent and Bradbury utilizing the ability to write the way Irishmen speak phonetically. We discover Nick’s choice of what to give up, getting support from the Narrator, not sharing the habit. The next time he gets a ride, Nick has changed his driving habits and not for giving up his habit, since the Narrator could see he didn’t. Then he discovers he hadn’t called the right habit, Nick giving up something else and it having affected his demeanor in a drastically “violent” way, at least in his driving. We’re left to wonder whether Nick took the Narrator up on his offer to break his Lent habit by the next night of their drive for the Narrator’s sake and the extra money given to supply him with his habit; pretty good story.
  • Lafayette, Farewell has an ambiguous enough beginning with a man, Bill known to the person in residence and periodically coming to inquire whether he’s reached his own home.This time though, he drops by of his own accord to visit. The man whom lives there is acceptant of the elder man’s previous confusions and welcomes him in and offers him a drink and if he wishes, to unwind his troubled thoughts. The younger man listens as Bill talks of his being overcome by thoughts of the war he was in and how he would alternate names to refer to the younger man, a writer. We also discover, after the war, Bill was a renowned MGM cameraman. Bill slowly turning the conversation to another fear he has, which is going to hell for the wrongs he committed. The young writer gets him to elaborate and tries to convince him otherwise of being hell-bound. Bill continues to explain his theory and why he believes his fate is sealed for being in war and doing what one must and how remembering it late in life is something no one ever warns them of. Then Bill speaks of a waking fantasy of hearing and seeing men fall from the sky some with and without parachutes and whether the young man believed and would help him stop the visions. So the writer suggests apologizing to them and so they both go outside to his garden to see if they’re out there. They don’t come immediately, but something paranormal seems to occur to them when they start hearing whispers and sounds like what Bill describes. The words of apology Bill decides on seem to aide him and he goes back home with words of thanks for the young man. This was a touching one, quite good indeed.
  • Maggie and Douglas are Remembering Sascha, whom we are given to believe is male, but is told so ambiguously he could well be made up. Douglas is a writer with grand ambitions of writing “The Great American Novel” and Maggie supports him with a real job; ha! Anyways, it’s alluded Douglas could be calling the possibility of Maggie being pregnant Sascha, with the advice to check with an M.D. after she describes the usual signs, confirming his thoughts the next day. As the story moves forward, one realizes the romantic fancy of the couple we’re following, so the next bit is pretty thick with corn. The “game” of Sascha speaking to the young to-be parents continues with the pregnancy and talks of trying to wait beyond the expected delivery date due to the holiday it fell on was discussed between the three. It is quite sweet by the end though; a good quick read with the idea of possibly going badly.
  • I didn’t realize Bradbury could entertain such a dirty-joked story-line, until this next one. It’s about Albert and his buddy, Junior. We detect Albert is well on in years and so is surprised by Junior’s loyalty to stick around this morning. He calls up three old girlfriends and they immediately come by to check out Albert’s newsworthy excitement. He drags out the unveiling, but soon flashes them with Junior, who impresses them all. They each have their memory flashbacks of the good ole days and we are then given a strange reason for why Junior returned the same day; odd one for certain.

