Review of The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

SFFaudio Review

Here’s a review of The Veldt, story #20 in our 7th Anniversary Review Spree!

The Illustrated Man by Ray BradburyThe Veldt
Contained in The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Michael Garcia
8 CDs – 9 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433297199
Themes: / Science Fiction / Automated House / Computers / Children / Simulation /

In a house that cost them “thirty thousand dollars installed”, George and Lydia Hadley and their two children lived happily. Their shoes were tied with automatic shoe-tyers, their bacon was automatically fried, and, most importantly, their children were kept entertained. Life was good in their soundproof Happylife(tm) Home. Of course, things go terribly wrong. In the nursery, the kids seem to be spending a lot of time in Africa. With the lions.

The story was published in 1950, and though nobody’s tying my shoes, here in 2010 I can identify strongly with some of what Bradbury says here. At one point, George gets so upset that he decides to shut the house down:

“Lydia, it’s off, and it stays off. And the whole damn house dies as of here and now. The more I see of the mess we’ve put ourselves in, the more it sickens me. We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!”

And he marched about the house turning off the voice clocks, the stoves, the heaters, the shoe shiners, the shoe lacers, the body scrubbers and swabbers and massagers, and every other machine he could put his hand to.

The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical cemetery. So silent. None of the humming hidden energy of machines waiting to function at the tap of a button.

Every so often I experience the same kind of angst and run around shutting things down. Things don’t end up so well for George, though. Maybe I better just leave it all on… and let the kids play with the lions. moohoowahahaha!

I’ve heard this story many many times, but I don’t know that I’ve actually heard an audiobook version before now. They’ve always been radio dramas, and this story has appeared several times: It was a Dimension X episode (1951), an X Minus One episode (1955), and Episode 11 of Bradbury 13. It was also televised as an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater in the 1980’s.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

SFFaudio Review

Hyperion by Dan SimmonsSFFaudio EssentialHyperion
By Dan Simmons; Read by Various
19 CDs – 21 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781423381402
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artificial Intelligence / Aliens / Religion / Starships / Simulations / Transportation /

Seven people, all headed to the planet Hyperion to visit the Shrike, find themselves on the same ship. Regular pilgrimages are made to the Shrike, but these seven have been granted a visit to the Shrike together. To find out why this is, they all agree to tell each other their personal stories of what brought them. The result is a Canterbury Tales in space. A priest, a soldier, a poet, a scholar, a detective, and a consul each tell their story; all separate, all intensely personal, all very different, yet all involving the Shrike in some way.

The book is set in the distant future, and the ideas are plenty. There’s farcasting, where doorways are created to other worlds. One character has a house where every room is on a different world. Costs a fortune, but it can be done. There are artificial intelligences, starships, and sims. Against this backdrop is the Shrike, an alien creature that lives in the Time Tombs, and the seven on a pilgrimage who land in a city on the planet Hyperion, then make their way to see the Shrike over land. “Pilgrimage” is definitely the right word here, because the whole book has a mythic-religious quality. Each person is dealing with very difficult stuff, and what each person hopes to gain from the Shrike when they finally get to see it is nothing short of intervention of a higher power.

Audible Frontiers did a wonderful job with this audiobook. It used to be available only through Audible, but now Brilliance Audio is offering a hardcopy version on CD, which is how I listened. Each story is told by a different character, and each one uses a different narrator. The narrators were all excellent, so this is a perfect presentation of this book.

All seven of the stories are fascinating, well-written stories. There isn’t a weak one on the bunch. This is a top-shelf science fiction novel, up there with the greatest books of the genre.

Highly recommended, without question an SFFaudio Essential! The single caveat is that you must plan to read the next book in the Hyperion Cantos, (called The Fall of Hyperion), because the story doesn’t end with the end of this book. The Fall of Hyperion is also available from Audible (digital) and Brilliance Audio (CD), as are the two books that complete the series, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. This is the only one I’ve read, but I expect I’ll be reading them all.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson