The book contains 27 new stories by authors like Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Alice Hoffman, Dave Eggers, Harlan Ellison, Margaret Atwood, Jacquelin Mitchard and many others. After each story there’s a short explanation of how the writers came up with the ideas. Some have met Bradbury, even got writing advice from him, or grew up reading his stories, and those stories had shaped their lives as authors. All the stories in the book are connected in some way to Bradbury’s work – be it characters or themes or just concepts that were inspired from his stories; dystopian worlds, monsters, mysterious strangers, these are just some of the ideas the stories are based on. I did not read anything Bradbury until last year, when Fahrenheit 451 had such an impact on me I don’t think I’ll ever forget that first sentence, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Like with any short story collection, some of the stories were quite enjoyable, others less so. A few words on my favorites:
The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, by Neil Gaiman.
This story has the feeling of a soliloquy on the subject of Ray Bradbury’s work as a writer. It’s also about forgetting things, particularly names and about the stories that stay with you even though you forgot who wrote them or their complete name. From all the stories in the book, this is the one that feels more like a farewell tribute than a story in itself.
Headlife, by Margaret Atwood
A very apt title, meant to be taken ad literam. Everything happens in the future, where technology is so advanced that heads can be severed from the body and still live to talk. Memories and fantasies can be projected on screens for others to watch and buy. A scary look into what happens when you lose the right to your own privacy.
The Girl in the Funeral Parlor, by Sam Weller.
What happens when you meet your soul mate but she’s already dead? This is a twisted tale of a young man who falls in love with a dead girl and tries to find out more about her and how she died. What he finds out only strengthens his conviction that they would have been perfect for each other but the timing was wrong. A beautiful story.
The Companions, by David Morrell
Death comes at the right time. A couple go out to for a night at the opera where they meet two men who later they find out were dead. The mystery gets deeper as they meet them again a year later and then again, a few years after that. The sightings are not random and the last time the couple sees them, the mystery is revealed and everything comes together. Sad and moving.
Children of the Bedtime Machine, by Robert McCammon
This was a story I particularly liked; maybe it was the loneliness of the old woman living in a world on the brink of extinction, or perhaps the sense of joy and fulfillment she found in reading stories to children. It just goes to show that no matter where you live of how your life turns out, there’s always new territory to discover between the pages of a book.
Who Knocks, by Dave Eggers
A girl takes a boat out on a lake in the middle of the night and is never seen again. All that remains is her journal which is found in the boat – and a few lines that provide a glimpse into the mystery of the disappearance. Scary and entertaining.
Because I’ve only read one book by Bradbury, in a way I feel like I missed out on some of the stories in this collection. Some of them were great as standalone stories but with others I felt like maybe I would have liked them better had I read the original first. Most of the stories were good, some were great (like the ones I mentioned above) and some just didn’t do much for me, but in the end it was worth the read.
*Read in August, 2012