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The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man (original 1951; edition 1951)

by Ray Bradbury

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6,000101694 (3.99)188
Title:The Illustrated Man
Authors:Ray Bradbury
Info:Doubleday & Company; Inc. (1951), Hardcover
Collections:Read but unowned

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The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (1951)



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Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Where Bradbury's The October Country sometimes felt like a gimmick, containing many high-concept stories that can be summed up in a sentence and which lost something once you realized what the gimmick was but still had to finish reading the story, The Illustrated Man digs deeper and seems to have much more to actually say about life and people and hard truths. I wouldn't say the execution is necessarily any better. I still have problems with the pacing, with ridiculously purple prose, with stilted dialogue. Whether this is a better collection than October Country is hard to say, but it's certainly a more thought-provoking one.

The Veldt (5/5)
Although Bradbury's fear of television was misplaced, The Veldt stands as his cleverest and funniest anti-TV propaganda piece.

Kaleidoscope (4/5)
Kaleidoscope is the first Bradbury story that truly unnerved me. It's about astronauts stranded in space with futuristic suits that will keep them alive at least until they need food and water, but they're all just waiting to die and talking to each other over radio. Some messed up stuff, man.

The Other Foot (2/5)
A science fiction reverse-racism what-if story that was probably revolutionary for the time. After all, this book was published in 1951. Jim Crow would be in effect for another 14 years. However, today, it comes across as a farce. The one black man that has misgivings about blanket forgiveness for white oppression and the welcoming of a white stranger from Earth is portrayed as an angry black man stereotype.

The black people, once stirred up by our angry black stereotype, act like savages, ready to do to any white man what was done to them and then some. They set up sections in movie theaters at the far back for white people before the rocket even arrives. They were just itching to do some oppressing and segregating. That is, until said white guy finally arrives and teaches them humanity and empathy and they realize the error of their ways and all sing kumbaya together. Ridiculous. My modern rewrite would have them politely telling him that, no, all the white people who destroyed Earth and oppressed us cannot come to Mars and fuck Mars up too. We left to get away from y'all. Here's a bunch of supplies to ease your suffering and start rebuilding the planet you ruined. Take them back with you, stay there, make it work, and we'll reconvene in a hundred years if you're still around.

The Highway (2/5)
A dude in Mexico lives by the side of a highway and sells things to white people driving by. One day a lot more people than usual are driving by, and he finds out it's the result of a nuclear war. Living in a rural area, his life goes on, mostly unaffected. Good atmosphere, not much else.

The Man (3/5)
A rocket ship full of people arrive on a planet and discover a primitive civilization that is unimpressed by their arrival, which irks the captain. He finds out it's because Jesus (who is known by many names and is basically the archetype of all religious myths) had just arrived on the planet, preoccupying everyone's attention. The captain doesn't believe it at first, thinking a rival in another rocket beat him there and pretended to be the Jesus figure. Tensions rise, people from the rocket say they're staying on the planet, the captain eventually sees proof that he was really there and chases off into the stars after him, not realizing he was the mayor of the village the entire time and was right in front of him. It's a cool idea, I guess. I'm a fan of comparative mythology, and this spoke to that a bit.

The Long Rain (3/5)
Venus has been colonized by humans, but not without difficulty. It rains 24/7, enough to slake skin from bones and drive men mad. The only way to survive is to seek shelter in "sun domes," enclosures with a small artificial sun and all the comforts one could want. When a rocket from Earth crash lands, finding a sun dome becomes a priority for the survivors, and not all of them make it. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and imagery in this one. Bradbury did a really good job of painting a visceral picture of this strange setting, but the story was pretty pointless and anticlimactic.

The Rocket Man (5/5)
A fourteen year old boy is our viewpoint character, and the focus of the story is his father who is a rocket ship pilot and is gone most of the time for work, only returning every three months for a short visit. As you can imagine, this strains his relationship with his wife and son. This is Bradbury at his best. Using a futuristic scifi setting to tell simple, relatable stories that aren't that different than what people are dealing with today, and doing it in plain, unobtrusive language.

