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My third summer book pick, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, is a bit of a departure from previous selections in this reading challenge. The book is actually a collection of eighteen science fiction tales which were written in the late 1940s/early 1950s. There's certainly a dated feeling in reading the stories as all the excitement and curiosity about space (as well as the mid-century cultural norms) that were prevalent of the time seem to jump off the page. Yet, in the masterfully crafted stories modern readers might also find that there is a timelessness and sense of familiarity to plots that grapple with great unknowns and ask of us, "What if?" I think this is a particular strength of science fiction as a genre which I've gradually come to appreciate as I've gotten older.
The Illustrated Man
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Most of the stories deal with themes of mortality, the individual vs. society, family, cultural norms and historical consequences, human/machine interaction and more. Many of the stories occurred over a short time span (taking place over a few hours or a single day) and often had no explicit resolution. The narrative would end abruptly and sometimes unsatisfactory, leaving the reader to ponder a continuation beyond the page. I think I liked these best stories best because they forced me as a reader to confront difficult topics or question a belief system or cultural norm. What would I do if I knew it was the last night of the world? What would I say or think if my crew of astronauts and I were fated to float into the endless space with no hope of recovery? How long and hard would I push myself to survive on a planet I knew I don't belong, one that was physically and mentally destroying me?

My favorite stories were "The Veldt", "The Other Foot", "The Highway", "Marionette, Inc.", and "Zero Hour", but really there were very few in the entire collection that I did not like. I felt like the stories started to get repetitive near the end and there was one or two that I found boring, which is why I did not give a 5 star rating. Overall, I liked the collection of stories and the book is a quick read so I recommend it. I think that even readers who aren't typical sci-fi fans can enjoy this collection of classic short stories.

#1 - Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
#2 - The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
#3 - The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

NEXT BOOK: #4 - The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz