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Shadow Show by Sam Weller

Shadow Show (2012)

by Sam Weller (Editor), Mort Castle (Editor)

Other authors: Margaret Atwood (Contributor), Jay Bonansinga (Contributor), Gary A. Braunbeck (Contributor), Bonnie Jo Campbell (Contributor), Ramsey Campbell (Contributor)20 more, Mort Castle (Contributor), Dan Chaon (Contributor), Dave Eggers (Contributor), Harlan Ellison (Contributor), Neil Gaiman (Contributor), Joe Hill (Contributor), Alice Hoffman (Contributor), Julia Keller (Contributor), Kelly Link (Contributor), John Maclay (Contributor), Lee Martin (Contributor), Robert Mccammon (Contributor), John McNally (Contributor), Joe Meno (Contributor), Jacquelyn Mitchard (Contributor), Thomas F. Monteleone (Contributor), Audrey Niffenegger (Contributor), Bayo Ojikutu (Contributor), Sam Weller (Contributor), Charles Yu (Contributor)

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The minute Ray Bradbury's name is bandied about, expectations run high. To invoke his name in relation to any book – as the author, as the editor, as the inspiration – instantly heaps what can only be considered unwarranted pressure on the contents of that book.

So this collection, sub-titled "All-new stories in celebration of Ray Bradbury", comes with an almost untenable weight of responsibility. Then throw in the storied collection of individuals who have contributed, such as (and I will only point out a few names, because all come with accolades, experience, and talent) Dave Eggers, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Kelly Link, etc.

Just to get a feel for the talents and honors this group brought to the table, I tried to tally up the awards as described in the bios. Here is just a taste – five New York Times bestsellers, two Pushcart Award winners, two Nebula Award winners, five Bram Stoker Award winners, a Newberry Award Medalist, a Carnegie Award, one Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection, one Pulitzer Prize winner, one O. Henry Award winner, an Edgar Award Winner, and even more awards, nominations, and prizes than I have the time to include. By the way, the biographies did not contain all information about prize winning (for example, there is no mention of Kelly Link's Nebula Awards), so this list is incomplete for a number of reasons.

All of that – Bradbury's name, the honors, the lofty goal of celebrating a famous man – makes the success of any such book an almost insurmountable task.

Bad news – even if you lowered your expectations when realizing how high those expectations may have gone, the collection still does not succeed. It is, when the quality and impact of the entire collection is taken together, a book that brings together a relatively mundane group of stories.

I approached this collection recognizing that it would be impossible to live up to that hype. But I still expected to see quality writing, some of which might carry the imprint of Bradbury.

What I got was a mixed bag of stories that tried to evoke the wonder of a Bradbury story but did little more than achieve pale imitation, of stories that were "homages" to the man or his stories without any of the magic, snippets and vignettes that did nothing and went nowhere, and an overriding feeling that the task asked of these authors was beyond what most could achieve – a task that was daunting and intimidating and resulted in work that was far from their best.

It all started out quite badly. A soliloquy of a man who is forgetting what he has read (a nod to Fahrenheit 451), a story with a twist where people we don't care about get their comeuppance, a story of love mistimed (that begins to come close to the Bradbury feel, but doesn't seem to get anywhere), and so on. As I said, vignettes, attempts that do not achieve the magic, and pale imitations.

It is not until Joe Hill's "By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain" (page 114) that there is some satisfaction for the reader. Hill gets it right; there is the "feel" of a Bradbury story and the telling a darn good tale. There is the hint of nostalgia, there is a fantasy element, there is a painful loss, and there is a real good story about children who find a dead dinosaur. (Just that last line shows how Bradburyesque the story is.)

There are other successful stories.

Dan Chaon's "Little America" about a world where most children have turned into something horrible and feral. Some of the children can be saved, and one man is trying to bring one such child to a location where help can be obtained. The horrors from the past are masterfully (and slowly) revealed and character is built for the two primary characters in the story. Robert McCammon's "Children of the Bedtime Machine" is another story that evokes the best of Bradbury. A woman lives alone in a world where barter has become the basis for all trade. She obtains an old machine that she hopes will help her sleep. Through that machine, she begins to make contact with others and with herself. Gary Braunbeck's "Fat man and Little Boy" about the last days of a gentleman who refuses to accept the mandates of regulatory restrictions on his personal freedoms. Kelly Link's "Two Houses" about ghost stories told aboard a spaceship – and the meaning those stories have about actual occurrence. (And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I'd buy any book for the chance to read something new by Ms. Link.)

There are other stories that are perfectly fine – not great, but fine.

But, overall, there is just too much disappointment here – wasted talent and wasted time (for the writers and the readers.)

