Book Review – From the Dust Returned

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

William Morrow Publishing, 2000


When you’re as prolific a writer of short fiction as Ray Bradbury, it’s probably inevitable that some of your stories will group into families.  Similar themes, familiar characters, a rivulet  from one story cascading into multiple other story ideas.  And it makes sense, at a certain level, to look back across these shirt-tail relatives and begin to shuffle and organize them into piles of similarity.  Before long, with not too much effort, a book can be reasonably fashioned.

I’ve long argued that Bradbury’s strength is in short fiction, and that even his best novels (Fahrenheit 451 included) were strong on the basis of their individual sections more than their narrative arc as a whole.  As such, the idea of weaving a thin narrative thread to bind together various pieces of patchwork created over decades of creativity is natural.  As such, several of the stories in this book are familiar – existing short stories published and re-published over the years in various of his anthologies, and modified only barely in order to connect them to the larger quilt of the book.

If you like Bradbury, you’ll likely enjoy this book for nostalgic reasons as much as literary preferences.  The threads connecting the patches are at times very thin, but you don’t care because the fabric is familiar as a whole.  That being said, I think Bradbury got even more verbose in his adjectival streams of consciousness than in his earlier works, and sometimes this became overwhelming for me.

As always, I am mesmerized by Bradbury’s unique knack for emphasizing the humanity within even the undead or non-human.  His characters may possess fantastic qualities physically but we recognize them because on the inside we are similar.  That’s a beautiful thing to remember in our current cultural climate of discord, division, and dismissal.

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