The Fire Balloons (3/5)
Missionary priests travel to Mars to rid the new planet of sin. The head priest is interested in these floating blue orbs filled with fire that seem to be sentient and must surely have sin they need saving from. Much like the earlier story, The Man, this story plays with the idea that Jesus exists on every planet, in the form of the native inhabitants whether they be Chinese or blue orbs of fire, and attempts to tie all religion together into a shared mythology. Again, it's a cool idea, but it's just a little sloppy and lacks subtlety and nuance. Not to mention that this story has the most purple prose in the entire collection so far.

The Last Night of the World (1/5)
The world is ending. Everybody in the world dreamt it, and nobody is afraid, and everybody is going about their lives like normal, which is...unique, I guess. But it doesn't really say anything about human nature or speak to truths, because that's not how it would actually go down. The shared dream is a vague religious/scifi angle that you could say explains or justifies their un-human-like behavior, which I guess it does, but it's not interesting enough in itself to make up for it. Nobody really spends time talking about the dream or where it came from or anything, so it just seemed like an excuse to have people behaving oddly. I found myself wondering what this story was even about, what it was trying to say, because it seems to say nothing beyond the fact that Bradbury had what he thought was a neat idea and probably wrote this incredibly short four-page story in an hour or two and then didn't really spend too much time thinking about it after that.

The Exiles (3/5)
This is a weird one. Basically it's the year 2100 something and science has overtaken human society to the point that all superstition has been stamped out and fantastical fiction has been outlawed and burned (Bradbury really likes his book burning imagery). Poe, Machen, Blackwood, etc. When this happened, the authors came back from the dead as...gods of some kind, I guess, and took up residence on Mars as ethereal exiles unwanted on Earth who will die for good when their last book has been burned. The story starts with men from Earth making the first trip to Mars. I feel like I can see a clear influence on Neil Gaiman's work here. The themes of gods being created and maintained by human thought. Gods facing the problems of immigration and exile and waning influence on human affairs as superstition and religion become obsolete. Gaiman just does it so much better, with more subtlety, and with cleaner and more elegant prose.

No Particular Night or Morning (1/5)
Some dude on a rocket starts to go space crazy, to the annoyance and frustration of his crew mates. Bradbury uses it as a vehicle for some really weird existentialist philosophizing that started to get downright autobiographical. It really seems like he did some morning free writing and his mind wandered to what it feels like to be an author and how much your stories are actually connected to you as a person and then just slapped a scifi frame story on it. The very definition of navel gazing.

The Fox and the Forest (4/5)
In the year 2155 Earth is a horrible place to live. Nuclear and biological warfare run rampant, every citizen must contribute to the war effort, government overlords, etc. When time travel vacations into the past become a thing, a disillusioned couple tries to extend their 1938 vacation in Mexico indefinitely by going off the grid. Unfortunately there's a division of people called "searchers" who are trained to track down runaways and bring them back to the future. Really cool premise. I've seen it before, but it was handled really well here and for all I know Bradbury invented it.

The Visitor (4/5)
This is a great, "people suck," type story. When people on Earth are stricken by a particular disease that kills within a year, they are sent up to Mars like lepers. The newest arrival has psychic powers and can conjure up any image a person could want, like a walking holodeck. The disease-stricken lepers, half-insane, fight over who gets to use him and his powers.

The Concrete Mixer (1/5)
Martians invade Earth and find a planet that welcomes them with open arms and kills them with kindness and with vice. They drink too much liquor, have too much sex, crash too many cars, etc. The story implies that eventually old fashioned Earth capitalism will invade Mars with shoe polish and titty bars and movie theaters. What a weird a fundamentally stupid idea, and I hate how it's written so much.

Marionettes, Inc. (3/5)
This is essentially a horror story, although one with a futuristic bent. Basically a shady, illegal company makes perfect robot duplicates of people. One man decides to make a duplicate of himself to keep his wife busy while he takes a solo vacation to Rio and it doesn't end well for him.

