A collection of short pop sci-fi stories suited for a broad audience. Although they do have a peculiar 1940s old school feel to them, they can still be enjoyed today. However, the wide appeal counters any cult, deep or cerebral elements I enjoy.
- wide audience target / universal themes: feels too generic
. twilight zone feel
. hysteric / over the top characters
. 1950s typical men/women relationships
+ easy to read
(this is my attempt for personal purposes, for a better summary, see here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Illustrated_Man)
The Veldt: a couple decides to buy a fully automated house, eliminating the need to prepare food, clean up dishes, tie up your shoes, and even parenting. The wife begins to feel restless with all the extra free time she have, and notes the bad influence the house have on the children. They have a virtual reality room that can make any wish come true, but things get out of hand when the virtual begins to supersede reality. A cautionary tale on spoiling your kids, over relying on technology, letting the TV do your job.
Kaleidoscope: a spaceship blows up and they're occupants are left drifting away in empty space. They will soon be dead and while inertia sends them away from each other, they are still able to communicate via radio until their demise. In the face of death, people begin to tell what they REALLY think of each other, and begins to contemplate if they had a meaningful existence.
The Other Foot: Mars have been colonized by a group of black people. When news arrives of a rocket with white people coming from Earth, the memories of years of abuse and oppression are brought up, and they decide to show the white man what does it feel to be the oppressed minority.
The Highway: a family of Mexican farmers notes unusual traffic on the highway, and father decides to investigate. They learn that the world is ending, the atomic war is night. The story makes you consider what does that mean to be a part of this “ending world”. What does that change for the farmer and his family, who are not aware of the rest of the world?
The Man: the Messiah comes to Mars. A rocket from Earth arrives just moments after his departure, and the crew is first skeptic about it and then becomes obsessed to find him. What lengths would you go to meet your god? The story contrasts two characters, one a true believer and the other a typical cynical man that only cares about money and himself.
The Long Rain: a rocket crashes on Venus, a planet where rain never stops. After many days trying to find one of the many Sun Domes built by man, they begin to go loose their mind as they have no way to prevent rain from hitting in they're faces. The captain struggles to keep hope alive in his men after a destroyed Sun Dome is found. Tales of the native Venus creatures dragging people into the sea for torture does dot help.
The Rocket Man: a man that when in space longs to be with his family, and when with his family longs to be in space. A tale to reflect when you want two things you cannot have. Also on the nature of people, that cannot bear to live without their loved ones for more then a few months.
The Fire Baloons: not on the version I read
The Last Night of the World: a man have a dream of the world ending, and he finds out the same dream is shared by his coworkers. He is talking to his wife about it. Don't remember much, this tale did not impress me too much. But it is about what would you do in that scenario? The couple just continues with their routine, because they are living how the wanted to live, happy with each other.
No Particular Night or Morning: two friends in a spaceship for way too long. One of them starts to doubt reality. Something like “since its been so long he last saw his family, how can he be sure they are real? Maybe he just dreamed of them”. Increasingly, the amount of time it takes for he to doubt the existence of people and objects gets shorter, until he doubts himself to exist. This is a classic case of “solipsism” :-)
The Fox and the Forest: in a future where time travel is a touristic commodity, a couple decides to go back to a peaceful time to escape their war-ravaged present world. They plan on staying there however, and that's a big “no-no” for the time police. The story is a cautionary tale of the dangers of the atomic wars that were threatening the word in the 40s and encourages people to see how beautiful life is now.
The Visitor: mars is used as something of a leprosy colony, and the dying gets pretty bored up there. They miss Earth, and that longing makes them a little bit mad. When a new man comes from Earth, one of the “lepers” hogs him for attention. When he finds out the newcomer have telepathic powers, capable of making others believe anything they want (like we are actually on Earth), a dispute ensues for who will get to spend more time with him. A story about the importance of sharing.
The Concrete Mixer:
Short stories are much different from a full novel. They are easier to read when you have little time available, and there is not a great let down if you didn't like them. There is no great emotional attachment to the characters either, it is a very casual experience.
There is no question on the quality of the writing. This book contains certain passages that are best savored in a slow pace in order to admire the beautiful prose. But like many other popular authors, his stories are just not for me.
The stories talk about universal themes, like good parenting, fear of death, racism, etc. They have a “twilight zone” feel to them, because exaggeration of the problem at hand and hysterical, over the top characters. Some typical stereotypes that are present:
The “arrogant cowboy”: the american capitalist, cynical, and with the “guns solve everything” and “the world is mine for the taking” attitudes.
The “afraid housewife”: the stay at home mom that is always nagging at her husband for him to “do something!”