  • A man hears That Woman on the Lawn, crying outside his house late at night making him feel her pain to the point of tears himself and wonders what could have upset her. When he goes to see out his window, he only views the traces of her presence by footprints on the lawn leading to the garden on the other side of the house. He decides a hot sweet beverage is in order and goes downstairs to make it. He didn’t recall the episode until dusk the next day making him hurry home, even to his surprise. He realizes he might have recognized her voice and wondered whom he’d be able to ask, having no family resources. He goes to bed early in hopes of hearing her again and awakens too late, hearing nothing, but seeing the footprints again. After settling on his bed once more, he hears her and waits a moment before going to look, catching sight of her this time. He knew and yet didn’t remember her, seeming to have seen her once before. He uncovers a photo album which reminds him of her identity, angering him and then thinking she won’t return because of his thoughts and how she hadn’t died at the age he’s seeing her appear. She doesn’t show herself again for almost a week, but something would come in her stead each night or at the least three nights before her return. When she does come back finally he takes his time to go downstairs, pacing himself until he gets outside. He speaks with her and realizes she doesn’t know him or why she’s there. After talking with him for a little while, she gets a closer look at him and believes she does recognize him, but he won’t give it away, confiding he’ll reveal his identity later, since he believes she wouldn’t trust the truth from him. He asks why she’s there and she reveals she’s waiting and sad and doesn’t know why. She realizes she’s there because someone called her name and more similarities between them are revealed. They talk more and he lets her name slip and now doesn’t know which of them could be a ghost. Then a play on the word ghost is used cleverly before the man gives her directions which will allow their destinies to collide and continue on. This one was strange, but well-written.
  • February 1999: Ylla takes place on Mars, introducing us to Mrs. and Mr. K. We go on to learn some of the pastimes they did and their family history in their house. We learn they aren’t rather old and have the unique attributes of a Martian. They are also unhappy, Mrs. K having a dream during the day whilst Mr. K reads his book like an instrument and thinks she’s calling him when it was only her crying out in her sleep, irritating him for wanting to return to his book, even whilst she describes what she’s dreamed. Her dream begins to sound like John Carter and her husband can’t believe the odd countenance of his described appearance. She has more strange visions pop into her head as the day goes on, one being a song in another language and again her husband seems imposed upon by its unfamiliarity, leaving the room whilst she prepared dinner for him. After, he offers for them to go for some entertainment in town after a six month dry spell for her, at least. She doesn’t want to go anywhere, though for a feeling of something which may happen soon, but her husband insists. They travel by fire-birds and he suggests during their ride they go to the Blue Mountains for some peace and quiet to her surprise, but she decides she doesn’t want to go, ending the conversation abruptly. The next scene begins with Ylla awaking to Yll watching her as she slept for she had kept him up with her talking in her sleep, this time he asking what it was about. She reveals it was the Earthman again and how they talked and joked having a pleasant time, but Yll soon gets jealous when she confesses how Nathaniel the Earthman kissed her and spoke of being able to take her away. He becomes so enraged she’s shocked and amused by his reaction until it seems he’s become ill over the situation. He confesses she had also spoken of when and where Nathaniel would be landing his ship. The next day Ylla makes plans to see a friend which crosses the area mentioned of earlier regarding Nathaniel. Yll declares she must stay, for the Doctor is coming to visit and so she’s trapped into staying. Once the day is almost gone, Yll goes out to hunt, not waiting any longer for the doctor friend’s arrival. She expects to see something in the sky and soon does, hesitating with the knowledge her husband would be angry and the doctor expecting her to be home. She convinces herself the sound is not what she thought it was and sits down, soon hearing a shot ring out. She doesn’t investigate though, instead waiting for her husband or the hope of the Earthman to come. She’s disappointed when Yll does come through the door and we recognize the sleazy trick he’d played on Ylla, her memory of the song now fading and she sad because of it, whilst Yll watches without emotion. Sad story, annoying me with Ylla’s lack of backbone, but again an easy, absorbing read which happens to be a part of The Martian Chronicles.
  • Ireland and the spookiness of the area, which is described by the Narrator as being far from city-life is how Banshee begins. This story also focuses on a screen-writer meeting the director to finish his script. When he arrives at the house to collaborate and the director opens the door to let him in, they hear a strange moan in the night, which makes them both retreat indoors and start their work. After they begin, it seemingly going well, they hear the same sob-moan from outside. After John, the director messes with Doug about banshees being the cause, he has more fun with him when he brings out a paper with a review of his latest book and jokes with him about what was written, making some of it up to get his goat and succeeding. Once they forgive and forget though, they again hear the strange sound and John tries to convince Doug to go out and look, giving him his coat and acting like it was his final respects, putting Doug on edge and at the same time, now wanting to call his bluff, but upon getting outside, Doug hears and sees a woman out there, next to a tree. She speaks to him and tries to confirm John’s identity as the “animal” who broke hearts, in so many words, then it has a sense of the supernatural, of mistaken identity and the idea she had given Doug an appraisal of what time she was waiting in. Doug tries to explain the man inside isn’t the same one she’s waiting for and she recognizes he must be one of the “good ones”, but to send the other man out. Doug goes back and reports to John of what he saw and decides to egg him on to go out there too, in the end though wanting him to stay, but John deciding to still go out and then locked out by Doug who retreats to his room with an almost amusing ending for its open-endedness.
  • We first learn how long it takes in Ireland for the word to get around when someone’s been born or dead and where the information gets to first: a pub. Doone, who we’re soon introduced to as the runner whom announces the news as fast as he can run, brings tidings of a death to Finn’s bar in One for His Lordship and One for the Road! Everyone in the bar remembers the man in a good light and eventually wonders what will be done with his collection of wine. As the discussion of who deserves the stash of liquor continues, Finn’s wife comes in to notify of the funeral happening in an hour. On their trek to the graveyard made all the worse from the heat, they are teased with a mysterious reason why they had to have the funeral so soon by the priest who discloses he will divulge at the proper time. After they see Lord Kilgotten being brought with a procession of vehicles behind to the grave-site. The amount was impressive to all and the coffin of Kilgotten was ornate with silver and gold nails as well as peculiar wood with stamps from all kinds of wine vineyards, impressing everyone from the pub. Then a lawyer is spotted at the end of the line of mourners. I also wouldn’t have thought a priest would command someone to shut up as often as this one does to Doone, but in any case, the lawyer finishes the testament of Kilgotten and at once proceeds to carry out the wishes therein to take his booze “with him”. Everyone stares dumbfounded by the display knowing they wouldn’t be tasting those fruits Kilgotten hoarded. The priest stops the lawyer after the first bottle is emptied and the second begun, to determine the point the congregation would be suffered through watching the stunt of wasting the rest of Kilgotten’s leftover bottles and when the lawyer confirms his question to the affirmative the priest and main group, including Finn and Doone, are taken aside for a game-plan. Finn comes up with it in the end and the priest begins the idea getting around the will of Kilgotten and including the lawyer in their partaking. Again entertaining and pleased to see some of these characters turn up again in later stories.
  • Oddly, The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair discloses of a couple Ollie and Stanley, how they met, their ages and how it wasn’t the atypical meeting. They seemed to “pretend” to know each other to escape their collective situations at the party they both serendipitously were attending. They leave to see the one hundred and fifty steps Laurel and Hardy had carried a piano. She taking his picture at the designated step as does he for her. This was the night they began their long affair, always referring to each other by the similarities between their body types to the comedy duo, at least enough to spur the affair on. Their first year consisted of going to the places Ollie had met celebrities and kissing on the site, discovering they both had renewed mouth fascination caused by their coupledom. By the end of the year they realize their jobs may conflict with their relationship. Stan proposes, embarrassing Ollie and when no answer is given, makes a vow to visit the steps each year, the same hour as the first. Three years pass with no meeting, Ollie forgets to check the next two years, but the year after comes across a note attached to a gift. After he no longer visits the stairs, but then a fluke meeting years later occurs in France, both of them with families and instead of stopping to speak with one another, they do how they did when they first met and have a final private goodbye in front of their oblivious family members. It’s a bittersweet, but good story.
  • Douglas describes of a visit from his foreign psychoanalyst Gustav Von Seyfertitz who played a high priest in a film called She and of his odd therapies in Unterderseaboat Doktor. We proceed to understand how out of the ordinary and cartoon-like these “therapies” can get. Douglas soon noticing a periscope and asking to look through it, the doctor refusing, expressing he wouldn’t enjoy what he saw, but of course ignoring the warning and seeing something surprising and terrifying to him, wondering where they came from, the doctor giving him strange and terrific answers, including how he’d been a submarine captain in a war and getting paranoid and upset Douglas, his patient had learned some history of his personal life and how it could impact his career if he spread his new found knowledge. This story is “murderously comical”. Douglas stays away from Seyfertitz for a year after, updating his friends what he’d been through. Then not long after the year of estrangement, the doctor shows up at Douglas’ door, saddened by his failed murder-attempt. They both go back to his office to kill some “monsters”. The doctor proceeds to pummel the periscope upon their arrival, successfully exorcising the images when Douglas checks. The ending is ambiguous, but overall an entertaining, crazy story.
  • Bella who is living in an old apartment in Los Angeles and is new to the area keeps hearing loud noises outside and observes it’s two men almost arguing and thumping something up a flight of stairs. (I’ve also been noticing Bradbury’s propensity to mention the number of steps in some of these short stories, this being another.) There is a number of steps to where her apartment is and these men are arguing on them as they try to deliver a piano, which Bella, we then learn to be a fat, ugly, mid-fifty year old and planning to ascertain why they’re making so much noise at such an early hour in the morning. We then see one of the men says something about Another Fine Mess and when Bella tries to get close, the noise stops, but as she goes away they start talking again and she realizes she recognizes and can anticipate what they’ll say next. She then calls up her friend Zelda to confirm her suspicion of what and who she could be hearing, getting the old friend to come and see or at least hear for herself. We then perceive this is another Laurel and Hardy referenced story. Soon the whole building hears their racket, though and are about to get angry at all their noise, so Zelda and Bella try to impart the love they have for them to them before they disappear from the angry shouting of the other tenants. Laurel and Hardy finish their bit and the two women hope their words will make them go, but once a year will hopefully come back so they can repeat their love for them and hoping they’d heard. Over-sentimental ghost story, Bradbury must have had a soft-spot for this, but I’m getting a little worn out by it.
  • A young lady called Aimee talks with a man she knows at the ticket booth of a carnival named Ralph and how he always sees The Dwarf of which we focus on, going to the same spot in the Mirror Maze and how Aimee feels bad for him even though she’s hadn’t met him. He arrives to buy his ticket not long after and Ralph shows Aimee the back way through the Mirror Maze so as to spy what the small fellow would do there. After it comes out the small man wants to buy the same sort of mirror, but Ralph holds out on him for his business, so Aimee detects where the little fellow lives and the next thing she does is research some of the little man’s work, it being some writing in a magazine. Ralph tries to distract her from her need to help him and offers to take her out to get her mind off of the man, but she’s busy contemplating gifting the mirror to Mr. Bigelow and calls the mirror place which carries them. After finishing her poorly thought-of, in Ralph’s opinion, good deed, he lets on he might have some mischief ahead for the little man the next time he drops by. We see Mr. Bigelow come to buy his ticket, as usual and Ralph informs him it’s on the house this time and states to Aimee to wait, soon they both hearing a collection of screams and see the man running off, Aimee stricken and upon Ralph showing her what he’d done, devastated for the poor little guy and running off as well, Ralph chasing her, then they hear Mr. Bigelow had taken one of the guns at the shooting booth and couldn’t locate him, but Ralph discovering him later. Strange, sad, little story.
  • A Narrator speaks of how one would think one is crying when hearing certain weather in the night and getting a sad, empty feeling when trying to attain sleep again, then revealing how he’s typing out a script in Ireland, when the film director comes a-calling at seven in the evening to take him away to the pub to get away from the rain, which the Narrator had stopped being able to hear in A Wild Night in Galway. Once they arrive at the pub, the bartender and namesake of the pub, Heber Finn, sets them up with drinks and upon requesting for a wild night by the director, was told he’ll give them one, once pouring the drinks. When the director requests for something wilder, Finn escorts them out of the pub with the words of they not knowing what kind of wild they’re in for. Finn takes them in his car and they’re quickly on their way and have quite an “Irish” wild night; Upon return to the Narrator’s hotel, he lingers for a nightcap in the reading room before going back to the dullness which is his writing. Odd, funny little short story.
  • Herb Thompson receives a phone call by Allin who is asking for Herb’s wife, wanting him to come over for dinner, but Herb and his wife have guests coming to dinner on the night of The Wind. It get’s a bit foretelling after, Herb deduces the reason for Allin’s creepy need for his presence is caused by the wind; to be taken literally, apparently, because even Herb’s wife asks if it was the cause of Allin’s call. Herb gets another phone call not long after they feel a breeze, which sets Allin to calling Herb again and confiding how he’d finally duped the wind into thinking it had gotten the best of him. (We learn earlier Allin had some bad experience in other countries with wind storms and his fear had followed him.) Allin sounds nuts, but apparently the next time he calls, which is during the time company is present at Herb’s, he hears the voices along with Allin’s over the phone, which is the wind which had taken all the people’s intelligence it’s killed. Herb is worried for his friend and asks him to call him again later since his wife is calling for him to come back, repeatedly, Allin retreating to the cellar due to the wind tearing his house apart. Then Herb and his wife discuss how ill Allin might actually be and when Herb is deciding to leave to check on him, believes he hears Allin’s laugh from outside, but when he looks, sees nothing and goes back inside. It’s quite interesting and foreboding Allin’s fate.
  • No News, or What Killed the Dog? begins with mentioning a dog named Dog whom died and how the Bentley family had found him dead in the kitchen. Soon the whole family is in tears and the parents call the children who have moved out already, they arriving there soon to discuss what will happen with Dog’s body. The father thinking the Pet Cemetery a possibility, some of the children believing it would be a corny idea, what with the services included, but some hold Dog in reverence and think it’s not enough for their childhood friend. Not long after their discussion of what’s considered science fiction, we are given the namesake of the story and then the doorbell rings, everyone thinking it’s the pet cemetery people, coming too soon in their opinion. When the family goes to the funeral, they realize how many friends Dog had made during his life, then the father of the Bentley family begins a tune which seems similar to There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. At the end of the funeral it seems the circle of life continues with the family possibly adopting another dog; quick and easy read.
  • An ambiguous summing of a Mrs. Bellowes being escorted to God by a Mr. Thirkell (so close to sounding like Erkel for comfort) is given, followed by learning of Mrs. Bellowes’ proclivity to the spiritual searching of the mystics and seemingly close proximity to cults. We also learn she hadn’t actually been fooled by these other religious leaches, until reading Mr. Thirkell’s ad, stating one could get a round trip or in other words, A Little Journey, to Mars and be near God; she deciding she’d like to get in on the project and so buys a ticket and spends seven days at Thirkell’s Restorium, before deciding she isn’t impressed with the atmosphere. She then waits for Mr. Thirkell to appear with the rest of the guests and when he does, he doesn’t come with good tidings, being there were “legal issues” concerning the rocket he must deal with before they could take the trip; everyone is upset by this and since some had already been waiting a month, Mrs. Bellowes leads the charge to at least see this rocket and what a piece of junk it seemed, Mr. Thirkell ashamed in being outed with his supposedly God-greeting rocket. When he realizes how angry people were about to become he tries making a break for it, but is too closely surrounded by the old ladies. Now Mrs. Bellowes announces to the group she thought they should take a chance on the hunk of junk due to being too embarrassed to take her complaints to the government for being duped and not having enough money to get back to Earth for spending all of her savings in getting there and all being there because they felt they were close to the end of the line as it was. Mr. Thirkell speaks out pitifully about how everything he said was a lie anyways and he doesn’t know anything about space when he hears her suggestion. When he tries to reason they hadn’t a navigator, Mrs. Bellowes, with the other old ladies somehow force him into the rocket and strap him in, eventually he having no choice but to continue the take off sequencing. We get more an ending with this one, Bradbury dealing out some well deserved karma and concluding with some possible God-like hand, ha-ha. These kinds of stories always seem a bit goofy to me.
  • I imagine this story is in a style with how Nicholas Nickleby is written; I feel a bit in the dark since I have yet to read it, but so it must be. It mentions the year being 1929 and a boy who never grew up, who is our Narrator. We also are told of his dog who will live forever and a barber who was never young, Mr. Wyneski. Ralph Spaulding, the Narrator revealed, is about 12 years old, standing outside with his dog. He hears something coming and Mr. Wyneski believes it’s the noon train. We then learn Ralph sweeps the hair on the floor for Mr. Wyneski, who has a client currently and is chatting with Ralph about hair and how it seems to grow from the floor. Ralph felt the train wouldn’t pass like it normally does and he’s right, when they hear the brakes for the train and someone step off, heading for Ralph’s house, where his Grandmother takes boarders, as well as Mr. Wyneski, who lets Ralph go investigate, since he’s so curious, also asking Mr. Wyneski to think of a better name for him, since he doesn’t care for his own, Ralph not sounding good to his own ears. When he sees the man stop outside and call out to him, even though he was hiding, he comes out and is impressed, the man asking about the accommodations of the place. Inside, Ralph realizes this man, through his writing in the registry book, is Charles Dickens, alive and well, surprising him greatly. When Ralph introduces Dickens to his Grandfather, he replies with ‘Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby’s is A Friend of Mine‘, taking only a moment to size him up. Soon, Ralph, being called Pip by Dickens, is helping him scribe a new novel he’s undertaking which takes place in London and Paris. Ralph comes up with the title, one of which we all know of course. Soon, Ralph doesn’t answer to anything but Pip and Mr. Wyneski, when he hears the name, reveals he wasn’t ever called anything but his real name, Bernard Samuel Wyneski after hearing from “Pip’s” Grandfather whom he’d changed his name a few times at his age as well, surprised Wyneski hadn’t done so. Mr. Wyneski has trouble believing the new boarder is actually Charles Dickens when he hears them talking of him, also not taking it easily when he hears the title of the book he’s writing. Mr. Wyneski’s part is revealed at the beginning of the story, in being our antagonist and he does not fail in this. Mr. Wyneski isn’t taking Pip’s new role as secretary to Dickens well either, since he’s abandoned his job as sweeper of hair for him. His grandfather brings this to his attention when Mr. Wyneski is still brooding on this a few days later and also brings down the mood in everyone, including Mr. Dickens, who one early morning asks Pip to ask him anything to get their minds off of the dreariness. We learn this man apparently hadn’t wrote anything of value in his life and killed himself (not knowing whether he’s being literal at the moment), once he realized his failure as a writer. Then he clarifies how he meant he figuratively died, his new persona coming from the ashes of the old. Dickens is close to deciding to leave since he’s used to being driven out of towns for re-writing his novels in other cities, some people not being able to have a sense of humor for what he’s doing, but Pip convinces him to continue for not being able to let him stop partway through their partnership and so, continues to dictate his novel. When morning comes, Dickens quickly finishes his breakfast as Pip comes downstairs, seeing the finished novel, he’s on his way out to the train depot, but Ralph can’t let him leave, trying to get him to write his other novels, as well. Ralph is angry now at him trying to leave and declares he’ll not read the rest of his book, which stops Dickens in his tracks, since he’d written it for him and has missed his train because of the delay, so Ralph asks him to come to the library with him to introduce him to someone, the man hesitatingly following. He dreads Ralph is going to show him his finished novels, but he’s there to introduce the librarian, who is writing poetry when they enter, mesmerized by the sound of the scratching pencil. Dickens figures out who she’s writing and encourages her to send her poems to the local paper to be published, divulging she could read them to Pip before doing so. They go back outside and the train comes and goes, Dickens deciding he’ll stay and make sure Ralph will go to the barbershop to sweep on afternoons he’s resting, starting another novel right there. When summer’s over, Dickens has married the librarian and is on the train with her with Ralph bidding them farewell. He receives a letter in the mail from Dickens’ wife and reveals their travels to him and more. I’m glad this story has nothing to do with the book mentioned in the title, otherwise I might be a little more regretful to be reading this first, but the story itself is sweet and magical in its way.
  • The Garbage Collector, who stays nameless and has fluctuated feelings towards his job, has a change of heart one day, his work taking a turn in a way he didn’t expect or believe could happen in such a short time. The next we hear from him, he’s seemingly dazed, getting home and trying to describe to his wife why he’s quitting his job, because of something which happened in his truck. It began with the installation of receivers in the truck and ended with the possibility which drove him to quit his job, which his wife, at first not comprehending, became shocked and then thought the company had to be joking. (This story reads like an old-time-y movie). The husband decides he’ll think it over due to not wanting to figure out how this new element to the job could be handled, he not wanting to do so at all, thinking of his family and wanting to move to the country so as not to have to deal with the prospect. It’s open-ended, but speaks of a time when one may have had to consider this taboo aspect of their job, which used to be so simple, but became complicated because of astrophysics.
  • The Visitor takes place on Mars with Saul Williams, who is ill in some way and wanting to be back in New York or wanting to die, but not having the “guts” to take it into his own hands. We then get a description of what happens to Saul caused by his illness: which isn’t pretty; because of this, inducing his exile on Mars due to there being no cure and infection spreading to others. He wasn’t alone on Mars though, there was another man with the same ailment, albeit further along and no longer able to carry long conversations like they had six months prior, which left poor Saul an intellectual alone. Then another rocket comes to deliver food along with another young man plagued with the same illness and when Saul goes to greet him heartily, asking about New York and getting a vivid picture of it when Leonard Mark replies, we determining Mark is gifted in many ways and Saul is glad to have someone to finally talk to, but soon becoming paranoid of the other men who are now approaching to greet the newcomer and Saul having an urge to take Mark somewhere they could be undisturbed, but Leonard not wishing to leave and so distracts Saul with another vision of New York, working only shortly until he knocks Mark out, giving him the opportunity to take flight with him in tow. When they arrive at a cave, he binds Mark and sets up a fire, paranoid of being followed, no one coming then. When Mark wakes, he’s obviously displeased by Saul’s behavior, confessing how they could have been friends and his powers capable of being strong enough to please everyone at once, but how he’d ruined it. Then informing Saul he might have heard footsteps, Saul going to check, coming back and identifying an empty cave, thinking at first Mark had escaped, but then getting wise to the situation, testing a boulder nearby with his knife, which of course had proven him right about his bluff and Mark speaking out in surrender. Before Saul can do anymore harm to him and knowing if he did, he’d be ruining his chances of ever seeing any of his dreams of reality or otherwise come true, their planet-mates arrive at the cave mouth where Mark welcomes them in. We next see Mark is unfettered by his bonds and trying to come to an agreement with the other men, which he decides on civilly enough, but Johnson, one of the others, is thinking they should be making the rules instead of Mark on how it should be, which soon shows to Mark none of them can be trusted, with each other or himself. Mark then confesses of knowing how one of them had a gun, whilst the others only knives and when he commands a search for it be made, the one with it finally owns up, but starts shooting at the others. Saul tries to wrest the gun away and another shot goes off taking one more man out and ending with Mars being desolate and bleak once again. I liked this one, it was sad, but the images it brings and it’s vivid story-telling is unique.
  • A Captain Hart and his lieutenant, Martin arrives on a planet in a rocket and await a welcome wagon for their coming and being quite miffed when there isn’t one. The planet is inhabited, as they’d seen from their fly-over of the city they’d passed before landing, but couldn’t understand why these people acted so insouciant towards their presence. Hart soon sends Martin to locate the Mayor for an official welcome, but when he gets back, he seems dazed from his experience. Hart soon gets out of Martin the city had an exceptional visit the previous day, making their showing up not as important, which they allude to being a man spoken of in various religions. Hart makes his way to the city himself to document any signs of this other visitor and interview the people, but not revealing hard evidence to convince him. Martin begins to speak out on the peoples behalf and makes Hart feel as if he’s close to insubordination, but willing to overlook it because of the extent of time they’d been in space, he still believing another captain had stolen his thunder and is trying to take advantage of the people somehow. Hart sticks to his theory, believing for certain it’s a Captain Burton who’s responsible for ruining their chances of first dibs, but then two other rockets come in to land and a man falls out burned and near death, only being able to confirm they hadn’t landed on a planet in six months and both rockets had gotten stuck in the middle of a storm, killing both officers with only three survivors. Hart then sits in on the people of the planet’s gathering, testifying to their miracles and growing agitated with the mayor, believing he’s keeping The Man from him, getting violent in the process, but leaving before doing serious harm, deciding to go on to every planet in search of this man. Martin, on the other hand, has decided to stay, as some of the other crew has agreed to do, as well and when Hart goes off in his rocket, Martin accompanies the mayor back into the city, where supposedly the man is waiting for their return. I like the tone of this story, regardless of its religious quality, it doesn’t shove it down one’s throat and it has a nice mystical caliber.
  • Henry the Ninth starts with two men in a helicopter searching for someone. They fly over the cliffs of Dover and then Sam sees Harry, who starts to run away until he announces who he is. We learn everyone is evacuating the island and Sam is trying to convince Harry to come along, as well. They go over where all the others from Great Britain had emigrated to, Sam failing to persuade Harry to come along, he wanting to stay and protect his country. He then ends with continuing his trek with his book bag, which contained various English literature. A wistful story, but hopeful.
