I hadn't read a collection of short stories in a very long time and I was a little sceptical that this wouldn't meet my expectations. I wouldn't say I was an aficionado of science fiction in any big way (other than being completely enamoured with the David Tennant era of Doctor Who) so upon realising Bradbury is a leading light in the science fiction literary realm, my hopes were slightly dashed.
But they needn't have been. Whatsoever. I loved it. I loved the idea of the Illustrated Man; a mysterious being with the most intricate and elaborate tattoos, each a vignette of what could be.
Bradbury's style is stark. There's a great dearth in detail and each story is stripped to the bare minimum - ironically in contrast to how vivid and complex the sight of the Illustrated Man is supposed to be.
This doesn't detract from the reader's enjoyment at all. The greatness lies in Bradbury's ability to haunt you long after the story ends. Some really chilled me, others made me think of the potential inevitability in his words. What happens if technology advances to the point where it can think for itself? What if we become so disconnected as a society that we can't see what it is right in front of us? What if we become so blinded by striving for the greater good, that we fail to realise the greater good is actually something rather sinister?
In particular, I loved "The Veldt" - a sinister tale of a children's playroom or 'nursery' with a mind of its own - and "The Last Night of the World"- a short retelling of a day in the life of a couple who learn that it is their last.
The dystopian, futuristic and outer space themes in the book really reminded me of 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust' and Bowie's excessive glam rock era. The idea of a fallen idol, who lived too fast and came to warn Earth of its impending doom really fit in with Bradbury's work.
As each story is so different and unrelated from one another, wouldn't it be interesting for The Illustrated Man to be re-made, each its own mini-film or short, directed and produced by a different person? Each completely different in terms of interpretation and style. A different cast. Different score.
I'm thinking a lot of the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - I know there's only the one director in that case (I think Terry Gillam would be very apt!), but the idea of changing the actors for a single character is an interesting take; so a series of mini-casts would be endearing. I heard there are plans to re-make The Illustrated Man but this was circa 2007...
One of my next posts will be on a few connections I thought of between the stories in 'The Illustrated Man' to other literary works and film.