Ultimately, what I wanted was a visit with the memories of Ray Bradbury. What I expected was a collection that would be fun to read. What I got was a few good stories with a mish-mosh of mediocrity. ( )
  figre | Nov 7, 2013 |
Forget the fact that, like most short story collections these days, it goes on a little long in the end. Disregard the stories that don’t do it for you. The other ones – and I’ll bet the grab bag is different for everybody – are what you’re here for. They’re the stories that you’ll hold in your heart just like you hold “The Sound of Thunder” or “The Homecoming” – the stories you will, maybe, someday read to the “Children of the Bedtime Machine”. Or at least to your children. I know I will.
This is the perfect eulogy for Ray - the sound of his children coming home for one last bow.

More at RB: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2013/10/21/shadow-show/ ( )
  drewsof | Oct 24, 2013 |
This book was a collection of stories written in honor of Ray Bradbury by writers who were affected by him. Many of them did such a good job of echoing his style that it felt like getting to read some good old Bradbury again. My main reccomendation is to read the last three sometime in the middle -and then save "Children of the Bedtime Machine" for last. The order doesn't matter because it's all short stories, and I think this would be a more satisfying way to finish the book. ( )
  JanesList | Oct 3, 2013 |
Favorite stories so far:
"Heavy" by Jay Bonansinga
"Cat on a Bad Couch" by Lee Martin
"Little America" by Dan Chaon
"Earth (A Gift Shop)" by Charles Yu

Favorite of all:
"By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain" by Joe Hill
"Two Houses" by Kelly Link ( )
  Crowinator | Sep 23, 2013 |
Originally reviewed here.

Anthologies are rather tricky things to review. Usually, what I do (in the two I've reviewed) is have a little awards ceremonies for the stories awarding 'Best of' various wacky categories. For this one, I don't feel like that would really get my point across. I'm also not sure what categories I would choose. A couple I do know, so I'll share those for your edification. Funniest story: Charles Yu (his story seems indebted as much to Douglas Adams as to Bradbury); Most forgettable story: Thomas F. Monteleone (I read his story twice, having gone back unable to recall just that one, and I still have no idea what happened); Best Twist: Julia Keller (she got me).

The stories in Shadow Show break down into two basic categories: science fiction stories with twists and stories about the endurance of love, life and language. While I liked all of the latter stories, my favorites were the former, as were my least favorites. The latter are more philosophical than anything else and were, for the most part, not as much fun to read, though I did like the thoughts behind them.

My favorite part of Shadow Show, though, was not the stories. That seems a rather dismissive and insulting thing to say, but I don't intend it to be. Following each story, each author wrote a brief note about their story, about its debt to Bradbury, and about their relationship with Ray (personal or literary). I loved these. Even for my least favorite story (also one of the longest stories unfortunately), I liked reading that bit.

What I found so incredibly moving was the incredibly love for Ray Bradbury and his work that welled out of these pages. The explanations made this so incredibly clear. The stories were on some level so incredibly personal, many based on personal experiences. Many others had been in the author's mind for ages, inspired by Bradbury not out of a duty to write a short story for this collection but because they WERE really inspired by Bradbury. That was so incredibly powerful.

While I'm mostly avoiding specific discussion of particular authors, I do have to speak to the most moving piece of writing (one of my personal favorites). Harlan Ellison nearly made me cry, though his account of his friendship with Ray Bradbury is largely light-hearted. His writing style, his wit and the clear friendship between the two is simply beautiful. What made this so incredibly poignant was Ellison's clear knowledge that this would likely be his last published work and that both he and Bradbury would soon die, and, certainly, he was proved correct about Bradbury who passed away in early June. Before reading this, I didn't have any plans to read Ellison, but now I definitely will be.

Shadow Show bursts with love for both Bradbury and writing. For those who love Bradbury, you definitely need to procure a copy of this to read. For those that don't, you still should consider it. ( )
1 vote A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Weller, SamEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Castle, MortEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Atwood, MargaretContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonansinga, JayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Braunbeck, Gary A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, Bonnie JoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, RamseyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Castle, MortContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chaon, DanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggers, DaveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellison, HarlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hill, JoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoffman, AliceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keller, JuliaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Link, KellyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maclay, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Martin, LeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mccammon, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McNally, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Meno, JoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mitchard, JacquelynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Monteleone, Thomas F.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Niffenegger, AudreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ojikutu, BayoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Weller, SamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yu, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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"Ray Bradbury-peerless storyteller, poet of the impossible, and one of America's most beloved authors-is a literary giant whose remarkable career has spanned seven decades. Now twenty-six of today's most diverse and celebrated authors offer new short works in honor of the master; stories of heart, intelligence, and dark wonder from a remarkable range of creative artists."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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