  • The Messiah begins with a Bishop speaking to other men of God and how at some time or other they would fantasize how they would handle being Jesus, amusing them all, reminding them of their youth. Then we notice they are not living on Earth, but can see it from the planet they are on (Bradbury had one extensive fascination with Mars). All the religious men were quite astounded by how they each got to this place with their own houses of God on this far-away planet. Then we learn their are Martians they wish to discover the beliefs of, but haven’t come near the Humans, hoping in a year they’ll realize the new residents were their to speak theology. All the men were kind to each other and only wanted to learn more about their Martian neighbors, who disguised themselves as Humans, if they did walk among them. Then they receive more news on the radio of a Martian, curious to look around in the Human town and for all Humans to make way so as to not give off the feeling of threat, which leads to a Father Niven to remember of how he’d been asked to end a screenplay for a film on the Four Gospels and realizing the Last Supper wasn’t actually the last. After explaining how this was so, he told the ending he’d written for the screenplay, which touched all who heard it, they then toasting Father Niven’s insight and calling it a night. Next we observe Father Niven hearing noises and going to investigate in the early morning, hearing footsteps and water dripping, but seeing nothing and no one, but then discovering a dark figure at the baptismal font which shocked him and the figure dripping blood into the water, which is where he’d been hearing the droplets from. Soon Father Niven comes to realize who he was seeing and couldn’t take the brain-buster, believing him to be a well-known ghost. Then he soon realizes what he was seeing with his premonition’s help and was told if he did not turn away soon, the creature would die. The young Father had to come to grips with what he was seeing because he had such a need for it to be real and it was, so he made the man promise to return once a year so he could relive the vision, because of how enchanting and beautiful it was. Father Niven finishes closing up and ends his night in sorrow for the man, himself and knowing he couldn’t share with anyone of what he saw; haunting and odd, but good.
  • Johnny Choir is introduced as someone who is agile, possibly beautiful and in a time of upset. Apparently a soldier and optimist in his abilities, he being able to move amongst shrapnel and similar danger with ease, would always hit his mark and the opponent would always miss with his shout of Bang! You’re Dead! A brother in arms, Private Smith survived in a more level-headed way and would try to appeal to Johnny to do likewise. When Johnny stops running and Private Smith catches up, we soon realize there’s something odd about Johnny, hearkening to Forrest Gump yet again. Johnny soon mentions how he hasn’t “played dead”, yet and wants to take his turn. Smith offers for him to take a nap instead and Johnny reluctantly agrees. Another soldier, Melter soon runs up and asks if Johnny had died, with Smith’s reply being to the negative and how he marveled at the way Johnny had dodged all the bullets aimed his way, clearing the hill. Melter is stymied by how Johnny doesn’t understand war is more serious than a game and resolves they should reveal this to him when he wakes up. Smith rears up like a tiger to prevent this though, making it clear Johnny should believe what he wants and he’ll ruin Smith if he ruins Johnny’s view. Melter gets defensive and Smith announces from then on Melter isn’t welcome to join them anymore, Melter leaving in a huff. Johnny wakes up not long after and they continue their jog. The next scene consists of Smith taking a bullet to the hip and pretending he has to play wounded and he should go on, Johnny acting like he’s been told to stand in the corner like a child would, upon hearing this. Johnny soon suggests he should play wounded too, since Smith won’t have a chance to catch up if he goes on ahead, Smith declining the idea vehemently and wondering how Johnny will get by if he isn’t there to instruct him. Johnny waits with Smith when Melter turns up again and when he sees Smith is incapacitated, takes the opportunity to ask Johnny how he dodges bullets, not believing his answer and soon asking him if he can essentially use him as target practice, for fun. Johnny agrees and walks off a distance with Smith watching on, unable to yell for Johnny to stop Melter. Melter is able to take his shots and empties his gun, missing every time, still asking Johnny how he does it, Johnny revealing he’s already revealed his “secret”. Melter becomes even more angered than when he was trying to hit Johnny and lets go of the secret of death of the war they were in, Johnny not understanding and then soon deciding Melter is lying to him. Soon though, it sinks in when Melter includes Smith and he begins to get upset, Melter directing him towards the gun-fire and demanding he die, Johnny walking off towards it, soon taking a hit. Melter walks off in the opposite direction and Smith passes out. We next see Smith regain consciousness in a medical tent and is getting fixed up by doctors, noticing Johnny in the cot not far away and asking if he can help in any way. The doctors soon allow it and transferred him to a portable stretcher where Johnny lay, a fifty-fifty chance of survival and looking like he’s stuck in a nightmare. Smith discovers Johnny also has a chance of not remembering he ever got wounded, which Smith plays up on and advises Johnny’s unconscious self to forget the day and remember how it was before, playing like a kid. The surgeon soon informs of Johnny’s recovering and they’ll both be going home, Smith relieved and gleeful at the news. The ending is uplifting, the story simple in those whom meddle negatively will get what’s coming to them.
  • Three men in a bar soon notice everyone watching on as they realize they’re looking at a film director, a producer and a man who is in full Nazi garb. Someone watching on is having a conversation about how this scene takes him back to 1934, it being 1973. The man apparently had seen Darling Adolf Hitler at the rally and told his memory to his companions. Soon the three men are back to talking and the overseers hushing each other so they could listen, the actor celebrating the film and himself with more drink. The producer seemed to be ready to finish the movie, hoping the director would give him good news on the point, the director informing him it will be at least a month more and everyone then beginning to eat their dinner. The actor is noted as being Hitler so many times it becomes questionable whether the man playing Der Fuhrer actually is the one and the same, but the man they call Hitler begins to contemplate re-making the Nuremberg Rally and notes he’s the same age as Hitler was when “he was at his prime…”. Then the Hitler character has an idea which the director believes will bring out more people than they would’ve been able to get to come out themselves. The director than takes a turn, upon realizing perhaps this actor is taking his role too seriously and they begin to face-off, with the director tossing beers (yes, multiple), into his face as he calls him out on what his true intentions are. Hitler does finally come out and confirm the director’s words and the director punches the man to end his maniacal act in front of the people who were watching them, driving the onlookers into a frenzy. After crazy scene we then skip to the director driving the producer to the hospital to visit the actor, the director vowing to “finish the job” of socking or possibly killing the man so as to not repeat the history of Hitler repeatedly escaping assassination. When they get to the hospital they’re surprised to realize the acting-Hitler has been kidnapped by three men, whom the director was able to deduce the culprits identities, leading the producer back to his car. After the director comes up with a brilliant plan to help the group with magnifying their platform to spread “Hitler’s” word. The duo await the acting-Hitler to show up, which they had put an ad in a magazine for, the producer sure he won’t come, but the director holding out. After convincing the producer to stay a bit longer, they see Hitler entering from a far corner of the stadium, seeing if he’d actually go down to the platform, as planned, hesitating. Soon though, he’s prompted by the crowds cries and gets on stage, his kidnappers appearing at the top of the stadium not long after, as well. The actor has his moment to rant and shout like Hitler, soon circling his thoughts and winding down, then insulting the men who had taken him, ending his speech and noticing the director and producer sitting near the front, offering to finish the final scenes of the movie if they wished. The ending being patriotic to America, of course; Odd, but not too bad of a story; dated, if anything.
  • The Beautiful Shave has us follow a man riding a horse quickly and firing his guns at the sky, the only physical attribute given being a red beard. He makes his way to the saloon and orders a glass and bottle. Then we are told his name is James Malone when he asks loudly what everyone’s problem was, as they move to the other end of the bar for a free lunch. Malone demands they talk and laugh, they obliging and he settling down, soon making his way back outside to see other men riding back from whatever job they’d been doing. Malone then goes to the other side of the street to the Barber’s, kicking the door open and noticing the barbers were all busy with customers, some waiting in the seats to the side for the next free barber. When Malone is told to take a seat, he takes out his gun and makes the first man already seated in the barber chair give him his, startling and then angering the man, but then changing his mind and apprehension setting in. Malone takes the seat and the barber starts working on him. Then he orders the man he’d forced out of his chair to begin making jokes, his first request going out to them all, but wanting the man to start. As he’s starting his story, he warns the barber about to shave him to do an impeccable job and if he cuts him, he’ll kill him, revealing why he was in such a bad mood. The barber informs him of he having a family, but Malone isn’t interested, commanding him to begin, but once he’d gone through the rituals of setting up his razor and lathering Malone’s face, he makes certain everyone agrees to what they’d heard Malone say to him: the threat and whether they’d swear to it in court if need be. The end is totally what one would expect; a good one.
  • We are first told where Colonel Stonesteel’s Genuine Home-Made Truly Eqyptian Mummy is found, not knowing why or how. We are then introduced to a boy named Charlie who was expecting big events to happen the day before it happened. When nothing occurs upon his demand of the heavens, he goes to Colonel Stonesteel’s house and is given a bet which something mind-blowing would happen in 24 hours, which of course the boy readily accepts, since the terms of his winning were favorable. They withdraw inside Stonesteel’s home and go to his attic where Charlie is requested to bring forth a few items, apparently a project about to be had. Charlie is awed to see the Colonel has constructed a real looking mummy. Charlie is taken with the doll and asks if he can fabricate the crown, which Stonesteel agrees to without hesitation. Their reason for making this odd project was caused by pretty obvious reasons once one realizes what kind of a town this is. The Colonel leads the boy in tow with the mummy to implement the plan he has in mind to “wake up” the town. It does its job, as expected, but what isn’t anticipated is the Mayor’s idea of spreading the news, and so the Colonel spurs along a second idea which is executed by he and Charlie later in the night. They make their way to the post office where the mummy and police chief held vigil, hoping to create some mischief, whilst the rest of the town had gone to dinner and were awaiting the firework show to come. The Colonel was the first to step foot into the post office whilst Charlie waited without for the signal when he realizes the Police Chief is properly sauced, he sneaking in and the Colonel setting up the scene to make the mummy walk, to the Chief’s surprise, of course. They hustle out of there with the Chief disappointed by his finished bottle. The Colonel has the plan of Charlie stashing the mummy in his attic for a later, much later day when he may be needed to get the town out of boredom again, but Charlie asks if they can go have some lemonade on his porch with mummy in tow before implementing the stashing of the evidence. Charlie then asks who the mummy “truly was”, Stonesteel proceeding to describe to him what the mummy was made of and where the pieces came from. Charlie is marveled by the details and confesses to Stonesteel of he might not ever needing the mummy again due to having a life so full he wouldn’t be bored enough to need it anymore, settling on the occupation he desired. The night ended with the townspeople coming back from the fireworks show and seeing the three on the porch, some waving goodnight and Stonesteel asking Charlie what stories he can hear the mummy share, the boy giving an all encompassing answer; this one’s a bit sappy towards the end, but an interesting story overall, pretty funny.
  • Mrs. O’Brien answers her door to her best tenant, a Mr. Ramirez, flanked by two policemen. She was surprised by the scene and he had no words to explain. We trace where he’d come from and how he ended up at Mrs. O’Brien’s building. We then learn his occupation and how they’d caught Mrs. O’Brien in the process of baking pies, the policemen physically drawn in to whiff the good aroma whilst we get a description of Mr. Ramirez physically looking like the pies being baked. Mrs. O’Brien’s adult children look on whilst eating at the table. Mr. Ramirez finally letting on why he’s come to her door, giving his room-key back with the parting words of, “I See You Never”; this one seems a bit obvious and has some naive characters. It’s short though so no harm done, only not as strong as some of the others; but, sentimental, yet again.
  • We are given to understand we should expect the supernatural, beginning The Exiles with witches starting an incantation of some kind with a cauldron and chanting, putting ingredients in to a pot as they go. We then have a scene involving a rocket ship carrying some men to Mars and aren’t doing well. One man is restrained and in such duress, the captain insists on giving him morphine or he may well die. The man had apparently seen something which looked like a bat with the face of a man and he was raving. The captain then speaks to a surgeon who had done an autopsy on another man and doesn’t have any explanation for his cause of death. Apparently those on the ship were slowly going mad and if these imaginings became bad enough, one could die from them (sounds familiar due to the movies which cover these sorts of topics). Then we perceive the man who’s restrained, Smith, had been having nightmares since the launching of their ship, as did the Captain. Then they talk of not knowing whether there are Martian people inhabiting Mars. We then learn it’s the year 2120 and two men have already died, Smith then being sent to go attain some books (from the past, of course, since they’re of the paper kind due to the description having the man looking for them on a desk with two-hundred books piled on it). We determine the Captain had requested them from a museum with the thought of being able to explain the dreams, most of the copies being destroyed with those being the only copies. Then we get some book titles accompanied by authors, (most of which I’ve read or will read) and how the Captain doesn’t know how they’ll help, but may know soon enough. We skip back to the witches spying upon the Captain’s conversation and talk amongst themselves about warning those in the city. A man spies them from his window, seeing them go about their incantation, soon leaving. We then get his perspective, realizing the man is a famous author, as those we are introduced also are, the ones listed by Smith. The group contemplated their plans if the rocket crew found them out, one saying they’ll continue forward to the other planets available to them. The man is interrupted during his ramblings by another calling to the two in the room. The three of them are soon on their way to Charles Dickens’ abode (who isn’t among the ones mentioned in the list, aforementioned). Soon we see a place which can only be described as Dickensian in atmosphere and they arrive at the door with a plaque containing three well known names, one being of Dickens’ himself and a couple of his characters. The two men have come again to plead with him to persuade the rocket men’s suspicions so the others could handle the rest, whatever their plan may contain. Dickens was already separated from their group, believing he’d been mistakenly put among their caste. Also my previous suspicion of their status in reality was confirmed by one of the author’s, they being dead before, but brought back in a different way due to the destruction of their writing. The authors are turned away again and one is seen checking upon the cauldron, satisfied with its progress. We then see another man, who isn’t given a name, but described in a suit we all know and also obvious to deduce for how the people of Earth no longer celebrated Christmas. Ha-ha. Bierce is the first to decay into nothingness to the others horror. Then they see the rocket ship was getting closer, a witch screaming a spell as they continued their course. A flurry of the multitudes desperate imaginings from one of the author’s materializes as the ship lands. The men of the rocket step out on to the planet, no one around. They set up camp and begin to decimate the last of the books upon the fire lit on Mars. Then they hear a scream and Smith sees the Emerald City split and fall. This story is sad indeed, destroying the best literature with the burning of its books, still a bit sappy of course, but good.
  • A man sits in his chair for four hours and then Edgar Allan Poe is mentioned, (these stories obviously grouped in a themed way), the man making his way through his dark home, out the window and then back in, seeing a glass of lemonade on his porch where a female had left it, At Midnight, in the Month of June. Soon the man is inhabiting the woman’s being, like a possession (weird). Then I realize this is the man we hear clear his throat in the first story The Whole Town’s Sleeping; nice. He whispers her name from the dark room she’s locked them both in to. The man whispers to her like he knows her, but won’t reveal his name. He goes on to clarify he wouldn’t share with her because she may not be afraid once she knew. He asks her if she is frightened, but she doesn’t answer, so he goes on to ask her whether she’d looked for him in the ravine and how he seemed to have fooled her by being at her home instead. She begins to cry and he requests she stop, giving her commands to run one minute and then reassuring her she has the scissors in her hand, disabling her from being able to use them, essentially. The psychological corner he seems to put her in is making her feel unable to do anything. Then he flashes back to childhood days of hide-and-seek, then midway through his reverie of those days we see him ponder why he’s washing his hands in the bathroom, flitting back to how powerful he felt being able to hide beyond the game’s end. He then seems to be finished inside the house and runs quietly back to the ravine. Someone going into a diner and being greeted by the employee as Tom Dillon. He orders his meal of graham crackers and milk, makes a phone call, sits and soon after they both hear the sirens of the police speed by. Tom Dillon suspects “it being only a matter of time”, as he gets a refill of milk; again, leaving wide open what could possibly happen, I’m finding these a bit dated for my tastes, but it moves along well.
  • We hear a frantic, furious pounding upon a door, one which goes on for some time and then ceases, which is heard by a Robert and Martha Webb. They also reasoned away the noise being made coming from someone else named Lotte, for having locked the door and the phones being dead, caused by riots in the cities, it snowing hard for awhile. They believed Lotte was on her way, but knew she wouldn’t have been able to travel quickly. The year is supposed to be 1999 and this knocking and crying has occurred more than a night before. We also learn they’re in Massachusetts, are 33 years old and sensible people, soon going downstairs to investigate. Martha detects the noise is coming from The Witch Door, but also reasoning no one could fit in there or hide for the six months they’ve been living in the place. The crying had stopped and Robert promised to knock the door open in the morning, then goes back upstairs to try and sleep. After getting comfortable they hear a cry and a crash downstairs, the front door opening and when they go to see what’s happened, the Witch Door is open and footprints can be made out heading for the forest. When they look inside the little area behind the Witch Door, they expose a Bible and rocking chair, no room at all, as they knew and Robert told of how they used to hide witches way back when from being lynched and what-not. Martha contemplated on the idea of time travel for wanting to be away from the men who were looking to burn a witch so badly and we’re given the usual idea of heat signatures being odd inside the little room. They go back outside and Lotte is seen driving towards them, she’s wild with relief and panic for being followed. Rob hides her car behind the back and they meet inside the house, Lotte asking to borrow gas so she can get to another place. Rob asks if she saw anyone on the road on her way up and she confirms she almost hit a woman running by. Then she sees headlights nearby and asks if they’ve a place to hide her, the coincidence not going unnoticed and Rob showing her the little room. She gets in with the threat of the cars coming nearer and the couple soon watch the group outside retreat, returning to Lotte to inform her she can come back out, but when they don’t hear a response, they get worried, trying to open the door again, Rob soon breaking it down, Lotte gone along with the Bible. They consider her fate back in Salem of 1680, Rob realizing it not looking good; which is bloody hilarious and obviously ridiculous.
  • Someone is typing furiously on a typewriter and soon warns not to kill bugs, mentioning someone name Tinsley making the same mistake, a man who killed any bug which crossed his path. We then go back to the start of the story where Tinsley has Steve as his secretary and was dictating a letter which was to confirm a business deal for insecticide, which Steve had a problem about the amount being offered, Tinsley ignoring him. When someone was knocking at his office door, Tinsley became frantic, for realizing a bug had survived his recent massacre, demanding Steve to help his search. Steve tries to reason with Tinsley after locating his target, he being told to try seeing a psychiatrist, due to his obsessive need to kill these insects, The Watchers, but the man believed he would be given away to the public-knowledge if he did and Steve let it go. Later, he had a date with a Susan Miller, who was a psychiatrist he’d known for awhile, asking for her help with Tinsley. So they set up an evening, inviting Tinsley along so she can observe his behavior, everything seeming to go well at first, Tinsley not acting oddly in the least, until the night is nearly done and they’re driving back, a moth entering the car. His reaction is enough to get Susan to realize the extensive compulsion he’s allowed himself to entertain and she sets a date with him the next night to uncover more on the subject. The next day Steve goes in search of an answer from a different source, Tinsley’s lawyer, Remington, who obligingly, if not inconsistently to a lawyers policy, confides in Steve of what had happened to Tinsley at the tender age of 17, to make him so opposed to the insect nation. We are described a story of the father of Tinsley, which would set anyone against insects for the rest of their lives, depending on how close they were to their pater-familia. After the disturbing story, Steve is then told of the ironic profession of the elder Tinsley, in which how he died also coincided with his study subject. After leaving the lawyer’s office, he meets Susan to share the story he’d heard and they consider the possibilities of how Tinsley saw the bugs which would’ve been a conspiracy which could’ve been made if they knew Tinsley was aware of their “plans”. After they go to church together, Tinsley invites them back to his home, since the picnic they were having was being invaded by ants and once getting comfortable in his study, he confesses to them about his thoughts on the bugs which terrorized his world. Soon he’s explaining his theory of how the bugs are listening to humanity’s conversations and confiding to whomever’s leading the masses, what they need to know for control of humans. Steve bursts out upon Tinsley’s theory almost from the beginning, but Susan needing him to keep quiet so Tinsley will finish his thought after hearing of the control by a bug-like power, couldn’t contain his views on the subject and told Tinsley what he thought. Susan then suggests to Tinsley an experiment if he’s interested, to speak of his plans out loud, among bugs and if nothing happens to him in eight weeks, then he must confess to his fears being unfounded. Tinsely accepts the trial period, as requested and soon Steve is the one killing a bug he sees in the room, surprising Susan in the thought she’d lost a friend to derangement. Tinsley offers them to stay the night and both accept, having rooms near each other. Steve and Susan go downstairs, at one point, separately for snacks since the lack of sleep had gotten to them, soon returning to their rooms since noticing a fly invading the snack they were about to have. Later in the night Steve hears a scream and sees Tinsley rush out, yelling of how wrong they’d been, soon making his way to his car and speeding off. Steve and Susan follow in his car, catching up to him after some time, Tinsley’s car soon moving at a walking-pace, Steve honking his horn to get his attention. Steve then has Susan stay in the car whilst he investigated, not considering the horror of what he’d discover there, but once opening Tinsley’s door, realizing bugs are the least of their worries, going back to request Susan to take his car back, since he must dispose of Tinsley and his car by fire. Steve goes on until what had taken Tinsley, takes him as well, typing until the end, Susan safe with the lack of knowledge Steve had learned from Tinsley; disgusting, but interesting enough.
  • 2004-05: The Naming of Names gives us the idea of where the setting of this story, “strange blue lands”, got their names, being named after people and professions. We soon learn war had been made in this place, Martians against Earthmen. We then as well get description of why people had left Earth in the first, to escape being told what to do and follow certain rules; this extremely short story almost seems an introduction to what should be a longer story if it isn’t already.
  • Vinia believes she’s heard a rabbit running across a field, but realizes it’s her heart, looking out her window at the Hopscotch down below, which seemingly goes off into the distance; a child chalking it the day before, not stopping and going around corners. She counts out a certain number of spaces of the hopscotch, before lying back down, contemplating this, the day of her birthday, when she hears her name being called outside by a boy of the same age, James. She wonders if he knows today being a special one for her and he asks her if she’d like to go on a walk with him. She mentions of how she shouldn’t for her parents not returning until early evening and when she asks why he’d chosen to invite her, gives her an indifferent answer, which somehow convinces her to accept. She meets him outside, she choosing a direction randomly and they both heading out of town, she saying they probably shouldn’t, but not answering his question of why. They walk through meadows into early afternoon, stopping at a brook to snack on fresh, natural grown grapes. Then they have the lunch Jim had brought with him, asking her if, at some point, it would be alright to give her a kiss, she unsure, for not having considered the possibility, so he makes certain she’ll let him know if she does discern a time she’d agree to the idea. Vinia plays it off with not knowing if she’ll ever be sure; ha, ha. After going on for a bit, it begins to rain, at first they are running between droplets, but soon are drenched and take refuge in a tree hollow, noticing they aren’t alone, bees above them. The close-quarters gives Jim the perfect moment to ask again if she’d welcome a kiss and she accepts this time, it being everything a first kiss should be, then the rain lets up and they leave the tree, heading in the direction Vinia suggests. Due to the age of them, his innocent questions of whether they were in love and eventual marriage or where they were even headed was met with uncertainty by Vinia, as they reach her house again, her parents still not home. They say good-night, Jim hoping they’ll take a walk again soon and then Vinia goes in, next waking to noise she’s imagining she hears coming from her mouth and goes downstairs, her parents now home and she going out the door to hopscotch up to her age, going back in to sleep with the sound lulling her; another fine fantasy and of course a love-struck story, as well.
  • Someone shouts of The Illustrated Man and then shares his real name which was Mr. William Phillipus Phelps, a large man who was a part of a freak show, with his wife, Lisabeth collecting tickets. Before they’d gotten married, he wasn’t tattooed, but it seems their arguments had not only fueled his gaining weight, but due to no longer being able to do his job as a tent man, his boss offered him the role of tattooed man, since he’d lost his previous one awhile before. He locates an old woman, blind, who knew her trade as a tattoo artist, showing him a tattoo on herself of him, quite old, even though they hadn’t met before and how she had plenty of others, some who have already come and others who will come and she being ready to make his body, art. She promised to make him the only real illustrated man, giving him special pictures of the future. When he shows his wife, she flees with how tattooed he’s become and then we are told of where the old woman had put the two pictures which were of the future, warning William he mustn’t look at them yet, but to unveil them at a later date, so as to make money. Well, the owner and he do as he was told, unveiling the first and surprising everyone who’d paid, including his wife, who seems distraught over the picture’s nature. He passes out from what the picture held and was told, when he regained consciousness by the boss, to apologize to his wife and if he didn’t get rid of it, he’d be let go and his wife gave him the ultimatum she’d leave him, as well. He then contemplated how the old witch had told him the tattoo was unfinished and would be formed by his sweat and thoughts; boy, did it do a number on him. Soon he begins to question if what the picture showed, was actually what he desired. Next we see William is going to get the tattoo changed, but is unsuccessful, the “skin man” being unable to change it, for believing the tattoo must be “chiseled” straight to the bone, the boss being upset about the man being unable to finish the job and when he’s about to do another show, the boss takes a peak at what the other tattoo holds, not having anything at the time since he’d uncovered it before the time allotted, taking him out to do his show, with part of him covered. He then tries to get the tattoo off of himself, his wife returning late in the night and going off on how he must have known of it’s detail, he still declining and listening to her rattle on loudly about his “failures”. She ends with not loving him, hating him, wanting a divorce, he trying to convince her he loved her, wanted her to stay, going towards her, but having his tattoos give the impression of an angry crowd coming at her. She fights him off, not winning, he at first only trying to hug her, but soon portraying what was rendered, walking out of his trailer and past those who’d come when they’d heard a scream cut off. He waits to be found, after he’d walked to a meadow nearby, the freaks chasing him with flashlights. Soon though, he’s running, but falling on purpose, making sure they’re following, seeing the tent stakes in their hands. They catch up and the Illustrated Man falls under their blows, revealing what the second tattoo had become, which was what they were all living; another foreboding and a pretty good tale.

