Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth, widely believed to be one of the grand master’s premier accomplishments. Collected here are eighteen tales, 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 Illustrated Man is a collection of short stories surrounding the future of humanity. With each chapter Bradbury delves into our civilization centuries in the future, and how we’ll deal with space exploration, war, making other planets our home, and the role of technology. Bradbury presents these stories as intricate tattoos on a man he encounters in his narration – the “Illustrated Man”.
The Illustrated Man is the first collection of short stories I have ever read, and I have mixed feelings about the setup. On the one hand, it allows the author to explore different topics without the pressure to directly connect them, and still express a common theme. However, I found it hard to switch to a whole new plot with each chapter – it was a bit disorienting and took me time to really understand what was going on and what the author was trying to express.
As for the stories themselves, I generally enjoyed them, although had to face some flaws, which I’ll discuss in a bit. I really enjoy sci-fi and especially dystopias, so some of the chapters had really interesting predictions and plots. I especially liked one about time travel as a method of vacation from the present, and another about technology-infused homes that almost became parent figures in families.
Mother wasn’t afraid of the sky in the day so much, but it was the night stars that she wanted to turn off, and sometimes I could almost see her reaching for a switch in her mind, but never finding it.
I did find some of the stories to be a outlandish, which I know is to be expected in the sci-fi genre, and I generally didn’t have a problem with the abstract plots. However, some did become complicated and so otherworldly that they were hard for me to follow.
I will say that what I took away from this book was how beautifully Bradbury is able to write and tell stories. He truly has a way of explaining things that seem to only exist in the imagination, however dark and complex. I know he’s famous for his novel Fahrenheit 451, and if The Illustrated Man is any indication of how he writes there, I know I’ll enjoy it.
3/5 stars for a different yet interesting read. I really enjoyed some aspects of the story collection but had problems with others. The general plot and futuristic themes, though, I enjoyed.