The City (4/5)
Human explorers find an empty, ancient city that turns out to be a complex mechanical trap created by a species that was driven to extinction by humans twenty thousand years before in a war that the modern day human explorers have long forgotten ever happened. But that won't stop the city from carrying out its duty of revenge.

Zero Hour (3/5)
Another alien invasion story. In this one the invaders whisper to the world's children through dimensional rifts and direct them to build fully functional transporters that will let them invade en masse under the guise of a game that's sweeping the nation and that the parents mostly ignore as kids being kids.

The Rocket (5/5)
What a showstopper! Funny how The Rocket Man and The Rocket are by far the two best stories in this collection, and for much the same reasons. This is why I put up with the hackneyed plots, the stilted dialogue, the purple prose, the overwrought metaphors. Because, sometimes, I get a story like this that makes it all worth it. I love it so much I could cry.

In the age of rockets a poor man and his family have little to their names but a struggling junkyard on the edge of financial ruin. He's saved up some money for necessary new equipment but longs to spend it on a rocket trip for himself instead. Knowing this would be selfish, however, he offers the trip to his wife and kids, and they all wind up drawing straws for it since only one can go. But each time one of them wins they see the sad eyes of the rest of the family and decline. Shortly afterwards he's offered a full-scale, non-functional model rocket made out of aluminum by a business connection. His aluminum furnace is broken so he can't melt it down for scrap and sell it, but he buys it anyway, spending as much money as he would on the ticket. He puts old car engines in the rocket and 3D films of space outside the windows and takes his kids on a trip that they'll never forget. ( )
2 vote ForeverMasterless | Apr 23, 2017 |

The mid-point of the century was an extraordinary moment of creativity for Ray Bradbury. One of these stories was published in 1947, another in 1948 and the rest in 1949, 1950 and 1951. You can see his genius in applying the writing style of the mainstream to sf tropes - the end of the world, Mars, alien contact. He was ahead of his time as well: the very first story is about parents worrying that their children are spending too much time in virtual reality (first published in the Saturday Evening Post); the third story is set on a Mars settled by African Americans who are then begged for forgiveness by the white men who have screwed up the Earth (first published here).

The stories don't have the same continuity of theme that The Martian Chronicles do, so it makes sense for them to be linked by a narrative of moving tattoos on the ever-flexing skin of the Illustrated Man. And a lot of them are allegories on mid-century America, dressed up as SF tropes, and perhaps a little odd in the pulps where most of them were first published. I did once meet someone who wondered if Ray Bradbury could really be counted as an sf writer because he is so literary in approach. Bradbury himself, however, had no doubt. ( )
  nwhyte | Feb 4, 2017 |
many of these stories[and several in the Martian Chronicles] were in The Stories of Ray Bradbury. His old familiar themes of hate, despair, revenge and weirdness. I only read this because I'd gotten it out at the same time as Something Wicked... and it seemed a waste to have taken it out and not read it. But no more. ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
It is pretty easy for me to give this collection of stories 3 1/2-4 stars, in comparison to other works of 1950's era science fiction. There's a wraparound story here of the Illustrated Man, but it isn't much of anything as it turned out, despite a promising beginning, and just leaves this reader wishing there was more. It should have been a beter story of the Illustrated man. The treasure here are the 18 stories assembled. This book is older than I am, which says something. I read this as a teenager in High School, and I don't think I read it since, although a number of the stories have appeared elsewhere and a few of those I have read more recently. Despite a few dated characteristics and ideas, the writing here is almost uniformly excellent and I really savored reading these stories one or two at a time. Bradbury slips in social commentary just about everywhere. I'd recommend this one as an introduction to Ray Bradbury.

The leadoff story "The Veldt" appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, which goes to show you how mainstream Ray Bradbury was, and yet so wildly imaginative. The Veldt is perhaps my favorite story in this collection. Another really good one is "The City", a tale about spacemen who find a city that has waited 20,000 years for revenge. Horror science fiction, that one is. Most, maybe all of the stories in the Illustrated Man are really science fiction stories - ot fantasy - outer space exploration is a running theme for example.