  • Odd Martin, who also was known as The Dead Man, is anything but dead and is being talked of again due to his firm belief on the subject, the people doing the talking soon believing he’d get the thought out of his head if he were married, hinting at a woman, a Miss Weldon, who’d heard this before. She didn’t speak much and refused to except the talk of Odd Martin seriously, but then they saw Odd moving from his spot, sitting atop a tar barrel, across the street. The local officer sees this too and gets some men to help him take Odd Martin out of his new supine position from lying in the curb. Miss Weldon brushes off his clothes and buttons his jacket, coming back to finish her job at the barber shop, everyone within making bets as to how long he’ll be lying on the pavement this time. It’s not long before he’s up again, with Miss Weldon’s assistance and back to sitting on the barrel, she going into a grocer’s to shop for dinner, whilst Odd is confronted by a little boy confessing how he believed he was dead and how he’d tried it once, being unable to continue for long, making Odd Martin smile. He goes on to explain how he began to believe he was dead, but stops shortly after, the little boy bidding him goodbye and Odd not noticing until a few minutes later, not even sure if he’d spoken to anyone at all. When Odd walks Miss Weldon home, upon her request, he gets flustered and asks why she likes him, she responding candidly and continuing their walk. Later, Odd is approached by some young people wanting him to come to their Halloween party, due to his scary-seeming ways, but one of the boy’s girlfriends decides it isn’t needed and Odd doesn’t notice the humor in this comment until after everyone has left him. The next morning Odd Martin runs into Charlie, the little boy and asks him to go buy Miss Weldon a dress and jacket and when he’s on his way, Charlie stops at the barber shop to enquire what the tune Odd Martin had been humming was, getting his answer with everyone inside surprised and “rabble-ing” about it, Charlie continuing on with his errand. The next part we see is of the barber helping clean up Odd Martin before the big event, he requesting him to keep the details quiet so as not to get made fun of by everyone, going on to mention how he’s planning on purchasing a little home, which he calls for Charlie to accompany him for it’s finalizing. The next day Charlie mentions what he’d seen the night before, since they’d heard all the rumors going around about Odd Martin and Miss Weldon, his father insisting it had all been a dream, the young boy giving in; another fantastic tale and definitely odd.
  • June 2001: And The Moon Be Still As Bright is set upon Mars again, with us being introduced to a man, Jeff Spender and his companions. He had started a fire and contemplated how they’d eventually be showing their humanity through their refuse soon enough, but hopefully not too soon. The captain was busy thinking of the dead city in the distance and declined in one of the men’s idea to celebrate their landing, rather having them realize their luck in every one surviving the trip. Hathaway, a physician-geologist had gone researching the surrounding areas and had found, whilst most of the cities had been dead thousands of years, one had as recently as ten days previously been inhabited, the Martians, now dead. The cause of death, a Human sickness and had obviously been reacted fatally by the Martians. When Spender hears the cause, he’s saddened by how people of Earth don’t even die of it and these majestic beings were taken out with something so simple. The men begin to have their party and drink though, which rubs Spender the wrong way, to the point of getting violent with one who’d already begun dumping his trash in the water nearby. When Spender is taken aside by the captain to hear his complaints, the captain decides Spender should be in charge of learning the names of the places and cities so they could use them, rather than ruin the splendor of what Humans could do with the planet. They go back and Biggs, the party-maker was still trying to get the others to lighten the mood with drink and song, but the moment had passed and the captain offers those who’d like to join, to go into one of the cities, Biggs amongst them. He gets loud again, with the captain hushing him up, reflecting on what the Martians had been like. Spender brings up a poem by Lord Byron which contains the title of this story. Biggs becomes ill and Spender walks on to explore the city. When they go back to their camp, the captain awaits Spender’s return, one of the men believing he won’t return, for he seeming the sort. The captain eventually logged Spender had been gone for almost a week, sending search parties with no luck in detecting him. Biggs is the first to encounter him when he claims to be the last Martian, killing Biggs and then walking on to the camp, encountering a few other men,informing them how he’d encountered a Martian and how they they’d feel if said Martian didn’t appreciate how they’d been treating the land. Most saying nothing and one man with Cherokee blood being on the Martian’s side. Spender takes out the others and believes the one man will join him, but he ends up having to kill him too. The captain and a few others of the crew soon come out of the rocket and see what Spender has left, they then preparing to go after him. We then see where Spender had gone to, reading a Martian book containing philosophy, having learned to read the language easily enough and noticing how close the captain and his team had come to discovering him. Soon he goes out, knowing he’ll soon be pursued, being correct in this assumption. Once the first shot is fired at him, he kills another man swiftly. The captain waves a white kerchief and talks with Spender about what he’d planned on doing and how Spender had been working up the guts to finish them all off. Spender makes the “fatal” mistake all silly villains make, revealing their dastardly plans, the captain spurning him on to outline more of his ideas for the future on Mars. Spender does convince the captain to accompany him so he could show him how the Martians had succeeded where Humanity hadn’t, leaving his men with the words of being gone for only a half hour. Spender shows him a small village with beautiful statues of animals, going on to explain how they considered living life. Even with his realistic explanation, the captain doesn’t accept his stance and when they return to their meeting place, offers him one last chance to come quietly. Spender requests if they do manage to execute him, to at least try to keep humanity from ruining the planet for fifty years. The captain goes back to his men and they begin to make headway for their sneak attack upon Spender, the captain thinking of all the morals and how the world had gotten the way it had, with those in charge getting to their place of being in the seat. The captain soon found himself about to shoot one of the men whom had stated was going to shoot Spender in the head, even though the captain ordered differently, questioning why he’d been about to go through with his order. He also wondered why Spender wasn’t doing as he’d said he would, which was to retreat to his hiding place, instead sitting still where he was. At the last moment, the captain calls his men off so he could take the shot, believing it right he be the one to do so, giving Spender a fighting chance to escape, but he not taking it, so pulling the trigger. He and his men soon see Spender, dead on the ground. It ending with Parkhill, another trouble-maker and the captain which is fitting; a good story.
  • A nephew and aunt, called Doug and Neva drive along in Mid-July. They soon pass a man, presumably The Burning Man who looks in need of a ride, so Neva stops, to the man’s surprise and he ushers them to continue hurriedly due to the sun’s ability to drive the crazies into them. Doug is immediately repelled by the man, but they continue at an accelerated speed at the man’s behest, talking about certain subjects and asking questions which bewildered the two. Then Bradbury uses a description which I don’t see often which brought me to thinking of Hot Hot Heat, of which is his usage. The odd man continues his rant which ends with a terrible fascination and description of cannibalism, which finally makes Neva stop the car and demand he get out. She threatens him with holy items and he’s off and out of the car, cursing them as they speed off. They reach their destination happily and swim, but when it’s time to leave they are a bit apprehensive as to what they’ll see on their return to town on the same road back, being another hitchhiker, but of a more innocent countenance, the ending of which is to make one unsettled; this one’s a laugh and a pretty quick read.
  • G.B.S. – Mark V has Charlie, another man in a space-craft, going up a chute to a storage pit which contained an old man. We learn it’s the initials of the man in the title whom Charlie has come to see. A man of his imagination and an author, long dead. When one of his crew-mates threatens to go and see G.B.S., Charlie being late for dinner, he and G.B.S. dash off to a place where they can see all the stars. Charlie requests he quote something which he’d asked many times before, it being filled with philosophical and astronomical themes, until his crew-mate locates him and expresses needing to be on time for his shift. His roomie then asks to why he’s always hanging around the intellectual figment, who apparently consists of an instrument which allows his existence, threatening the crewman might one day screw with the wiring to mess up his speech, Charlie threatening the death to anyone who tried it, all because they want him to be like them. He goes into a sedated sleep which spills into a nightmare and upon waking goes to see what’s become of G.B.S., he now being dead, Charlie then running back, knowing who caused it. They are in the middle of physical violence when a meteor shower hits them and everyone except Charlie, perishes, soon after he hearing the voice of G.B.S. and grabbing hold of him, they talking until possibly picked up on another ship, too immersed in their own conversation to ever know, or want to know. Quite fascinating.
  • A council decides the fate of someone called Ultar, this taking place in the future somewhere. Soon we realize this must be a world of “Bender’s”. They decide Ultar will Rust in the ocean. We then notice the sea is dead, along with other kinds of nature and soon the council has gone to the lab where Ultar awaits them, knowing what they’d decided, but demanding on seeing the protoplasm he had and to decide whether to destroy it. They looked upon the only one of its kind, not agreeing to its ability to grow and change its life. Ultar then explains how he grew the creature, it starting from A Blade of Grass and how they go through a time of destruction, causing all of the dead natural beauties of the world they lived on. Ultar soon explains his theory on where they came from, it being blasphemous to the council. The lead council member makes a decision and it doesn’t look good for Ultar, but we won’t know what happens due to how it ends; odd one, indeed.
  • The Sound of Summer Running introduces us to Douglas who got out of a movie with his family and was walking home with them when he’s seized with the sight of some tennis shoes in a store window. His father reminds him he’s already got a pair and he’d need one outstanding reason for him to purchase new ones. Douglas tries to convey the importance of how one feels in the summer with new shoes on one’s feet, like the wearer could do thrilling athletic feats in them. His father believes Douglas should earn them for himself and so the next day he goes to the store and tries to convince the shop-owner to give him the shoes, being short a dollar, but willing to do errands for him in many capacities. Douglas does such a good job of it, the man offers him a job in five years, knowing the boy had the potential to be whatever he wanted; not bad, but uneventful.
  • A captain and And the Sailor, Home From the Sea, Hanks talk of a storm coming which the captain had been expecting for some years. There used to be someone else, name of Kate whom the captain had been married to, but it being twenty years ago. We get a flashback of their being on a ship and a story he’d come up with and she’d decided to recreate, which involved not touching the shore until they were home. Kate doesn’t make it through two storms they have later on in their trip, she being given a sailors funeral. By the end, the captain, Tom requests of Hanks (TOM HANKS!, Ha ha!) to give him a sea burial when the time comes and the metaphor of which is shown when the minister was going to protest there not being a marker for the captain’s grave, but understands when he sees from further away; sentimental, yet again and passable, but alright if one decided to read it.
  • Drew and Smith, The Lonely Ones on Mars are collecting samples before leaving for home, Smith seeming to be ready to leave sooner rather than later. As the two are taking a walk and realizing the loneliness they both feel, Drew points out a footprint of which is obviously a female’s. Smith is the first to rush after them in search of the woman they belonged to and Drew is the first to call dibs to speak to the woman first, making Smith get a little serious and escalating until Drew tries to put their situation in perspective for Smith, who’s become a bit batty about detecting this woman who could possibly be taken already. They continue to follow the prints into a cave and Smith finally draws his gun, threatening to fire if Drew didn’t leave and wait for him at the ship, he doesn’t go and is protesting when the gun goes off. Smith claims the whole thing was an accident and Drew believes him due to the circumstances, they see the woman who’d made the prints and leave for their ship; quite a sad story, but I’m waiting for more of the good ones.
  • We get a first person account of someone who was haunted by the facts behind the story, which contained the deaths of three children and unknown details behind how they died. Then we learn of a man who, similar to Sherlock Holmes, by the name of Robert Merriweather tries to reveal the murderer of the children mentioned. Merriweather was a collector of doors and invited the narrator to see them at one point, then invites him on a picnic in the forest, hoping the killer will show. When they reach the spot where the bodies were found, Merriweather shows the narrator how he must have gotten away with it, a trapdoor in the ground. He goes on to explain his theory to the narrator who has trouble believing it possible when he’s felled by a branch which felt similar to what Merriweather described the killer must be, this being The Finnegan. They go back to his home to wait out the rain and return to the forest later on. Drinks are poured, which the narrator only imbibes then and when they go back out, Merriweather who had two flasks, one for each of them, began his plan on outing the killer, believing he’d only strike if he thought they were alone, so they separate, but only enough to seem single and Merrieweather’s plan works, he being snatched from the ground. The narrator rushes to the spot, but doesn’t turn anything up but his possessions, soon fleeing from fear and reading the letter given to him by Merriweather once reaching his home once more. After Merriweather’s plan, which seemed to work, life goes back to normal with but a few rumors as to what could have happened to him, no one ever knowing for certain; this one is much better, if not for the lack of seeing the perpetrator, but another mystery unsolved.
  • On the Orient, North introduces an old woman, Minerva Halliday who notices a sickly man and enquires the maître d’ as to where he was going. Later on she guesses what the maitre d’ was going to ask her, as she’s back in her compartment, not being a doctor, but a registered nurse and going with him to the ill man she’d seen earlier, guessing his “illness” and offering to accompany him to where he was headed, believing he needed her help, since she’d seen his kind before, when she was young. The rest of it is more about getting him to London and turns into a bittersweet story by the end, not corny at all and one of the better stories within this collection.
  • Mr. Greppin who seems to have his family, The Smiling People seated around a table, but something not being quite right with them as he makes one-sided conversation to them. Then he reminisces upon the day he made them all smile, the day he broke the news he was going to be married. It was met with shock, but outright refusal from his aunt. This is the moment he decided he was going to make them all smile and when we return to the present, he then hears music coming from the third floor, which is unacceptable for not allowing any noise to disturb him, deciding this two weeks before and when he learns what’s causing it, smashes the item victoriously. By the end, the police are called and Mr. Greppin refuses to open the door, for about to sit down for supper, but once they break through, they are almost fooled by the scene they see; a dark and quick read, reminiscent to some murderers we know, and also makes me want to read The Man Who Laughs and everything Batman.
  • William Acton, a writer now being able to add murderer to his list of “talents”, describes about the one on the floor, Donald Huxley. He goes about cleaning the area and replays his actions before he committed his crime, to be sure of what he’d touched including The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl. Once uncovering gloves after quite a search trying to hunt for a pair, he finishes polishing and cleaning anything and everything he might have touched. He becomes o.c.d. and paranoid about the whole affair once beginning and doesn’t finish until reaching the attic, it being too late and found by a policeman. The ending doesn’t quite make sense, but it definitely gives what lengths some people may go to in covering a crime.
  • We begin with the play off the word for jitterbug and a kid’s nickname, it being Bert and how he’d been trying out for the dance at his school. The narrator speaks to Bug after school ends, as well and he shows him all of his trophies he’d accumulated in only a year, after which, they lose touch, a war is had and the narrator loses a couple dozen friends to the war, but one day, he hears someone whom is obviously Bug asking him if he wants a hot dog and Coke. They begin to reminisce and catch up to the present, Bug no longer dancing and the narrator trying to make it as a writer (a recurring theme for Bradbury in these stories, as well). The narrator then asks Bug to dance one more time once he was about to leave, informing him he didn’t believe he’d actually won all the trophies he’d shown and may not get the chance to prove him wrong again, so seeing if he’ll go to a local dance spot and dance with any girl, even though he hadn’t danced in almost two decades, he betting Bug he can’t dance anymore, which makes Bug so irritated he takes the bet and they go down to the tea dance to begin the test. Bug wins and the narrator leaves the money in an obvious spot for Bug, hoping the best for him; interesting enough and a quick read.
  • Downwind From Gettysburg has us go straight into the mayhem of Lincoln’s assassination, with an usher relaying the news to a man called Bayes, both running for the scene as guests were hysterically trying to get out or expose the culprit of the crime or to look upon the dead man. Bayes reaches Lincoln and we are made to notice the assassin is still in the room, at the back of the theater, a security guard about to knock him a blow when Bayes shouts to the negative, still in shock at the scene of the dead leader. Then we learn the Lincoln which has been assassinated is a being of similarity to what one would see in Bio-Shock or steam punk themed stories. Bayes then tries to keep the maker away from the scene, but unsuccessful, knowing he’ll be there soon and the “murderer” still there to be noticed. Bayes confronts the man, who also has the name Booth, to understand why he’d done the deed. After some berating of the man’s ego, Booth lets out the reason why he’d done it being to do with his own insecurity which he goes into much detail. The story makes one think of the Lincoln at Disneyland and if a man called Booth ever tried to “assassinate” the drone. Bayes continues to try and decipher the other reasons for this Booth to have taken the Lincoln out, perhaps to do with infamy, which he denies. Then the creator arrives, knocking at the door trying to get inside the theater and stopping Bayes explanation. When he doesn’t get in though, Bayes continues his lecture, making it clear Booth would not get any publicity of any kind, taking his I.D. cards. Bayes continues if Booth tries to do anything about this, he would get his due, threatening the man which seems to affect Booth the way Bayes wanted. Bayes is shown at the end of the story mourning Lincoln’s death; interesting story, but wildly ridiculous.
  • Time in Thy Flight shows a man taking three children into the past in a time machine to 1928 where they experience and research the customs of the era, including a circus coming to town which is shown to be barbaric, in the teacher’s words and then a little forward to see the fourth of July which is presented to be dangerous for the use of fireworks and how people would lose fingers playing with them. They go forward once more to see Halloween where two out of the three children decide they’d rather stay in this time and have a chance to experience these holidays themselves rather than go back to their own time where there aren’t any holidays except those which are logical and the cities are underground. The teacher threatens to leave the two, sure they’ll be begging to come with him once he returns, but we don’t receive an answer; another odd one.
  • Changeling is a story similar to ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’. This one starting with a woman who believes the man she’s seeing is cheating on her, but he’s deceived not only her but a few other women, including his wife. She takes it to the point of delivering the contents of what she’s done to the real man and ends her own life, so it seems. Another strange and seemingly over-dramatic story.
  • Two men who believe they’re hunting The Dragon, but is actually something man-made and not of their time. This story was a little confusing what with not giving much information of the time-line and how brief the story itself was.
  • Let’s Play “Poison” is about a teacher who blames himself for the death of a student since he hadn’t gotten to his room in time to stop the pointless bullying and eventual manslaughter his students carry out upon the boy; all the children being eight or nine years of age. He stops teaching, but is soon called back because a teacher was needed for a class and when he decides to take the job, however reluctantly, he makes it known to the children he is not a fan of their youth and from then on the kids show their hostility through minor mischief. Later in the day he sees some of his students playing something he didn’t recognize on the sidewalk and after gruffly accosting them and ascertaining they thought the names on the curbs were dead people, he announces the truth and they continue playing or leaving for having the game ruined for some of them. One day at his home he sees a little girl playing hopscotch on his walkway and rudely and aggressively pushes her down for having chalked up his property, she runs off and Mr. Howard becomes more paranoid of children messing with his home. A few more weeks pass and Mr. Howard’s hate hasn’t abated toward the children, now he must guard his home more closely due to a water-main excavation being put in at the front of his home. A terrible fate awaits Mr. Howard when he chases some boys away from his window after they play a childish prank, no one unearthing what happened to him afterwards; again, it seems to try too hard, but it’s entertaining enough, though abruptly ending.
  • The Cold Wind and the Warm begins with an elevator operator, Garrity ascertaining what the hall porter had exclaimed with questioning verity. They are seeing a group of ethereal-seeming men, the lead in his forties with five young people in their twenties enquiring about obtaining a room, the manager overcome by their approach. The man, after confirming they didn’t have a reservation, explains how they’d decided to come there in the first place, it being completely off the cuff and how they’d planned on doing something “mysterious” once they’d arrived, he getting and agreeing, by what is described as seeming to be a giggle in reply from his “cohorts”. The man signs in, which disclosing his name to be David Snell-Orkney. We then learn noon the next day a string of happenstances occur, the start of which happens on the street with Timulty, a regular at Heeber Finn’s pub and his being unable to decide whether he wanted to go to his regular spot or stop at a sweet shop, being met by Snell-Orkney, he being quite taken aback by the group, deciding then to make haste to Heeber Finn’s to explain what he’d seen. Then we follow Snell-Orkney and his “canaries five” approaching a beggar-lady playing a harp and Mike MaGuire, another regular at Finn’s, dancing along with the tune, stopping upon laying eyes upon Snell-Orkney and Co. After engaging in a greeting he didn’t have any idea he would succumb to without knowing the people first, Mike decides to follow their little group. Nolan is next to run into Snell-Orkney, leaving the pub after an argument with Finn himself, but upon the greeting given by Snell-Orkney to Nolan, immediately wanting to forget about their tiff to report on the odd encounter he’d had, but when the group stops in front of Finn’s pub and Finn comes walking out, Nolan’s idea is ruined about being the one to mention to Finn of the odd flock. What did help the dissatisfaction to dissipate for Nolan, though was how Finn reacted to the odd group which was to pretend to not notice them at all, until Snell-Orkney asks for directions to a particular place and Finn gives a puzzling answer. When Finn retreats back inside, Garrity the elevator operator comes dashing up and into the pub to spread the news of the group he’d waited on, Timulty the next to come in. Father Leary then enters the pub in an odd fashion during this exchange of information, looking struck by what he’d underwent, but he doesn’t speak a word until his nerves are calmed by a drink, then he asks if anyone else had run into the group who seemed hellish in appearance. They are all soon discussing what the group of Sicilians could be up to and whether they meant harm. Father Leary decides they should reconvene and uncover what the group will be up to in an hour’s time, everyone in agreement. When Father Leary sets the men in different directions to surround the area they were aiming for, it doesn’t quite go cleanly, everyone ending up somewhere other than where they ought have been. Only two actually make it to the place they were meant to be and watch the otherworldly tourists. One of them, though gets too cold and goes to warm himself, promising to return, leaving Timulty by himself, to reflect and watch the group sit in the park. After watching them do nothing, Timulty finally leaves and meets everyone at their Headquarters, all asking what he’d figured out, he realizing they have great similarities between themselves and the odd group, making note of how they recited poems and sang, etc. This explanation frustrating some of them, but having no choice but to agree. Timulty goes on to describe their similarities, it hitting closer and closer to their hearts, they having no choice, attesting to his words. After someone mentions how they hope to get a look at the group more closely, who but they, are the next to walk in through the pub’s door, Garrity following not long after, shouting about how he knew where the group was then, still believing they were in St. Stephen’s Green, but soon getting his information straightened by Snell-Orkney, after which Garrity believing they all needed a drink, showing sullen embarrassment. Snell-Orkney then asks Finn whether he’s heard of the Snow Queen and the Sun King, sharing the story he referred. The point of the story relating to Snell-Orkney and crew, they not having seen winter in many years and revealing what they’d been searching for in the park, the answer surprising everyone, but Snell-Orkney then buys champagne all around and everyone then goes back to the park to experience what the group had gone there to marvel. After, they meet Father Leary, asking to give confessions and then back to the pub to let the group know they’d be leaving now they’d done what they’d come for. As the Finn’s pub group watched the Snell-Orkney bunch depart on a ship, Timulty realizes and speaks as to what the odd group actually were, it definitely ending with a hefty dose of Irish mythology which reminds me of how Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell might read .
