This is part two of Book Talk: January 2018. For part one, please click here.
As per usual, I’ll be keeping my thoughts on short stories brief in attempt to prevent any spoilers.
The Cricket on the Hearth by Ray Bradbury
In ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ couple suspect that their house has been bugged by their country’s government. From A Pleasure to Burn, I found this story a fascinating peer into the fear of oppressive government and a breach of privacy. Despite being written in the 1940s/1950s, its themes convey effectively in today’s world of Orwellian style surveillance and loss of privacy. If you’re into this sort of sci-fi dystopian ideas, give this story a read.
The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury
A writer likes to go on walks late at night. Sounds harmless, right? Well, in ‘The Pedestrian’, a writer especially walking around in the dark night isn’t normal and very suspicious. Also from A Pleasure to Burn, this story is a fascinating glimpse into a dystopian future where creativity is seen as dangerous. Like ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’, this story too has themes that convey well in the present day, with creativity being suppressed by society. Give this a read if you’re interested in discovering one of the stories that helped inspire Bradbury’s most well-known work: Fahrenheit 451.
The Garbage Collector by Ray Bradbury
A garbage collector goes around on his same old job of collecting people’s garbage. However, one day, he receives some orders which makes him wish to quit his job. Once again from A Pleasure to Burn, ‘The Garbage Collector’ is one story that I found extremely relatable to current world events, especially with North Korea. I found myself frightened on how realistic this story felt, but at the same time fascinated with these being the fears of people at the time of its writing (1940s/1950s). This is certainly a must read in this collection, have a read of it and you’ll see why I see it very much like today’s world events.
The Impossible Planet by Philip K. Dick
In the distant future, an elderly lady wishes to travel to Earth to see it before she dies. To achieve this, she approaches a travel agency, who try to convince her that it’s not real, but later decide to exploit her for money and take her to an Earth-like planet. From Electric Dreams, ‘The Impossible Planet’ I found to be a weirdly fantastical story. The characterisation wasn’t the best, but the theme of nostalgia is strong, which makes the old lady more believable. Also, unlike many of Dick’s other works, I found this to be a very readable story. This enhanced my love for the story and actually allowed me to enjoy reading it. Give this a read if you’re in the mood of an intergalactic travel for nostalgia. There’s also an adaptation for TV of this story in the anthology series Electric Dreams, which you should check out if you’re more visual.
The Hanging Stranger by Philip K. Dick
Ed Loyce discovers a man hanging in the square of his town. From here, he finds himself increasingly becoming isolated from everyone else and as the last rational human alive. Reading ‘The Hanging Stranger’, also from Electric Dreams, I felt a strange sort of déjà vu, mainly with the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Loyce’s journey into believing he’s the last rational human after seeing this sight is very much like the changes in people’s behaviours in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This connection is almost like a fear of the collective mind, very much like the fear of communism in 1950s America. These connections helped me enjoy ‘The Hanging Stranger’ as a plot. I do have one major criticism with it though: it’s a bit hard to read. I found myself getting lost in the bad way in this story and not understanding some parts like I should have. Definitely give this story a read if you’re interested in looking into the fears of the collective mind. Just remember that this is a very complex story that can be a bit hard to read.
A Final Note…
Both old and new readers of Book Talk, you might have taken notice that I no longer have a rating system beneath each story I’ve discussed. This is a new thing I’ve started this year as I’ve found having a rating system to be far too subjective and unfair. I also feel like a rating system diminishes the importance of a story, even if it’s not that great.
So, I’ll no longer carry a rating out of 5 on any of my future discussions. I believe it should be up to you, the reader, to come up with your own conclusions for a story I’ve discussed. By ridding of the rating system, it also allows me to do exactly what I want with this series: discuss stories in the written form and what I thought of them.
Happy reading and I look forward to bringing you another Book Talk soon.