The contents are:

• 1 • Prologue: The Illustrated Man • (1951)
• 7 • The Veldt • (1950)
• 19 • Kaleidoscope • (1949)
• 27 • The Other Foot • (1951)
• 39 • The Highway • (1950)
• 42 • The Man • (1949)
• 53 • The Long Rain • (1950)
• 65 • The Rocket Man • (1951)
• 75 • The Fire Balloons • The Martian Chronicles • (1951)
• 90 • The Last Night of the World • (1951)
• 94 • The Exiles • (1949)
• 106 • No Particular Night or Morning • (1951)
• 114 • The Fox and the Forest • (1950)
• 128 • The Visitor • (1948)
• 139 • The Concrete Mixer • (1949)
• 156 • Marionettes, Inc. • (1949)
• 162 • The City • (1950)
• 169 • Zero Hour • (1947)
• 177 • The Rocket • (1950)
• 186 • Epilogue (The Illustrated Man) • (1951) ( )
  RBeffa | Nov 27, 2016 |
A collection of SF short stories that mostly have a setting in the future, Mars, and fantastical elements. Each story is great with its own set of twists. They are all pretty dark that doesn't give much hope for humanity's future. All are incredibly interesting and gripping. A great collection from a great author. ( )
  renbedell | Nov 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
In Something Wicked This Way Comes the Illustrated Man is a villain. This is his past. He got his tattoos from a woman he claims could travel in time. They come alive in the night and one can see the story in each. This is a collection of eighteen stories. The most common themes are fear of atomic war and the alien invasion.

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ray Bradburyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bing, JonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Binger, CharlesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bringsværd, Tor ÅgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Butchkes, SydneyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
豊樹, 小笠原Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goodfellow, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is for Father, Mother, and Skip, with love.
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It was a warm afternoon in early September when I first met the Illustrated Man.
They walked down the hall of their soundproofed, Happylife Home, which had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them. Their approach sensitized a switch somewhere and the nursery light flicked on when they came within ten feet of it. Similarly, behind them, in the halls, lights went on and off as they left them behind, with a soft automaticity.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 055327449X, Mass Market Paperback)

That The Illustrated Man has remained in print since being published in 1951 is fair testimony to the universal appeal of Ray Bradbury's work. Only his second collection (the first was Dark Carnival, later reworked into The October Country), it is a marvelous, if mostly dark, quilt of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. In an ingenious framework to open and close the book, Bradbury presents himself as a nameless narrator who meets the Illustrated Man--a wanderer whose entire body is a living canvas of exotic tattoos. What's even more remarkable, and increasingly disturbing, is that the illustrations are themselves magically alive, and each proceeds to unfold its own story, such as "The Veldt," wherein rowdy children take a game of virtual reality way over the edge. Or "Kaleidoscope," a heartbreaking portrait of stranded astronauts about to reenter our atmosphere--without the benefit of a spaceship. Or "Zero Hour," in which invading aliens have discovered a most logical ally--our own children. Even though most were written in the 1940s and 1950s, these 18 classic stories will be just as chillingly effective 50 years from now. --Stanley Wiater

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:31 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"The Illustrated Man is classic Bradbury--a collection of tales that breathe and move, animated by sharp, intaken breath and flexing muscle. Here are eighteen startling visions of humankind's destiny, unfolding across a canvas of decorated skin--visions as keen as the tattooist's needle and as colorful as the inks that indelibly stain the body. The images, ideas, sounds and scents that abound in this phantasmagoric sideshow are provocative and powerful: the mournful cries of celestial travelers cast out cruelly into a vast, empty space of stars and blackness ... the sight of gray dust settling over a forgotten outpost on a road that leads nowhere ... the pungent odor of Jupiter on a returning father's clothing. Here living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, Martian invasions are foiled by the good life and the glad hand, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets. Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth, widely believed to be one of the Grandmaster's premier accomplishments: as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world."--Publisher's description.… (more)

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