  • The image of many walls coming down signifies the destruction of a city, we then getting a list of a few well-known cities which have collapsed already. We’re also privy to a conversation by some rich men about how the cities were coming down because of the weather and making it seem one man somehow had the power to help save certain cities, the other being responsible in handing out the order. We are then introduced to a nightwatchman being present during the destruction of another town. We learn the nature of what is actually being destroyed not long after, if one reads closely enough, relating to facades. Then an old man, the nightwatchmen is shown putting together a wall late into the hours of the night until being called upon by a man we learn is the foreman to the men tearing down walls during the day, demanding why this old man, Smith is reconstructing them. The foreman threatens to call Mr. Douglas, the boss, Smith okay with this, wanting to talk with him as it was. The foreman then notices Smith is using nails which will make it more difficult to tear down when the day crew will inevitably have to do so. The foreman gives him one more chance to stop his rebuilding, Smith explaining why he’s putting the walls back together and the foreman not being touched by Smith’s words, though he then threatens to use his hammer on the foreman when he tries to take it from Smith. The foreman then resorts to informing Smith they’ll have to get the cops involved since he’s acting nuts and might do more harm to the place, the foreman running off for help and Smith continuing his futile work and knowing its uselessness, soon stopping to walk around the place, seemingly for a last look. We then get an idea of what Smith sees when he walks through the different cities, being able to feel the essences of the places they were meant to represent. We’re then shone Mr. Douglas and police coming down the street towards Smith atop a catwalk on Notre Dame tower, requesting Mr. Douglas to come up, armed if he wished, but wanting to speak with him. When Mr. Douglas gets to where Smith is, Smith shares a story about how a man’s insanity is relative to what surroundings he’s inhabiting and the people’s mental health reflecting the whole population, which made the masses view seem normal. Smith then tries to get Mr. Douglas to hear what he hears every night he walks around or sits atop the catwalks, believing Mr. Douglas soon does, he realizing Smith had a knack for story-telling and hearing what he’d been expected to hear. Smith then goes on to describe how this world of walls which were created had no choice but to live in peace because of how close together they were to the next city and any fires set to them would ruin all of them. After saying what he needed to, they both go back down and the police plus everyone else leaves except for the two men, Smith asking what Mr. Douglas planned on doing next, which was to rejoin his party, he then asking if Smith would try to continue rebuilding, he confirming this and trying to argue a good businessman would be able to recognize a use for the cities without tearing them down. Mr. Douglas then looks for a way out of the ruins, Smith leading him and then after Mr. Douglas realizes and considers making another wall collapse, due to its frailty, Smith confesses why he wouldn’t want to, soon answering what was on the opposite side of the other walls still standing, upon Mr. Douglas’ questioning. Mr. Douglas then decides Smith should put together the walls which were salvageable, already considering the film which could be made with the ones still standing, since Smith had provided the story, believing it was a universally relatable concept. A corny and wistful story, The Meadow being mentioned briefly, but again easy to get through.
  • A man going to a town to locate a partner to accompany him in The Kilimanjaro Device which was being tested for the first time, decides on a local hunter who seems to have the right chemistry in their similar way of thinking. When he shows him the machine the man walks back inside and the Narrator decides to try the machine out himself, ending up speaking with the old man he’d known was buried in the town. He eventually convinces him to agree to him giving the old man a ride to wherever he wanted and making it seem he’d be dropping him off in the past. The only time the Kilimanjaro is mentioned is when we are told of a story of a leopard’s carcass being found and not knowing how it had gotten there. It was odd and one with vague symbolic meaning. Not my cuppa.
  • The last name of the man whom we are apparently following: Brokaw, is a psychiatrist no one could figure out the fate of. Brokaw had apparently last been seen by the Narrator going off on a plane with his wife and small dogs, not realizing the next day, Brokaw’s name would be taken off of his office door. The Narrator next sees The Man in the Rorschach Shirt, a.k.a. Brokaw coming on to a California bus ten years later and stopping at each person to ask what they saw on his shirt, everyone having a different answer as the Narrator watches him slowly approach to the back where he was sitting. When he does finally reach him and is asked what he sees in his shirt, he calls Brokaw’s name out, the man taking a moment to place the Narrator’s name, it being Simon who then asks what he’d been doing, believing the doctor had died long ago. Brokaw discloses to him of his retirement and how the people in the area knew him as the Man with the Rorschach Shirt. Brokaw then mentions why he’d decided to retire in his prime, those being two reasons, the first one due to his mishearing certain words and not listening to his record of his patients for having a photographic memory. The second reason being when he’d gotten contact lenses and being obsessed with looking at people’s pores and believing people themselves to be pores. He became so overcome with this he eventually gave up the contact lenses to go back to his old prescription glasses, being comforted with how reality looked softer around the edges. Brokaw goes on to confess how since he’d realized his selective hearing and minor blindness could effect his work, even though he’d helped so many people from his flawed advice, he didn’t believe it justified to stay in his business and so retired, now going about further interviewing people with interesting answers to his Rorschach shirts and giving on the spot sessions which the people are unknowingly a part of, believing only they’re having an interesting conversation with a half-blind, half-deaf ex-psychiatrist. As they approach Brokaw’s stop, he gets Simon’s real answer to his Rorschach shirt and then gets off the bus to walk among the beach sunning people, doing what he incessantly did. This one is sentimentally philosophical like many of the previous, but entertaining.
  • Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned introduces Father Mellon who is awakened on Christmas Eve with an urge to open the church doors and wait in the confessional, not knowing why or who would want to come in late, but deciding to go down anyways and saw the snow covering the cars outside in a hypnotic way, then going to wait inside the confessional and sneering at his own foolishness silently before hearing footfalls and someone entering and sitting in the other side of the confessional, speaking the usual words to begin. The Father, so incredulous someone had actually come, decides to ask the man how he knew the church would be open, the man replying simply of praying for it, to which the priest had no reply and after some silence the man pleading to be blessed again. The priest speaks how much this man must have sinned to be out, the man confirming his thoughts. The man then starts confessing a part of his past which had happened sixty years previously when he was twelve, having to do with how he’d treated his grandmother, then mother, after inflicting death upon some butterflies after being bullied by some boys. His last offense happening after his dog ran away and being haunted by it every Christmas Eve since. The priest makes sure this is why the man had come, then answering of course God forgives him, as did he when asked, but then confesses to have acted the same as a boy, asking for the man’s forgiveness, he giving it. When the priest offers the man to join him for some wine, the man announces Christmas had arrived, the priest moving to open the other side of the confessional and noticing it empty. I hate to say it, but this one is eye-rollingly sentimental; didn’t care for it, but had me curious to perceive what would happen; still disappointing, but Bradbury continues to be an easy read, leaving me dreading to be let down again.
  • A man called Leonard Mead on a winter at night on the street in the not so slightly distant future, as opposed to when this was written, is told to be a common walker of the evening, The Pedestrian of our focus and how he’d changed his choice of shoes so as to make less noise. We realize Mead had a tendency to imagine the goings on inside the houses he walked past and tonight he’s noticed by the last police car in the city, since it had been voted they didn’t need the three which used to roam the streets due to the crime rate being extremely low. Tonight though, the car stops Mead and he is interrogated as to who he is and his profession which isn’t considered as real due to it’s artistic nature. He’s then asked what he was doing out at night, Mead replying truthfully he’d been walking for the air, the police car’s metallic voice seeming disbelieving for being the only reason since he had air in his home, then enquiring as to whether he had a “viewing screen”, obviously not expecting the answer to the negative, the police asking whether he was married and also receiving an answer of denial, he not having been chosen and after the police car logs the information away, it opens its door and requests Mead to step in, he not agreeing with this for not having done anything, but after asking and getting the answer as to the destination they were bringing him, gets in willingly and this story like my review, ends abruptly.
  • Clara Peck discovers a Trapdoor after living in her house ten years. She was surprised she hadn’t noticed it before and berates herself for her lack of observance to detail. She doesn’t go in though, knowing it would mean more storage space. Clara was only slightly bothered by her ignorance of the attic, realizing it was because her roof was unaffected by the seasons and had no vermin, believing if she had, she would’ve become aware of the attic door sooner. After going to sleep one night, she then hears a light tapping on the attic door, not waking fully to investigate, waiting until she’d woken in the morning to consider locating her stepladder to check the space above, but still postponing for the knowledge of it being an empty space, until she again hears the tapping from within. Then she thinks she hears the tapping move closer to the trapdoor as if knowing she was thinking of opening it, this occurring three days later. Then as if by omen, Clara gets a call from a friend across town who’d gotten a bad feeling Clara was in some kind of trouble and Clara eases the woman’s mind by admitting she was fine, they hanging up, Clara no longer hearing anything coming from the attic for the rest of the night. It stays quiet for three more days until she hears the tapping with a little more force, thinking perhaps it could be rats. Clara decides to call Emma, her friend from across town when the sounds are louder, she giving her a number for pest control, but then considering perhaps Clara had ghosts, which Clara responds with skepticism. Thereafter she’s haunted by the idea, but decides trying to sleep anyway, until being wakened at four in the morning to more horrific sounds of the trapdoor opening itself, Clara running to lock her bedroom door. A few hours later she decides to call the pest control and when the pest control guy arrives, she ushers him in quickly and gets him down to business, making him aware she won’t abide any funny stuff, including being overcharged whilst she did her shopping and as she’s preparing to go, they both begin hearing the noises from the attic, the pest guy thinking it sounded like a ship’s cargo being shifted as the ship changed course, but then also likening it to another nature-based possibility, Clara leaving him with his suppositions and he getting on with uncovering what could be through the trapdoor. When Clara gets back, the pest control guy’s truck is still in the drive and so she gets to her door and calls inside to the man, everything silent and no response being made. She makes herself lunch, loudly with no one showing up, then calling the pest control again, the owner comes this time to pick up the truck and explain the possible reasons why the other pest guy would mysteriously disappear. The end of this one twists with Clara’s decision as to what to do about what’s in the attic, which is a bit underwhelming.
  • The Swan starts with a Bill Forrester deciding to go for an Italian ice and whichever takers wished to join him, the only one being Douglas and when they get there Bill deciding on the spot what kind he wants and they waiting inside the 50’s-seeming-style restaurant, soon spotting a Helen, whom is ninety-five and digging into her ice cream, she soon beginning conversing with him about his oddly decided upon flavor, believing him to be an interesting conversationalist and treating them to theirs then asking them to join her, which they oblige. She then gets into how she knows Bill and how Bill had a secret crush on her at some point, she then deciding she’d have to take a rain-check for their conversation deciding to schedule something with him for the next day, knowing she could at least speak of the history of the town since she knew he was a columnist at the local paper, but she also leaving him with an interesting fact of he reminding her of someone she dated way back when. We then next see Bill going about his day before noticing he’s heading to Helen’s home and into her garden for the promised tea-time. When they sit and begin talking, Helen starts the conversation with a bit of philosophy in reference to age and how if one believe’s they know it all they’re a young age and how older people only pretend they know everything. Helen then is the one to mention “the swan” and what it refers to, she relating what she now feels to Bill and he being taken in by her words expressing she should have been a writer which she confirmed she had done after being left by her only love, then traveling all over the world herself and deciding to figure out why Bill was still single since he was in his early thirties. He describes of looking for a girl whom spoke like Helen, but she lets him know he wouldn’t until later in life, needing to seek out the oddballs before moving on. Bill then confides he’ll probably stay single, which Helen tries to reason him out of, asking what he truly wanted out of life, he listing off goals of traveling and discovering true love, Helen then giving him an opportunity of seeing those places through her description since she’d been to most of the places mentioned. After seeing the dreamy fantasy she weaves for him, he then tries to see what she’d looked like when she was younger by sitting back and squinting, seeing her youthful side for a flash, she getting overcome by the idea and he leaving for the night for staying late, but welcomed for the next couple weeks to converse with her. We also perceive through Helen, people were beginning to talk as to why the two were seeing each other so often, both uncaring of the rumors and they both playing the “game” of her taking him to a different country. One day Helen decides to confront Bill about his having a crush on her at one point and to know the story behind it, he starting by describing a picture he’d seen of her when she was twenty which was printed whenever she gave to charity or hosted a ball. Bill discloses of the time he’d seen the picture was in a paper when she was hosting a ball and someone had seen him with it, warning him if he was planning on going to see her and believing she’d look like she was in the picture, not to go due to it being taken so long ago. Helen’s reaction was silent, taking the story in, then thanking him for wanting to go so far to meet her. She then confesses to Bill of the man he reminded her of, again ending the section philosophically. Bill then walks in on her writing a letter, she revealing it was addressed to him and when he got it, she would be dead, explaining how she knows when it will happen. She then imparts the advice for him to try not to live too old because to have to see a younger version of herself walk around when he’s too old could be more painful than it’s worth. Their last shared dream environment was a local one for them and a couple days later Bill gets the letter, he taking Douglas out for another ice cream, the ending being a bit open, but tolerably finished.
  • The Sea Shell describes a boy who would rather be out playing with his buddies, but currently sits in bed, apparently sick and being bored to the point of noticing the fly bouncing off the window in his room and relating to the need of getting out, but his mother comes back in to order him to lie down, requiring two more days of bed rest, which was sounding pretty torturous to the eleven-year-old. His mother offers untainted orange juice by medicine and also delivers a pretty object left to Johnny by the visiting doctor. At first Johnny doesn’t know what the object is and when he’s told it’s a sea shell, he wonders how he’d have “fun” with it, his mother directing him to do the usual of putting it to his ear, which apparently works because Johnny is excited to sense the sound is as familiar as anything, which does make him quite happy. His first to last day of bed rest is only semi-tolerable with the help of the sea-shell, wanting to go to the beach since he hadn’t been there before, his mother promising the possibility if his father got the right time to vacation there. Johnny then hears a strange rhyme from the shell and his mother discovers his bed empty the next day and deciding to listen to the shell, hearing something unexpected besides the waves. This one is a bit more light-hearted, but again, a slight bit of, albeit sweet corn on the side, although it’s quite short helping the tolerability.
  • Once More, Legato begins with a couple of friends sitting and “enjoying” the outdoors, Fentriss and Black, the former requesting the latter he should listen to the birds since they were singing a tune, the latter being a smart aleck about how birds usually do. Fentriss gets annoyed and advises him to listen closely, both hearing the birds were not only whistling a tune, it was an ongoing melody, which is unusual. Fentriss then grabs pencil and paper and starts writing down the scales of the song the birds were whistling until they stop, Black then taking a look at what was written, surprised his friend knew how to write music. Then Fentriss confesses to now being able to compose songs and have a new career out of this, Black then becoming doubtful to what they’d both heard and accusing Fentriss wanting to write music for a long time anyways and imagining the tune he’d heard the birds sing. A few hours later Fentriss is in his study organizing the symphonic arrangement he’d copied from the birds and adding a few notes himself, Black coming in and scolding him for plagiarizing the birds, Fentriss simply acknowledging he’s “borrowing”, if anything. Fentriss then asks Black to come up with a name, the both of them spit-balling ideas, after Fentriss calls a friend and asks him to come over, learning the fees for new songs. The song premieres at a well-known venue with outstanding reviews, Fentriss continuing his patient listening to the birds, not letting his success get to his head. Now some people understood how he was getting his inspiration, paparazzi-like people could start showing up at Fentriss’ home to steal his idea, which is what happens and Fentriss shoos this wannabe copycat away, with more soon to follow which quickly halted Fentriss’ birds from singing, one person going so far as to kill any song from being written down again, destroying the tree. Fentriss then has Black drive around, knowing the hope of locating these birds nearby slim, Black soon coming up with the theory due to it being so late in the season, perhaps the birds had migrated for the winter, Fentriss realizing the unmistakable simple idea which made so much sense. They wait for the right time of year, Fentriss having to put off all of the major venues for having to wait for the birds to return, considering travelling to detect them, but not knowing where they’d be even if he did, Black then posing perhaps they should plant a new tree for them to come back to, which of course, again thunderstruck Fentriss to hugging the man with happy relief to a good idea. Fentriss is soon stressing as to how long it would take the birds to return and if they would at all, believing if they didn’t come back soon he began threatening the new tree would be chopped, but the next morning, with at first hearing thought different birds were roosting in the tree, they began their unusual way of singing and by the end, the only mention of Legato is made; I enjoyed this one much more, although still employing the usual surprise factor, but at least had a definite ending.
  • June 2003: Way in the Middle of the Air applies the old South way of speech in regards to those with darker skin tone: yeesh. Apparently some Southern whites are surprised to realize all the black people have gone to Mars: Is that so, Bradbury? We are then given the continued conversation between locals as to how these black people were able to get to Mars, presumably having made rockets in secret, the white people not taking kindly to having the wool over their eyes. Everyone outside then sees all the black people heading for a river where the rockets would be to take them all away, one of the white townspeople’s wives, along with the rest, looking for their husbands to complain about how their help was leaving. One man then sees a black man passing who owed him money, planning on stopping him from going until he paid off his debt, the man offering he’d get him the money from Mars. The white man doesn’t take that, then resorting to try and scare him into staying with ideas of monsters on Mars ready to kill him or the fact he won’t be able to breathe or the rocket will crash, the black man not caring about any of this, but the white man not letting him leave without paying him his money. Soon a crowd of black people gather to listen to all of this until one older man asks about the money owed, the white man refusing to say, of course and getting the information out of the young black man, then the older man gets all who were listening in to pitch in a couple dollars which surprises and embarrasses the white man, refusing to take the money, but the black man and older man ride off, with the money left in a hat at his feet. Then the white man tries to shout about their imminent deaths coming to them by the rockets, after no one listens, he sees another of his workers coming by on his bicycle, pushing the boy off and reminding him he had papers to show his “employment” to him for two years, the boy not regarding this since it was signed with an “X” and anyone could sign in this way. (After this point I checked to research when this piece was published, it being in the 1950s and Bradbury posing the idea of the struggle for equality at this level would still be happening in the new millennium; terrible thought.) The white man continues to make it difficult for the boy to leave until an old white man on the porch accepts the boy’s position, which the white man isn’t happy about, but the others support, so he gives in and the boy is picked up by his family. When the boy leaves the white man with the question of what he’d do at night from then on, he doesn’t at first understand until he thought of what he’d usually do, getting enraged and following the vehicle which had disappeared down the road. He isn’t able to follow for long though since everyone who’d gone, had left big items of belongings in the middle of the road all the way to where the rockets were, presumably. Then as the white men on the porch see the rockets go up and the one man refusing to look, he is now only able to gloat about how the boy still called him “mister”. Definitely a ridiculous one.
  • The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone begins with nameless people arguing about whether Dudley Stone, a literary author, was alive or dead, sharing a note he’d written to his publishers which implied either could be true. We are shown this writer was acclaimed to be one of the best and to notice he’d given up his successful career, unimaginable. Then a character written in the first person decides to go look for Dudley Stone where he’d last been known to be, when arriving, seeing Dudley Stone had been popularly chosen to be elected in multiple leadership-related occupations. He is then noticed by the man himself, who refers to him as, “Mr. Douglas”, he shocked to observe the man so robustly alive. Dudley invites him back for a warm supper and good booze, confiding he of course knows the reason why Mr. Douglas is there, but this time, as opposed to the others who had arrived to discover the same, would share all. When they arrive at his home and before going in, Dudley Stone reveals what had occurred to make him stop writing, which is quite far-fetched because it would mean Mr. Douglas would be addressing a ghost, but believing some truth is in what he’d said, watching Dudley go into his home. When Mr. Douglas follows, everyone sitting down to eat and finishing with a home-made brew, Dudley gets into the details of his murder, which is connected to another writer, whom he’d known since they were boys, who had died recently. We uncover how the other author had so wanted to become more famous and Dudley recalls the night they had sat in his home talking. We then learn the promise Dudley had made to his good friend, even sacrificing two manuscripts he’d been working on for a few years. Dudley then relates what he thought of these now destroyed unpublished novels he’d written and how he’d been grateful for the other writer, John Oatis in helping him decide to stop writing and live his life the way he’d wanted with his wife. Another enjoyable story.

