Driving Blind by Ray Bradbury

Driving Blind.jpgThis is another collection of Ray Bradbury short stories. Bradbury is always readable and interesting but I found that the whole of this collection left something to be desired.

Most of the stories in this book are not in Bradbury’s usual genre of science fiction and fantasy (or horror). They seem to be more in the line of literary fiction. As such I found them less than satisfying. I don’t know if that was because I’d rather be reading science fiction or because the stories themselves were not as good.

Bradbury’s usual style of sparse but meaningful prose is present in every story and many of them end with his signature twist or reveal of things being completely different than originally apparent. The stories are as good as anything that Bradbury ever wrote.

I didn’t find the subject of most of them to be nearly as interesting nor as gripping as most of his other work that I’ve read. I loved his Martian Chronicles and his Illustrated Man. Some of his stories I have read many times because they are beautiful or terrifying or insanely good.

There were no stories from this book that I would like to read again. None that jumped out at me and grabbed my imagination like I know Bradbury is capable of doing.

It was a good book, but it wasn’t great. I expected more from Bradbury.

2014

2014 was a good year for me — as far as books went. I read 57 books — a modest number but pretty good for me.Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve decided to make some changes to the blog. Instead of three posts every week I’m going to cut back to one with the possibility of two on some weeks. I would like to argue that my time is precious and I need to save it but the truth is that I’m just not taking as many pictures as I used to and I find it harder to keep enough to post. This way I will have a review every week. If I get way ahead in reading I can put up two reviews in a week. If I take a picture that I really want to share I can post that as well.

Without further ado here is a list of my favorite books from 2014. These are the ones that left me emotionally drained and starving for me. These are the ones that I will tell my friends about… if they ask, even books can’t make me overcome my taciturn nature. In no particular order:

  • The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold — Bujold won me over with Curse of Chalion and had me firmly entrenched with Paladin of Souls. The Hallowed Hunt sealed me up. I am a fan of Bujold.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien — Does this need an explanation. Tolkien’s books are the best books written in the last century and possibly much longer. This is beautiful and powerful and spawned a genre of imitators that took three decades to break away from.
  • 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup — This is a powerful story made even more so by the fact that it is true. Solomon Northrup shows more forgiveness and reason for his slave owners than I, much removed from his situation, can manage to give them.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett — This is a light-hearted and heart-wrenching look at the lives of three women during the civil rights movement. The story is brilliantly told by three narrators that each have such distinct voices that they become real people almost immediately.
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury — Ray Bradbury is the best writer of short fiction that the United States has ever produced. That is probably debatable to some, and will be scoffed at by others but it’s true.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. TolkienWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson — Sanderson has grown so much as a writer that I am surprised at every turn. Each book I think he has hit his high point he turns around and writes something even better. Words of Radiance is, unbelievably, even better than The Way of the Kings.
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb — Robin Hobb will have to really screw things up to keep from reading everything she has ever written. This book earned her a permanent place on my list of books to read. As long as she keeps writing them I will read them.
  • Star Wars: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn — Timothy Zahn single-handedly made Star Wars cool again. That sounds silly in this day where George Lucas has kept the toys and merchandising at the front of everybody’s consciousness but int he early nineties Star Wars was just a fun show form the previous decade. Timothy Zahn wrote his Thrawn Trilogy and showed the world that not only was Star Wars a lot fun but the characters, in the right hands, were brilliant and wonderful. Sadly, it turned out that Zahn was the only person with the right hands…
  • Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey — Another Expanse novel that is just as powerful as the previous two. These books have big ideas and fascinating world-building but they are about people who live in that solar system and the mess they can make of things and the ingenuity they employ to get themselves out of it.

Last CommandAnd the absolute worst book I read this year:

  • Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright — This was not only a really sappy story that made no sense (despite having a nice idea) but it was also probably the worst writing that I have ever encountered — and I don’t just mean in published woks either.
  • The Twelve by Justin Cronin — Cronin wrote a sappy, derivative, mystical story about vampire-zombies and followed it up with this sequel that is so confused by itself that characters resurrect with no explanation, completely change body type and personality and undergo some of the most bizarre transformations that I have ever seen. It’s also boring and mostly stupid and deals with some really disturbing issues with female characters that made me squirm.
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas — Just go see the Disney movie form the nineties that had Tim Curry as the Cardinal. The book is boring and ridiculous and wanders a lot. The Musketeers are lazy and worthless and amoral.

Here’s looking forward to 2015.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles by Ray BradburyDoes Ray Bradbury need an introduction? The man is shockingly amazing. His stories are told with such powerful command of language and prose that it feels like a piece of art. And it is.

The Martian Chronicles is a loosely related series of short stories that Bradbury wrote over a number of years. They weren’t originally intended to be part of a series. It wasn’t until later that it was pointed out to him that he had a lot of stories about Mars and he put them all together into a book.

These stories run the gamut form creepy to heartbreaking to downright terrifying. There are adventures, horrors, and even a few tragic comedies. Every one of them is told with Bradbury’s grand strength in writing and a seeming prescience about the future of some of our technology (and a blind ignorance for much of it as well).

Bradbury writes with an efficiency of language that is truly astounding to behold. In a single sentence he can give us a character name and show us exactly what that person is like. Descriptions are sparse but powerful enough to evoke a feeling to a setting as much as a place.

Ray Bradbury tells a story of when he was younger and he would spend much of his time at the local library reading books and he decided at an early age that he was going to become a writer. The world can thank libraries for Bradbury, if not for them we may have never had some of the marvelous stories that he gave us.

One of my favorite of his stories appears near the end of The Martian Chronicles. “There Will Come Soft Rains” has no characters in it except a house that is struggling to go on living, preparing breakfasts for it’s absent inhabitants, cleaning the floors, feeding the dog. The tragedy and sadness communicated through this dwelling place are palpable in a way that must be experienced to be believed.

Ray Bradbury is always a good choice for anybody to read. If you haven’t read The Martian Chronicles or it’s been awhile then go find a copy. Bradbury has a skill and a talent that is rare at best, possibly even unique.