  • By the Numbers! starts with a drill sergeant shouting commands to his troops, but then we recognize it includes the man’s young son and they’re at a pool in L.A., this memory having been conjured up by a man on a train who’d noticed someone whom had reminded him of this. We then realize the man who’d remembered this is with his buddy at the pool and was watching a boy following these orders, which makes the friend, Sid of the man who remembered this start to voice his irritation and opinion of how terrible it was to make the boy carry out these orders, which had ended him at the rim of the pool, standing at attention, the boy’s father overhearing this and approaching the two who were lying pool-side to address Sid about his agreement with the hotel he was allowed to use the pool as he wished and had certificates of being a dangerous man hanging in the gym, so it would do him better to be quiet. Then we get back to the Narrator being on the train and seeing the boy he’d seen back then, grown and having a drink, having wondered what had become of him. The Narrator works up his courage to engage the man in conversation, he revealing what had become of his father, the young boy following his orders until his father’s end. This was a dramatically good one. Pulling it around at last, Bradbury.
  • April 2005: Usher II has a Narrator speaking in the first-person about going to the House of Usher (obviously referencing the original). The architect of the house is shown giving the keys to a Mr. Stendahl. Then they reference how Poe should’ve been pleased by the house being built. The architect then goes over the certain areas of the property making sure it was as depressing and intimidating as it could be, Mr. Stendahl speaking of not being let down in. Then the architect reveals the extensiveness to his working the environment so it would forever be nightfall and this having been built on another planet (I’m sure if readers of Bradbury are aware of his favorite, one will figure out which). The architect asks why Mr. Stendahl had gone so far to build this house, the architect not knowing about its origins or Poe, so Mr. Stendahl explains and we also learn about a fire which had occurred which burned all of his writing as well as other classic authors, which happened thirty years previously. He goes on to explain how in this reality it’s become a dystopia for anything art and literature and since the architect doesn’t understand and sides with the decision of “The Burning”, Mr. Stendahl sends him away and vows to open the house of Usher to anyone who comes, making it known they would rue the day of destroying Poe. Mr. Stendahl is then visited by an investigator of Moral Climates, who doesn’t like what Stendahl has done with his property and soon confirms and lets Stendahl know he was going to have to get a crew to tear his house down. Stendahl wanted the investigator to at least see the house from the inside before getting to work, since it had only been finished an hour ago, so they walk in and he sees the mechanical reconstructions of witches and rats plus a gorilla which eventually is his demise. Stendahl apparently planned on using a robot investigator to go back to Moral Climates and put in a positive report of what he’d found at the house of Usher, giving them a couple more days before being truly shut down. We then learn Stendahl also planned to have invitations sent out and how he met his partner-in-crime, Pikes. After Stendahl reminisced about what had happened over the years to books and art, his guests begin to arrive. We then get the viewpoint from the robots, which is given in a lifeless tone, respectively and giving the impression of a theme park starting up. We then see Stendahl greeting the incoming guests and showing them the way they’d be entering the house, which was quite elaborate and had to do with one of the robots seen from high above in a window. When Stendahl then escorts his guests to some changing rooms, they begin to get cold feet, knowing how illegal this must all be, but then being coaxed to obey him, thereafter forgetting their worries and enjoying the surprising fruits of wine and characters of the party. Then Pikes gets Stendahl to speak with him in private, showing the evidence of and informing of the investigator sending a robot in his own place, believing they’d have the police coming for them, but Stendahl figuring the investigator wouldn’t notice and may even be coming in person this time, the door then ringing to confirm his words. The investigator comes in and informs Stendahl he should expect the “Dismantlers” to arrive in an hour or so and Stendahl appreciating his confiding in him, asks if he’d like to enjoy the party whilst he can, which then segue’s to the guests seeing their counterparts being killed by the robots. Stendahl then asks if the investigator would like to see a similar situation involving his counterpart, the man agreeing, knowing the Dismantlers will be there soon to shut down this madness for good, willing to waste time. Stendahl leads him down into a cellar-like area where, now the investigator was a bit tipsy with drink and impressionable, he was able to get him to agree being locked by chains in a cell, making him play a part like he had the others, revealing a more ghastly truth to what had gone on the same night. The ending of this one is delightfully dark since Bradbury saw fit to give a nod to Poe, which makes me want to try some of Poe’s work again.
  • The Square Pegs shows us a girl named Lisabeth who perceives herself on a rocket ship being carried away from Earth which had been destroyed somehow. Then we learn Lisabeth is supposedly not quite sane and is there with her sister and their brother. They continue to discuss whilst Lisabeth overheard how she wouldn’t have been given a choice even if she’d understood whether or not she wanted to go with them on this trip to Asteroid Thirty-six and how she believed she was Catherine the Great, which gets her upset into crying and confirming she was. The brother soon tries to convince Lisabeth he’d made a mistake and believed she was Catherine the Great, but Lisabeth knew he was lying and continued to stay upset, they soon giving her a meal she wouldn’t touch since she assumed it was poisoned and even if it wasn’t true, it wasn’t presented to her properly with everything monogrammed. The two continue to make known why they’d decided to take Catherine to this Asteroid, the sister believing it was so Lisabeth could be cured, but the brother confessing she wouldn’t be returning to Earth and she would be happier there. After their brother calls in to New York to talk business with an associate, he expresses to his sister Alice about how Lisabeth wasn’t technically insane and they were taking her to a place which would support her belief. Meanwhile Lisabeth soon locates the door which trapped her wasn’t even locked, soon waiting for her moment to escape to the little room in the front where the “cockpit” was, darting out and disabling their ability to drive the ship, their brother soon stopping her, but still terrified she’d done more damage than could be reversed. The brother struggled to get a certain gear to work before crashing into a “planetoid”, which he did, but Lisabeth blacked out, not realizing what had gone on. When she comes to, the siblings are trying to get a rescue ship to pick them up, soon being told of what kind of planet they were on, it being dangerous to their lives, some men already coming near their ship, the two sisters besides Lisabeth becoming fearful. When Lisabeth overhears what was going on, she thought the men on this planet were her bodyguards come to save her and so had gone looking for the airlock, soon figuring it out before her siblings realized where she was, the men outside now coming in and when hearing Lisabeth’s command to deal out death to her captors, stood confusedly staring at them, until one spoke of not killing, but wanting to be killed, which all who had boarded sharing the sentiment, the brother laughing in relief and escorting the men back out, denying their pleas for death. So we are then given a more broad idea of what these Asteroid planets did for human culture, giving each oddball a planet so as to seem normal. Then the brother is the first to utilize the title of this story in reference to how people try to fit certain ideas which don’t seem to work well together. The rescue ship soon comes for them and they all board whilst their ship is towed and repaired back on Earth. Lisabeth is now locked up securely and they are told by the pilot they’d be landing on Asteroid Thirty-six fairly shortly. The Captain continues to explain how accommodating types of people on these planetoids is gone about, some people having to wait to live out their fantasy whilst another lived happily indulging the same need until their death. John then in turn mentions this to one of his sisters, a cynical one who’s getting plastered, he next revealing how long it had taken before Lisabeth/Catherine the Great’s planet was available, they letting her loose amonsgt her people and showing how she integrates immediately. Strange, but interesting enough story.
  • The Trolley is described firstly, the conductor going past a neighborhood with children playing in their front yards and he stopping and motioning for them to come aboard, not charging them since he was retiring due to the bus system being the next new way to get around which was starting up the next day. Two boys start talking of why the trolley couldn’t be discontinued due to the differences mentioned, then the one boy announces the end of the line and the trolley driver showing him wrong by switching on a generator and continuing. He takes the children to a “crik” where he hands out “pick-a-nick baskets”. Then Bradbury, through the conductor, once everyone finished eating, mentions needing to get them back soon since their parents may think they were gone for good; Ha! An odd story in general.
  • The Smile shows two men talking of the country and a boy overhearing the conversation about the festival coming up and how cold it was during all of this, it being before dawn. We then understand, upon turning the discourse over firstly as to why the boy was there at all and secondly why the others were waiting in line, one man makes a “joke” of the boy being in the line and the other defending the boy’s reason. The boy then talks cryptically as to what everyone is waiting to see, my first guess being the Mona Lisa (which turns out to be on the money), but then revealing everyone in line is waiting to spit at the piece of art, the boy asking one of the men why they do it. We then learn the state of the world, the man stating how these festivals changed in theme, but the reason for them stayed the same, destroying or showing insult to technological advancements or historical achievements. When Tom finally has the chance to spit, he can’t for being taken in by its beauty, the police then informing the people they will now have the authority to do with it what they will, everyone rushing forward in haste to destroy it, the boy being thrown forward in everyone’s hurry and taking a piece of the painting, getting hurt and running home quickly, uncovering what piece he’d acquired and being comforted by it, hiding the piece after. This one is also good, but I’m noticing Bradbury’s repetition of characters who’d like to destroy art with one person wanting to save it were better executed with the earlier stories.
  • The Miracles of Jamie overviews the miracle he’d done which was the most valued and when they’d occurred. We learn someone invariably requested for him to heal his mother and how this would happen each day as he tried to get his wording right, he still being in the seventh grade. When Jamie is beginning to delude himself of being automatically capable of this because of how similarly he looked to the pictures in his family’s Bible plus the mention of Arizona right in the next paragraph has me filled with disgust for his unfortunate fancy and Arizona in general (I’m sure there’s a good side if one is retired or a local, also depending on what part of Arizona being mentioned, but I don’t care much for living in the B.) We then see Jamie at least had sense enough not to mention this to anyone else, we then learning he and his classmates would be marching in a parade, which was also a competition between schools, Jamie leading his classmates, the teacher confirming his “Jesus” abilities of having his classmates march perfectly for the win. After, understanding how Jamie saw his “small miracles” which occurred at school for himself, concluding with a boy he wanted to try and befriend because of how he was teased which in turn made him a bully. Jamie is soon confronted by the boy before he can work his “magic” on him, though and now has to fight to continue to carry the books of a girl he’d been walking home. Jamie doesn’t make off as planned, alas and next we see he’s being tended to by his father who scolded him for coming home in such a state with his mother ill. Jamie at first was ashamed of this loss in a miracle, but then sees it differently, for seeming truly touched in the head (and not by his own Jesus-hand). The bully doesn’t bother Jamie again for distraction in other after-school activities Jamie decided he’d caused. The only thing which ends his god-complex is his inability to save his mother. So at least the kid doesn’t stay mad; Goofy story.
  • A Far-Away Guitar starts with Miss Bidwell and how scheduled her evenings were. She was a pleasant enough person, but a straight-up recluse since she’d had her front and back steps removed and her porch railed in. People would watch her go in for the winter until spring came around (reminding me a bit of a gopher). The grocer explains how she gets food during this time and the people in her past who were now gone, one in particular being a man she’d been interested in and who’d left to go travelling. We then see an old man looking at house numbers and stopping at hers. The grocer approaches him and the old man confirms who’s house it was, the grocer going off without asking the burning question of whether the old man was the same whom had left all those years ago, the next morning he asking some local ladies if they’d seen anyone at Miss Bidwell’s last night, neither having seen anything, which made the grocer think he’d imagined it for having wanting it to happen for so many years. He stayed open late even though it was a slow day and pondered as to whether the old man had left after the grocer had investigated her front lawn and saw all of the footprints around the house. At eleven in the evening he sees the old man returning to tap at her windows and walk around her house, the grocer now thinking she can’t hear him, so he calls her and she for the first time picks up the phone, he trying to decide whether she was actually on the other end since no one answered or replied and before he could describe to her what’s going on outside, she’s hung up and he gives up trying. Then the next night he comes up with another plan for the old man, it involving a dusty guitar, he leaving it for the old man to discover on her lawn and he using it, as planned. The next day the grocer learns Miss Bidwell had requested for steps to be put in; another sappy story which ends openly.
  • The Cistern shows two sisters, Juliet and Anna who are both stuck indoors whilst it rains outside, the first embroidering whilst the second pondered as to what it would be like living in a cistern since it was like a dead city underneath the city, further explaining why it would be secret and comfortable. Juliet believes her sister is alien to her with her odd thoughts on the subject. Soon Anna comes up with an excuse for her strange thought and digresses her explanation into a haunting story of a ghost couple who lived in the cistern for years. She mentions of how they died and when her sister confesses to her in so many words it was getting too morbid for her, Anna goes on to explain of how she’d get them to live again. Anna then reveals who the man and woman must have been, her sister protesting, soon asking her to help her with the embroidering, Anna accepting reluctantly and when Juliet dozes off, notices Anna had left the house, she then looking out the open door and trying to convince herself Anna would return soon; This is melodramatic and tries to give a side of dark romanticism, I still think these a bit corny, but still well-written.
  • The Machineries of Joy introduces Father Brian who tries to avoid an Italian priest during meal-time and is attaining the fortitude to put in his letter of transferal, not having the strength to avoid the priest in question, Vittorini, who seemed to laugh by himself with no prompting, but the priest believing it must be his fellow priests who are amusing him, the others also incessantly wait until before Vittorini is finished with his meal before entering the room to join him. Father Brian is the first to succumb to his hunger, and enters the room, seeing Vittorini, unfortunately not having started yet, it seemed. Vittorini greets him warmly and Father Brian confirms for himself Father Vittorini had watched the “evil” television set, he confronting him and mocking the idea of his staying up to watch the terrible device. Father Brian had the problem of Vittorini not only taking an interest in the space exploration being broadcast, but with the Italian pope giving his blessing to the proceedings. After showing the article which describes this, the priests continue to speak of how space travel is also mentioned by the pope. Their argument continues and all the while, Father Brian is coming closer to his giving in, then finally after a particularly stinging comment from Vittorini, he hands his letter over to the other priest listening to their nonsense and walks away, Vittorini believing it had all been in good fun, but now the other priest would try to make amends with Father Brian, going after him and trying to get him to throw away his letter of transfer. Father Brian is then led to their library so to see the pope’s “encyclical” on the subject of space travel. They meet another pastor who notifies them they won’t locate “it” in there and they ask what he means, he speaking mysteriously. When they all go into the library to speak some more, the priest asks the two why Vittorini seemed to upset them so much. After getting a deflectory reply, the pastor with Father Brian realizes this third pastor would be the perfect mediator for their predicament. So there mediator, Pastor Sheldon brings some perspective to their issue with Father Vittorini by considering because Vittorini had brought up space travel, he wasn’t responsible for its being brought into reality. Pastor Sheldon does seem a bit liberal for what would normally be expected from a priest, but he tries to instill acceptance and learning from whatever new technology comes to their attention. Pastor Sheldon then gives the task to Father Brian to hunt for the encyclical in the larger library and to hash it out with Father Vittorini to come to an understanding, but after they read and understood what they were fighting about. We learn the mediating priest had come from California and the rest were locals of Illinois whilst some had grown up in Ireland which is why Pastor Sheldon understood the Italian’s side as well as the Irish priests, having both kinds of mentality introduced to him early on. Vittorini observes Father Brian in the room with the television set which now has glasses and wine set up with four seats ready for the two others involved to join them in this meeting. Everyone sits and Vittorini then confesses the encyclical in which he’d based his argument on, didn’t exist and would pay penance for his lie in a vow of silence, Pastor Sheldon then announcing he’d transferred another Italian priest from Montreal to bring more color to their lives and make the group feel a bit more even. Then to complete their forgiveness and acceptance of each other, Father Brian asks for Vittorini to turn the television on to watch the rocket go into the sky. This was a pretty good one, more tolerable than many other metaphorically based stories.
  • Bright Phoenix introduces Jonathan Barnes who’s come for “the books”, he informing the man who was denying him this because of an expired library card he didn’t need one for the work he did, which was to burn books, the librarian taking this in stride and willing to talk it over with the man whilst he ate, but Jonathan Barnes then blew a whistle which got “his men” to storm in and back him up. The librarian makes them stop their noise and proceed silently for disturbing the readers, the men going off down aisles and throwing the books out the windows as quietly as asked, the librarian then requesting Jonathan Barnes to follow him, they going into a cafe down the street and he ordering from the owner who quoted different literature and poems, making Barnes believe he was mad, but the librarian gets him to focus on explaining why he’s burning books. He discloses how the town they were in was a test book-burning which was why they weren’t burning everything and when the waiter came, he also quoted whatever the librarian called him, it being an author of some work or other. After Barnes is overly irritated by the quotes of the workers of the cafe and then the librarian himself, he storms off and the librarian follows, they watching the books burn. Whilst they were watching, no crowds gathered to witness the abomination, but the librarian continued his game of calling out hello’s to people of the town and referring to them as author’s they all playing along and quoting whomever he called out, all of this seeming to upset Barnes. Then he finally calls to his men to stop throwing down books, to their bewilderment and he asks the librarian how long he and the town had done his game of quotes, the librarian not answering for Barnes digressing into threats. When Barnes leaves with his incinerator, the librarian closes up and he says good night to the last reader, they both sharing with the knowledge they’d be ready for any other book burners to come. I enjoyed this one for the different quotes, even if this is a well done subject of Bradbury’s, not the best one, but not bad either.
  • The Wish shows Tom has lost his marbles by claiming Charlie had said a prolonged version of, “Make a wish”, which Charlie denied ever saying and offering him a drink in consolation since the weather and atmosphere made perfect haunting qualities. We then learn the two were good friends over the years, both writers and did all the goofy escapades buddies do and would mock each other whilst trying them. Charlie then asks why he’d get a wish this night, then deducing it was Christmas Eve and how it seemed suitable for Jesus’ birthday (sure, ok). Tom then makes the wish to bring his father back from the dead, which Charlie tries to shut him up before saying, seeming to know what he’d wish for and dismayed when he said it before the clock turned twelve. Tom then goes off to see if his wish came true by going to the spot he’d know his father would be. He locating and hugging him as his father questions him with his eyes, Tom not knowing how to answer. Then after a half hour has passed, his father tries to speak what he wants instead, not quite getting it out, but giving Tom the chance to translate what he must be trying to articulate, which was words of love, of course, neither having spoken to each other in the way before his father’s death, the both relieved and feeling good it had been brought into the open. He had a nightcap with his buddy and drifted to sleep. This one of course being a bunch of corn, but well-written none-the-less.
  • The Lifework of Juan Diaz shows Filomena immediately and violently shutting a door, she and her crying children inside, her son asking her what was wrong and she confiding the grave payments were overdue for their father and so he would be dug up and informs them where he’d be put. Her son speaks hastily of trying to kill the gravedigger, he not understanding and being too young to realize the futility of his words. Filomena then turns to her cousin who works in the Official Palace for help. He at first denies her, for having no money himself, but she pleads and cries for him to at least extend the payment until Dia de Muertos when she can sell candy skulls and make the money needed, her cousin complying with this request with the warning he may not be able to do anything more than ask. They do to no avail and the police chief walks his cousin home, trying to comfort her. Next day Filepe, Filomena’s son is chased from school by other school children and teasing him about where his father now stays. We then see Juan Diaz, before death had made a vow to care for his family in all the ways he couldn’t in life. Filomena then has an idea and shares with Filepe, calling him in from the jeering children. Late at night she and Filepe break into the catacombs, we next seeing her come back home and one of her children lighting a match to see what was happening, she putting it out before anyone could see anything. The gravedigger comes later calling her a thief, he with her cousin the police officer. The officer comes in to ask Filomena if what he says is true, she stating what he saw against the wall was made by her out of papier-mâché, he going with this and deciding after she swore on the Virgin Mary it would be months before her claim could be proved or disproved anyways, upsetting the gravedigger even more. The officer makes it known the figure wouldn’t be moving any time soon if the gravedigger wished to bring his claim to court and made him leave with himself. An odd one, but entertaining.
  • Time Intervening/Interim has an old man with a flashlight asking some boys playing in leaves why they capered so and not getting an answer, he then going inside only to walk in on a young couple coming into his house, he then demanding what they thought they were doing coming into his home, the young man then retorting the same question, he throwing the old man out and he shouting he won’t be thrown out of his own home, but still ending locked out, he then walking around and watching the children play in the leaves at three in the morning. The old man continues to see people enter his house and then we get to see it from the perspective of the people going into the house. This one was good from the different perspectives given and it reminding me of Dr. Manhattan.
  • Almost the End of the World shows Willy and Samuel driving through Arizona (sigh) back to town after working for a prolonged period of time and having a conversation why it was important they go back to this town and how the town itself needed them as much as they needed it. When they finally reach it, Willy hits the breaks for how it’s changed, color-wise and the additions of some gardens and seeming to be extra clean. Willy then makes the bet of doom awaiting them with the oddness of the town, Samuel taking him on. Their first stop is to a barbershop which is loud before they enter and becomes completely quiet when the people within set eyes on them. When Willy starts to talk, one of the barbers rushes forward to shut him up and warn him he’ll keep quiet if he knows what’s good for him. Willy sits down in one of the chairs vacated by one of the freshly buzzed and shaved men, the barber then advising them they should probably watch the news since they didn’t realize what had happened in their absence out of town. When the television nor radio worked the barber explains the technology seemed to have stopped working and continues the first few days of this had everyone in shock also explaining the cause and why the town was freshly painted and how it wasn’t only their town which had changed in such a sustained way. He continues about how people having become more active with their time and interests. Willy now understanding why he was told to be quiet so quickly since he’d have been conversing about the nature they’d come from.They get their hair cut and see their car had been polished whilst they were inside. The two deciding to go see what the rest of the world must look like, especially the cities which were usually dirty. Not a bad one, if not a bit bewildering.
  • A man staggers into Heber Finn’s pub with blood on his clothes and face, moaning and getting the attention of those seated inside, starting The Great Collision of Monday Last. The man gets out there was an accident outside before collapsing which then gets everyone moving to either go look outside for the accident or toward the collapsed man, Heber Finn calling for one man to get the doctor, the doctor being there all along and making his presence known before the man runs anywhere, tending to the fallen man. An American in the bar voices how he hadn’t heard any cars or a collision, but another man’s body is soon put up on the bar for the doctor’s inspection. They soon realize the men had crashed into each other on their bicycles and were quite hurt. After the doctor examines the victims further he detects one sustained a concussion and so would need a clinic, the American agreeing to drive after it’s mentioned he’s the only one who could volunteer who had a car, the other had less injuries which required bed-rest and aches in his future. The American, a Mr. Macguire then asks the doctor how common it was they had car collisions, which wasn’t usual at all, which is after the group is told his name and believes he’s Irish like themselves, Macguire knowing it isn’t quite true due to his upbringing. The doctor then expresses to Macguire the safest way to drive to Meynooth, knowing he probably doesn’t know the safest way to get there, which one wouldn’t believe is safe at all coming from an American city. Then Macguire gets some final advice before driving off with the other collision victim and he preparing to make his drive; These stories are set in Ireland are interesting if one has a soft spot for the place and I enjoy them for the simplicity if not they ending openly, they are lilting and gratifying for those points.
  • The Poems shows David trying to complete a poem whilst his partner, Lisa waits for him to be able to pay attention to her again and once finishing a particularly difficult one and Lisa reads, completely impressed and touched by the emotion caught on paper she has the sudden urge to look at the environment described, taking David with her. She then wants to turn back, but decides to mask her misgivings and continues down the path, it being unnaturally dark. They then realize they’ve reached the dell, but the descriptions which were written about it weren’t there to see, which unnerved and gave them both a feeling of dread, his wife now believing he’d written the poem too well and it somehow affected the actual place. They run back home and Lisa suggests they experiment this mad thought by “caging the wind” and when David writes it down, it is done. He walks back to the dell and when returning back home is in a state of calm and hysterics in acquiring this “power” he’s discovered, his wife now pleading with him not to write anything else about the universe or have it be stripped like the dell had been, David not promising anything for realizing he could now be the greatest poet ever, the thing he most wanted. He decides to stick with writing poems of small natural objects, his popularity increasing with each he constructed. Soon he’s being asked to write thousands of poems and his ideas of writing more life related topics worries his wife about the escalation which could suck him back to, he wanting to bask in his success and requesting she to drop the subject. The story has a tone of Stephen King, somewhat based in fantasy and horror, especially with the next part of David deciding to write a poem of the dog he sees outside and how it deconstructs in front of his eyes as he finishes the poem. Soon David is hiding poems he’s written about other larger animals and even a man, which his wife eventually confronts him about, he getting angry and defensive for the conditions of the subjects he’d used. In his haste and Lisa informing him if he continues this she’ll leave him, he threatens her by threatening he’d write about her to keep her there, which upsets her to silence and he feeling guilty for having said something so vicious. Lisa then placates him by agreeing she won’t leave, we next seeing she’s gone shopping and when David sees she’s bought some champagne, they open it up and he takes a drink, it hitting him fairly quickly, he deciding it was because he’d started on an empty stomach. Lisa then prepares dinner and David decides he’s going to write a poem about the universe since the champagne seemed to be stimulating his imagination, she gives him another drink and asks what it will consist of. He begins to write and now she’s grabbing for the pen to cross out his words, he trying to get the words on paper. She continues to try and distract him with more champagne as he continues to write. She then comes up with the idea of it being bad poetry since he isn’t starting from the beginning of everything, which gets his attention. She then dictates the next few ideas he writes down, manipulating him until he wants to sleep and she getting him to write his final poem. The publishers visit the home of the poet and his wife to notice only three poems left in the area, it describing what she’d gotten him to write about; This one was fairly entertaining.
  • A war has occurred in April 2026: The Long Years which is discussed by a Mr. Hathaway and his family, Mars being a “tomb planet”. Apparently he and his family are alone on Mars and Hathaway uses his telescope to discern any changes coming from Earth, none forthcoming, he then deciding to go for a walk and uncovering metal debris made in New York. After looking at a gravestone he returns to his hut and then sees a red dot in the sky, he deciding to check through his telescope, having had his hopes brought up before, he then enters his hut and reveals to his wife and children a rocket is coming their way to take them home, to his plainly seen relief. In the morning Hathaway describes how they’d been left on Mars and would celebrate the rocket landing by having wine. His family prepares a large feast for the coming rocket-men and when it lands, Hathaway goes to greet them and actually recognizes the man whom comes out, they having served together before the Great War had started. The man in the ship had been elsewhere in the galaxy and had found another man on another part of Mars whom didn’t wish to be brought with them, the two men both wondering what was happening on Earth, only having gotten weak radio links coming from the planet, Hathaway then asks for he and his family to be brought with him, which he agrees to and then is invited to breakfast, he calling to the rest of his crew to come along. Hathaway almost collapses on the walk and a doctor is summoned to give him a pellet to revive him, he feeling better after and everyone then meeting or reuniting with his family. One of the crewmen is puzzled by Hathaway’s son’s age and the Captain gives him a mission as breakfast is had which won’t take long to complete regarding the boy’s age. When the man returns with the news of what he’d found, the Captain tries to figure out his next move. After Hathaway collapses and the crew start to leave, I realize this story is much like the movie A.I.; Pretty good.
  • Icarus Montgolfier Wright is poetic and dreamy in its telling. By the end it sounds like whomever is dreaming is being brainwashed in some way and its a vague story, but enjoyable still.
  • Death and the Maiden is like a fairy tale with a woman called Old Mam who turns anyone away for believing they’re Death in disguise. Soon people believed her to be legend and wasn’t actually living in her little home yelling about death, only a grocer would come to bring cans of food to prove her existence. Then one day a young man shows up outside, she noticing he’s walking about and asking him where he’d left his shadow. The young man announces he’s going to leave a bottle with a certain age of her youth inside, outside her house. She disbelieves his intentions and he goes on to explain what he planned for her, we learning a personal fact about the old woman. She then figures out who the young man is and takes a few more moments deciding whether to take the little bottle with her youth, deciding to go for it in the end after he assures her he isn’t only going to take advantage of her and leave after; Started well and then peters off to the usual unfortunate dated story-line.
  • Mink is the little girl we follow after being shown the neighborhood where she lived, filled with other screaming children, playing outdoors whilst she goes back inside to gather some items into a bag. Her mother notices and asks her what’s happened, Mink mentioning a game which is the best ever and asking her mother if she could borrow the items she’s gathering and after getting permission shoots off back outside, but informs her mother the name of the game being, Invasion. We notice only the much younger group of children are excited to play this game as the older ones play a much more ennobled version of hide-and-seek or hiking in the area. As Mink is ordering kids about so as to get the game started properly, an older boy, Joe comes by to ask if he could play with them, but since he’s one of the older kids, Mink is turning him away, explaining the reason being he’s too old and would only make fun of them anyways, his friends then coming by to instruct him to leave the little ones alone, he going off, but staring at them continue their activities as he walks away. Mink then continues to get another little girl to write down notes as she dictated the words and after going inside for a quick drink, she’s waylaid by her mother to sit down for soup. Mink is anxious to get back outside and tries to down the soup quickly when it’s placed in front of her, meanwhile her mother figures what is so important outside having to do with a new “kid”, Drill who is being helped by the smaller children to invade Earth. After her mother explains a few words which Drill had used to explain the situation and how the children would rule the world and not be encumbered to do anything they didn’t wish, she goes back outside, her mother then getting a call from her friend in a different area, her children taken in by the same game as well as another woman’s children they both knew. Mink comes back in for water and her mother asks how her game is getting along, Mink showing her a trick with a yo-yo, after which her mother asks to see it once more, but Mink replying she couldn’t since Zero Hour was coming. Mink’s mother’s friend then shares how her son had shown her the same trick and when she tried it herself it didn’t work, they moving on to why she’d called, it being for a recipe. Awhile after, Mink’s mother sees one of Mink’s friends run off crying, she going out to learn what had happened and thinking Mink had done something to upset her, Mink informing her the girl had grown up already and was too scared to continue the game, her mother noting her bath would be ready soon and how she was tired of keeping an eye on her. When five ‘o-clock rolls around, Mink’s father comes home and after he speaks with her mother, he decides he better go have a second look at Mink’s project when explosions begin sounding off in other yards. Mink’s mother then succumbs to her growing fear and gets her husband to follow her into the attic, she throwing the key away when they’d gotten in. Mink is soon heard downstairs followed by many heavy footsteps, she soon discovering them and getting into the attic with the help of her “friends”, the ending being open for debate. Ending too openly for my taste, but another quick read.
  • A man called Roger Shumway starts us off by going off in his helicopter over La Jolla to meet with a time traveler who was one-hundred and thirty years old. Roger was excited at the prospect of being the only reporter to be shown his second foray through time and so goes off to the agreed upon place. We are then given a run down of what the time traveler, Craig had discovered on his first journey, he broadcasting through the televised news everyone’s future. When Roger lands his helicopter and Craig asks him what he’d like to know, Roger gives him the run down of the questions he’d prepared, Craig promising him answers as they hike to their picnic, Roger noticing the man didn’t look as old as his years implied. Craig then leading Roger to where the time machine sat, offering him the one chance to be the second person to sit inside it. When Roger takes a seat and Craig assures him he wouldn’t send him anywhere, Roger notifies he wouldn’t be opposed to the idea, Craig then realizing the truth of his words and how much they were alike, he then confiding what his machine was called, The Toynbee Convector and the origins of the name. Craig then takes Roger back up where the press conference would begin soon, with Craig’s past self soon arriving in the machine, as well. Roger is ready with their toasting with champagne at Craig’s arrival and as the countdown begins and ends, they are surprised with the results, Craig explaining what reasons he had for building the Toynbee Convector. Craig then mentions his inspiration being derived from H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, which I totally saw the relation to in how this story is set up. When the two retreat back down to the time machine, the old man sits inside and orders Roger to flip the final switch, before asking him this, giving him all his research and recordings of his plans, he then going off into oblivion and Roger disposing of it all, returning to the world above; I liked this one, it showed a man who was willing to do anything to help the world change for the better.
  • Henry William Field on a whim decides to destroy ten million words worth of his own short stories due to not selling any after seventy years. We ascertain he’s living in 2257 and is confessing of his pessimism towards other writers not being able to properly describe the technologies of the future. Henry then retreats to his library and reads an old volume until dawn, he then calling a meeting at nine in the morning with his hired help. He then shows the gathering of people a collection of books by Thomas Wolfe and how he’d been born in the wrong era. He then speaks with a professor he’d hired to go back in time far enough to get him Thomas Wolfe, the man already having been able to go back a few years. Months go by with Henry impatiently waiting for results until one night he receives a call from the professor he’s hired to announce his finally going back in time, leaving Henry waiting and excited Thomas Wolfe will finally be brought to him. When morning comes, Henry has his wish come true, Tom Wolfe is in his presence and he quickly shows him the rockets going off into space after introducing himself. Henry then reveals his plans for Tom to go on a rocket to Mars which would leave in the evening. We then are shown the two in mid-argument, which had been happening since Tom’s arrival, consisting of he believing he needed to be sent back to his own time, before this trip to Mars since he from knew the experience would change his writing and he needed to be able to finish the work he’d already begun. Henry then decides to show Tom something he’d resolved not to show him, but since he wouldn’t change his mind in returning home, decided he would, the showing of which brings out an interesting twist to the story. What Henry reveals does convince Tom to go, though and so he then is prepared and shot off inside the rocket to Mars. Tom proceeding for a few weeks to put out transcribed notes of his newest novel, until the point when the professor believed Tom would have to go back to his time due to physics being unable to sustain Tom’s existence in their time any longer, but even when they think Tom has been thrust back, the typing out of his transcription goes on after a few pauses when Henry is certain Tom has gone. They do end up getting Tom to write until he’s thoroughly finished with his dictation of his travels and then he returns to them, they needing to get him back to his time, but not before giving him back the virus he’d caught which he considers all the possibilities of getting out of, not succeeding in reasoning out of it, though. Before he is sent back, Tom Wolfe titles his future work, Forever and the Earth and then we see Tom being returned and how some flowers in the future he’d been shown by Henry turned up on his grave; Another quite entertaining one, which now doesn’t surprise me since the one’s involving authors seem to have a bit more scope to them.
  • Mr. Benedict is a man who has ownership of the church and graveyard in his town which is asked about by a small child who meets him coming out of his house. He had acquired the church before the rest, but had made quite a lucrative business from how easy he made it for the dead to be prepared and not have to travel anywhere before being put into the ground. We then get an idea of Mr. Benedict’s perception and attitude towards the living, he revving himself up before going about his morticianly duties. We see him go through the town and take masked verbal abuse from its inhabitants, he waiting for the time he could rush back to begin his beloved work. We then learn Mr. Benedict felt the same way about his work as the feeling he got once emerging after going to the movie theatre. Mr. Benedict then proceeded to work on the bodies in his shop, he living up to the title of this story of being The Handler according to how they were in life, for instance if one was full of themselves, he’d put the items of their gluttony hidden inside them or if they were racist, he’d embalm them with ink. Mr. Benedict is shown to being quite a selfish man in how he would treat the dead bodies to serve his abuses of the day only to take out his frustrations on the dead at night. So far, the only body which was treated royally was a poor man who he’d wrapped in gold cloth and had twenty dollar coins on his eyelids. After, Mr. Benedict spoke these injustices out loud, we realizing there is one man who isn’t dead yet and had the problem of being brought in a few times before, due to he having comas and spells, the man showing his consciousness once Mr. Benedict draws back his sheet, the man crying to be let out and how he’d inform the government officials of Mr. Benedict’s terrible deeds. This story reminds me of not only , but of Sweeney Todd, especially after Mr. Benedict decides to take the old man’s fate into his own hands and as the old man yells for the dead to help him, curses Mr. Benedict before he dies. During the night a sequence of explosions occur and in the morning, the townspeople go to investigate, seeing blood in the graveyard and a recently inscribed stone with Mr. Benedict’s name on it then soon uncovering more, everyone now wondering how he could have been buried in all of them; Open-ended and not quite understanding what could have happened, but the build up made the reading of it go quickly.
  • We begin with a puzzling run on sentence which reveals a man coming out of his library to question the people outside the door, ‘Getting Through Sunday Somehow?‘. He then returning to his study without waiting or getting an answer. Then we see Sunday in Dublin is a dreary thing to live through what with the gray weather all day and nothing being open and the theatre being sold out, then we get a first person narrator who’s finally made it into a bar and he getting into a conversation with an old man, both nursing their drinks and the old man then getting into who one would thank for the beginning of summer and how it had nothing to do with God. The old man soon advises the American narrator to go whilst he still could, he taking his advice and walking out of the pub, soon happening upon a harpist playing on the street, he giving her large quantities of money for her talent and admitting to her so, which prompts her into stating why she wasn’t playing indoors with an orchestra or band. He then proceeds to try and thank her for her beautiful music, which she doesn’t take well it ruining her ability to continue playing and shooing him away. She slowly gets her inspiration back and the narrator heads back to the bar to shake the old man’s hand for his advice; Confusing beginning, but the story wound up enough; it’s definitely another soothing philosophical shortie.
  • A Mr. and Mrs. Welles go to a delicatessen after exiting a theatre and when Mrs. Welles orders The Pumpernickel bread for her sandwich, it reminds Mr. Welles of a moment in his past with his old buddies who he’d lost touch with after going away to college and getting married. He ends up buying the loaf of pumpernickel from the deli and has the idea of sending it on to the other guys to sign, like they had before way back when, but his wife ends up slicing it up the next day; This one is written well, but leaves one with a feeling of regret and frustration the old codger didn’t go through with his idea regardless of whether he got a response from the guys he’d known all those years ago.
  • Harrison Cooper awakens from sleep in the morning surprisingly saddened and not understanding the reason, the year being 1999 in summer. We then learn Harrison is a scientist whom had come up with a time contraption called the Möbius machine. When Harrison goes to his lab, he’s soon interrupted by a delivery boy who gets googly-eyed over noticing the Möbius machine and questions Harrison who and where he planned to see which helps his dawn of understanding about why he’d gotten so upset in the morning, thanking and then ushering the boy out to make a phone call. Harrison’s buddy, Sam whom he’d spoken with the night before, both drunk and quoting authors, had come at Harrison’s call and was asked to go over the list of the authors they’d spoken of the previous night. Harrison is ready for his exploration mission in time and off he goes, Sam then seeing his return a minute later and Harrison describing what he’d seen which had taken hours there. Harrison is then shown above someone’s bed, we slowly learning it’s a famous author and he’s reassuring him of his success to come. The author is the one to mention his Last Rites being told well by Harrison who requests him to read the first chapter of his famous book, the man obliging. Harrison is shown visiting two other authors, the last barely being spoken with at all which makes me wish this story wasn’t so short, but it was entertaining still.
  • George Garvey is the one to wear The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse, as well as a bird cage inside his false leg, but all of this will happen in his future. We are then taken back to his present, speaking of his regular life and talking of the weather with his wife. Mr. Garvey is soon a talking piece for a group of Europeans who have come to visit, they being fascinated by Mr. Garvey’s ability to bore the daylights out of anyone. These group of young people, though are fascinated and entertained by his odd and knowledgeable efforts in their conversations and so come by to get their fill of his habits until he begins to catch on to their style of interests and when he begins to try and make proper opinions of the subjects they speak of, changes their view of his being a memorable pastime only wanting him for his confused replies and so Garvey adapts to their wants and uses their interest in him to his advantage, delighting them with his quips and interests. Garvey keeps this up for a few months before he notices their attention waning and how he hadn’t realized how much he enjoyed hosting and being the center of attention, still trying to come up with ways of keeping it going. Garvey starts to get the idea when he loses a small part of his little finger and uses a Mandarin finger-guard for it which again brings back his young group to believe him interesting again, we then learning how he gets the poker chip from Matisse; Odd, quirky and attention-keeping.
  • Doug is ten years old and lived with his grandparents who took in boarders, one of them being a young lady name Leonora who we see hasn’t had a relationship with anyone and would watch the young couples walk All on a Summer’s Night. Doug, we now realize is captivated by Leonora and wonders why no one else at the table is, but then we are introduced to three ladies who consistently arrive late and do the most squirrel-ly quirks which grabs everyone’s attention. After Leonora leaves, Doug goes outside with money unspent on firecrackers and deciding to go window shopping, but then digressing upon seeing Leonora’s room above and how she’d introduced him to her “friends” in the form of poets or authors since she worked in the library. After we see his remembrances, he decides to get Leonora a gift rather than spend it on the usual firecrackers, delivering it to her door and waiting outside for when she’d come out and see it before dinner. When she does finally come out and notice the gift, she only puts it inside her room without opening it, which bewilders Doug, but he watches her as she sits on the porch outside and awaits the one who sent it. The last two men in the house came out for the night one at a time and both going on their way after greeting and leaving Leonora to her wait. Doug finally comes down from his hiding spot and shares with Leonora of his plans he’d made for them, she going back inside which throws Doug off until she reassures him he should go get ready for their movie outing. This one has a sweet ending, but the name of the object of Doug’s affection changes confusingly by the end, otherwise, not bad.

All in all, this is a fairly decent collection and I’m glad I read it and know more of Bradbury’s writing which I’ll continue with The Veldt.

Before Watchmen – Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan

We get a better idea of how the second Nite Owl takes over for Hollis and see Rorschach show up wanting to partner up before they both go to the first meeting of Crimebusters. Nite Owl and Rorschach disagree on the help of a “slut” crime-fighter and take a break from each other, Nite Owl then getting visited by her again. The story is alright, but I am waiting for more depth to occur. Rorschach’s side of the story finds more color with his help of a clergyman until he goes to the sub-basement of the church. He and Nite Owl end up cleaning up the same case; it became much more interesting. It also links up what we previously see of Rorschach.

With Dr. Manhattan, we get his humble start in Germany and skip back and forth through time like he sees everything all the time. After going through pasts we already knew about him, he decides trying an experiment with himself he previously didn’t want to consider, which when he does try, goes back to a different outcome from his past. From there we see two sides of possible histories. We go further back to what happened to his mother and why his father dedicated his career to clocks. I definitely became more absorbed with this one since we get the unknown conversation between Ozymandias and he.

On to Moloch’s beginnings which is also pretty fascinating. His physical abnormalities put off his parents and make socializing difficult, but when the circus comes to town he takes a shine to learning magic after seeing a show. He finds temporary popularity when performing a trick and soon finds out it was a ruse to get him off guard. He teaches the two involved a lesson neither would forget for awhile, though. We learn after how he decided on his name and then decides to use his magic skill to help supplement his income by illegal means which he continues to make a living with for awhile, he then meeting the Minutemen who become involved in putting him in jail and continue that rat race in varying order, until breaking out once more and back to the life he knew. He also begins hating himself more openly when one of the women who slept with him for drugs gets pregnant. Then Dr. Manhattan puts him in his place, making him realize trying to escape was pointless. When he tries to clean up his act and gains rightful parole, we link up to when Ozymandias shows up to offer him a job. Moloch becomes ill, though and that’s when Eddie visits his apartment. After that the rest was quickly read and finished. It was a strong story and a nice tie in to Ozymandias’s story-line.

Before Watchmen – Comedian/Rorschach

This one begins with one helluva conspiracy involving Jackie Kennedy enlisting Eddie to take out Marilyn Monroe; ha! We are taken through some of Comedian’s missions up until Kennedy’s assassination. Then we see Eddie go to Vietnam and enjoying himself. After, Eddie takes a break in Hawaii. It starts off, not slowly, but it takes longer for interest to take hold, since it seems we are going through the war-time of the Comedian’s life. It goes on to how much damage he causes and the cover-up which would have been confessed if not for the assassination of Kennedy and who was actually behind it. I’m looking forward to Rorschach’s story more, anyways.

His begins with his journal entry about the only time his mother smiled at him and it goes on to mention a drug dealer he tracks down and threatens into revealing to him where his stash is. He uncovers something else, getting into a mess, but escapes with his life which gives him the chance for revenge. He threatens Rawhead’s gang into learning his whereabouts. Rorschach follows a lead and discovers Rawhead, going straight into a trap, unfortunately, during which, the waitress who he’d asked out to thank her for her kindness is left by herself and in the danger of a predator during a riot. It wasn’t bad, but Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair still wins the race so far. The next Before Watchmen I reviewed is, here.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair

We begin with Ozymandias describing his accomplishments and how history has the final word of whether something is right or wrong. We are given brief description of the reason his parents decided to emigrate to America and the timeline thereof. Then Adrian describes his exceptional acumen from an early age. When his intelligence begins to draw attention, like The Incredibles, his father had to teach his son to “slow down” so as not to draw attention to himself, teaching him the lesson of life not being fair. Adrian gets further lessons with the helpful hands of bullies. His father wanted to deal with it for him, but Adrian had a different plan to take care of it himself. Adrian requested patience from his parents who were worried about his daily beatings, assuring them it would end soon; Adrian doesn’t disappoint. Only it didn’t quite end as he’d hoped. After graduating high school early and studying at Harvard, Adrian gets terrible news regarding his parents. Adrian goes on a journey to discover everything he can about his namesake, Alexander of Macedonia. Adrian then decides to give away his inheritance so he could prove his worthiness to match his idol’s accomplishments. He follows his route from Turkey onwards. After completing his trek, he goes to New York to build upon his savings through the stock market when he meets Miranda St. John. His focus on building his empire though, helps crumble his relationship. He’s wracked with guilt and is about to report the accident which comes from his neglect when ideas of how Alexander would have handled the situation circles his mind, deciding it better to deal with himself. He takes a lesson from other masked vigilantes in the papers and throws together a costume. Then he makes a promise to the drug dealer who supplied Miranda with the drug which ended her: he would regret his role in her death; promising start, I like it.

After four days, Adrian gets a lead and which gives him a run for his money; for a moment, anyways. Adrian gets the information he’s after without much resistance and he heads to the restaurant given and follows his lead out. He gets to the seemingly “abandoned” warehouse and sneaks to a spot to confirm his suspicions, zeroing in on the boss. Adrian makes his move with careful calculation. He gets everyone in the warehouse including the boss with grace and enough time for some disdainful comebacks then he waits for the authorities and comes up with his alias. Adrian continues his crime-fighting rampage after his success. After his continuing good luck, Adrian decides to research the fates of masked crime-fighters who came before him so he could avoid mistakes if possible. He comes across the mystery of Hooded Justice and begins to set his sight on perhaps tracking him down. It takes him pretty close to the truth when another mask confronts him violently. they are evenly matched until his opponent cheats. Adrian uses his planned defeat (so he says) to gather information on the mask. He lets his search take a backseat when he hears of Dr. Manhattan, though. He starts plans to construct a shelter for himself in Antarctica and the renting and construction of fallout shelters in general. Whilst his plans were underway, he’d take down more crime-gangs at night. After completing said mission, a police officer gives him an invitation to which Adrian had no interest in attending until being told Dr. Manhattan would be there, as well. He ends up playing to the crowd with Comedian for the event. After a couple other greetings from masks, he sees Dr. Manhattan, introduces himself and proceeds to listen in on a conversation between him and Nite Owl, discovering an interesting phenomenon. Before Dr. Manhattan leaves with Janey, he addresses Adrian whilst he was still hidden, unnerving him again.

Adrian’s fortress is completed and he begins to shed his former identity to start afresh what he’s become. He begins his study of Dr. Manhattan and his continued research brings one video of him which concerns him. In the meantime he also sees the ad for Hollis’ retirement and is soon summoned by the President, which he expected. Proceeding forward, Adrian sees the new masks replacing the old, seemingly more odd than before. During this time he’s also begun producing a perfume for mass marketing. Then, years after not hearing from Captain Metropolis, he gets invited to the first meeting of the Crime-busters. The group fell apart when Comedian started being difficult, making Adrian realize he’d have to save the world himself. He begun researching everything science fiction to discover an idea, finally discovering it after a second round of viewings. After genetically engineering Bubastis, Adrian goes to England and is met up by Dr. Manhattan, which he had an enlightening conversation with, which we don’t get details of.

After Adrian acquires his small island, he has work started and also has his personal assistant, Marla make the island disappear from public records. Once Nixon lets Dr. Manhattan loose on Vietnam, Adrian calls a press conference, making a big reveal to the public whilst other masks continue on, maintaining violence for violence. It escalates when the police strike after being denied their raise, giving rise to a riot, which Adrian helps quell. He gets a visit from Dr. Manhattan after, seeming to know what Adrian has in mind and doesn’t care. Adrian undertakes making a science fiction film with the best scientists, writers, artists and filmmaker he can hire and takes them to his island to work on it. Adrian’s plans continue to thicken as he enlists the help of Moloch upon his parole. Comedian discovers Adrian’s island and plans to detect what is actually there, not knowing it isn’t what he thinks. He discovers more than he bargains for and Adrian overhears him go to Moloch to vent, from having Moloch’s apartment bugged. The conclusion to Ozymandias is dramatic and entertaining making me yearn for more, but now I’m on to the Crimson Corsair.

This one also has a good start, giving us where the Crimson Corsair, who first was Gordon, begins his journey and what begins as carefree plans, until witnessing the length the captain of the ship he’s on will go to punish his crew, especially in the way of stealing. Gordon takes it so badly, he threatens the captain to step down from his position, thinking the crew would unite with him; what a terrible miscalculation on his part. He’s been sentenced to a whipping as punishment, even though he was trying to start a mutiny, a crime seemingly worse than stealing. Before having the whipping finished, another ship opens fire on them and, well, it’s quite exciting. Gordon gets dragged underwater, still bound to the cannon for his punishment. He luckily breaks free and swims for an interminable amount of hours, notices a flowing piece of “flotsam” from the ship to rest upon where someone before him didn’t survive, which brings a hungry shark along, scaring him, but switches to survival-mode to keep the creature at bay. He goes into unconsciousness until being found and brought upon another ship, staying asleep until being woken by one calling himself the Crimson Corsair. He soon realizes what ship he’s boarded and the curse he’s acquired for his ignorant mutiny. Gordon tries to come up with a way to be freed and is told of the only way known, which seems impossible. When Gordon wrongly inquires what would happen if he were to leave, the Crimson Corsair takes a valuable bit of Gordon and chucks him overboard, in a way giving him what he wanted.

He floats to a shore, after another unknown amount of time and realizes everything he’s been through thus far was true by the mark left on his chest. Gordon is soon happened upon by slavers after a group of would-be slaves run past him, when he is hit by a stray bullet and supposedly killed by the slavers in pursuit. He is transported back aboard the mythical ship temporarily until being thrust again out into the world, afraid of what he’ll uncover next. He learns he’s on a Spanish slavers ship and is cared for by one of the slaves. In return, Gordon tries to protect her from the Spaniard. He witnesses more cruelty to the slaves after and with the coming birth on-board, he sees the first of the items needed to free his damned soul. Gordon senses his moment to avenge the slaves aboard with the crashing of the ship upon rocks. They slip beneath the water and Gordon is only able to save one. He realizes he’s upon shore and more madness involving the mother of the child ensues. After which Gordon runs away, but towards his captors, from fear. He realizes his mistake and heads deep into the jungle, only to discover it’s inhabited. He is drugged and brought to a place similar to El Dorado or Mayan in nature.

Gordon sees a ritual sacrifice of the people, thinking they’re demons and realizing he’s next in line. The slavers had followed, though, stopping his certain death, for the moment and consigning their own. Then Gordon is again targeted for death until they notice the scar on his chest. They sacrifice another and seem to be putting Gordon through a test, making him drink from the sacrificed man and cast him down among bones. He is spoken to by the witch woman aboard the same slave ship and before having to fight a snake, the witch woman gets Gordon brought back up from the pit of death. he is given the second token for his freedom from the curse and she gives him the second only so he can kill the Crimson Corsair. He’s chained in another room to await sunrise and apparently death. More horror is shown during his wait; this selection is stronger of the four series, thus far. We also discover what the third token is, right near the end, giving a bit of a twist if one isn’t already used to the possible outcome. I can understand how this one could seem a bit confusing by the end, though, leaving one unsure of how Gordon becomes the Crimson Corsair, but one can assume what happened. Still, quite a journey. The last story is about the beginning of Dollar Bill, which I read up to the point of his trying to get into show business, then stopped because I don’t know much about him and didn’t care for the older style of comic illustration. Otherwise a strong collection, which I’ll be moving on to Comedian/Rorschach next.

Before Watchmen – Minutemen/Silk Spectre

Image result for before watchmen minutemen silk spectre book cover

I was convinced into reading this since having read the first and seeing both the extended cut of the movie and the stop-motion comic. We start with Hollis writing an introduction, then getting a call in response to his book, which apparently shows his descent into madness. We then go back to when Nite Owl was starting out and Hooded Justice was after some bank robbers and they go missing. They give the impression Sally Jupiter could have been in on it so they could control the press. So then we learn Hollis incorporated his being on the force to further his practice as a mask. Then we see a moment with a young Edward Blake; the dick. We’re also introduced to Byron Lewis. I’m enjoying the back-story snippets and the pretty pictures; I know, I sound like a simpleton, but they are nice. I like the Silhouette introduction and ends with how the Minutemen idea came about and how it started with posting an ad in the paper. Hollis meets Larry, his agent who is against his tell-all biography to Hollis’ annoyance. He knows it may ruffle some of his cohorts feathers, but he’s standing firm on its release. Then we see the auditioning process for the other “supers”. After Hollis makes it in, Metropolis masterminds the plans and everyone’s position in them. Their first mission takes down a smuggling ring and goes quite wrong, but instead of reporting it, Hollis is too scared and gets out of there with the rest.

Although the Minutemen have the intention of doing good, they are seekers of good press also, so when Silhouette brings up the child porn ring she could use help in crumbling, they decline because of the image it gives to the public. When they finish the meeting, Silhouette goes on her mission as the others intend to hang around and drink. Larry meanwhile is trying to get Sally to agree to pretend-whore herself out so he can make it seem like Hooded Justice and she were together; ah, the world they/we live. When we follow Silhouette with Mothman and Nite Owl looking for a missing boy, they discover blood and rope; these stories definitely don’t disappoint.

Hollis had a different viewpoint before detecting the missing boy, now deciding to leave the people-fixing alone and sticking to cars. He gets a visit from someone calling themselves a friend of Nelson’s regarding Hollis’ book, after. When he refuses to stop the process of publishing, Veldon, leaves with the decree Hollis will be hearing from their lawyers. Hollis feels the need to break the fantasy-image given from the press about the Minutemen and can’t let go of the truth he wants to share. We then go to Sally being attacked by the Comedian and what would be done about it as to whether he would be allowed to stay in the group. When Eddie doesn’t take the verdict seriously, he tries to point fingers at the rest of them, which were valid, but doesn’t change his actions. Also, if we had seen how young he was supposed to be in the movie, it would have given a different feel to how it played out. He was quite young, but it definitely doesn’t change what he did and became. The situation gets more serious before he finally decides to leave, spouting death threats as he goes.

A year after Eddie is being recruited by the FBI. Meanwhile, Hollis and Ursula meet once a week for coffee chats. Hollis breaks their rules of no last names or outside life talk, when he confesses his worries for Ursula’s safety he leaves a number he checks during late and early hours; he truly cared for her, it seems. Ursula is on a mission where she notices a young girl and loses her cool on the businessmen who surround her. Ursula calls Hollis for help and he tries to get to her as quickly as possible. Hollis then makes one realize how much horror one can take when denial is used as a coping mechanism. He goes to visit Byron who was severely changed by his experiences. Which doesn’t stop Hollis from trying to get an opinion about his book out of him, though. Then we go to 1946, when the Minutemen were still doing some good and celebrating, not knowing the consequences of the war which was ahead. Hollis made a promise to Ursula to look into some missing, then murdered children, which he felt obliged to do after she was expelled from the group. When Ursula is permanently expunged, Sally, in remorse, had help avenging Ursula and her partner. Sally finishes her confession and is approached by Eddie, making her apprehensive at first, but ends with them facing each other, he wanting to “talk”. Which they do, revealing to her his war horror story. He then shows some survivalist wisdom after his confession.

Hollis goes to Ursula’s apartment after her unfortunate demise, to clean up anything incriminating, but he wasn’t the first there, seeing other possessions left, which he takes with him, but not much is found. When he gets back to Byron’s hideout they both listen to the recorded tapes he discovered. The first contained Ursula’s experience during Hitler’s reign and her time at a children’s home half experiment house. Hollis goes to meet Sally and Laurie to talk about her opinion of his book. She thinks he’s changed his mind since Eddie has called her in distress and Larry having visited her recently about it as well. Sally gets upset once she realizes he still plans on publishing their dirty secrets and her vain and terrible experiences with Eddie as well as the murder she committed.

We skip back to Hollis and Byron trying to reveal evidence for Ursula’s case; blaming himself. They both continue to listen to the tapes Ursula made, which included them as well and gives us a more rounded view of their personalities from one of their own. Then Byron gets a call from Nelson who Hollis thought exaggerated some danger to get them to meet. They go and some “comic book” heroes await their arrival to inform them of an invasion they slowly start to take seriously. The young “comic” hero dies to save them from the disaster. The government quickly hushes the story to save face, though and makes the Minutemen’s involvement futile. Hollis stays with the boy as much as his job will allow until the radiation does its torturous worst. A couple of years later, they disband, but Hollis soldiers on for a promise he made, then Sally has Laurie not long after. A few years after, they are gathered to sign a loyalty oath and are made to unmask with an obvious two-way mirrored room. Byron loses his senses after signing the oath. We then skip ahead a few more years when Hollis is on duty and a missing boy is brought to his attention by a concerned mother who let her son go to the circus with some friends.

Hollis gets the feeling he’s missed something and investigates the circus, closed for awhile. He sees another masked “hero”, who Ursula mistrusted and follows him to the same place they found the other missing boy and proceeds to get a beating which ripens him like a pumpkin and cracks a couple ribs as well. In the morning Hollis comes to, and he sees the boy, speaking some comforting words before blacking out again. Hollis does eventually help the boy, which the city rewards him for. Hooded Justice disappears after which makes Hollis want to hunt him much more and so goes to Nelson for help, but he was almost too liquor-ed up and feeling sorry for himself to help, until the right question was asked and led to a possible spot Hooded Justice might still be using as a safe house. Hollis and Byron do some damage which Nelson cleans up and leads to Byron retiring as Hollis goes on. Hollis then gets a visit from Eddie about his not publishing his book and what he’d found out about Ursula from her information about Hooded Justice, which leads to a harsh truth Hollis would now have to face about his own actions. He then publishes his book minus the part Eddie threatened him to leave out and he goes on working in his auto shop Byron had made a gift for him before his leaving.

The next section begins with how Sally has raised Laurie and now she’s fed up with not having a social life, meeting a boy who’s been wanting to spend time with her and realizing they have certain parental-strangeness in common. It threatens the other girl in the soda shop and Laurie comes back angered over the words said, ready to leave. She gets stopped outside by the boy she saw and he reveals how he’d found out about her mother, then after professing his love, they hitch a ride with some friendly passersby. Laurie does put her training to good use on her own and writes to Hollis so he and her mother don’t worry as much, whilst explaining her staying away “for now”. One thing is definitely clear to me, Sally is rather close to what Laurie thinks of her. It only makes it more clear how vindictive she is even when she shouldn’t be taking out her own frustrations on her daughter. She’ll use any means necessary to get her selfish needs met. In conclusion,The Minutemen was more interesting story-wise, but Silk Spectre was easier to read and both were generally enjoyable; overall, worth it. The second Before Watchmen I chose to review is, here.