Book Review – Long After Midnight

Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury

If my recent review of another of Bradbury’s collections was a bit less than enthusiastic, I’m thrilled to be able to offer a far more affirmative vote of confidence in this collection.  Published originally in 1976, this collection of Bradbury shorts contains some truly classic and beautiful examples of the man at the top of his writing game.

I’ve begun to think in recent years that Bradbury’s best work – overall – is his corpus of stories situated on Mars.  This collection contains two Martian stories  – “The Blue Bottle” and “The Messiah” that are both quite beautiful in their simplicity as well as their continuity with Bradbury’s basic imaginings of Mars and Martians.  He is as comfortable in this setting, which provides him great freedom in sketching out a complete landscape, history, and culture, and those familiar with his other works such as The Martian Chronicles will feel instantly at home.

There are plenty of strong stories closer to home, touching on themes and ideas that we might remember from our own childhood.  How many of us made bets about what miraculous powers might lurk within us as children?  Enter “Jamie the Messiah”.  Fear of hitchhikers and evil?  “The Burning Man” may strike a chord with you.  Ever passed up an opportunity you thought was too good to be true and agonized about your decision afterwards?  You may wish to “Drink Entire Against the Madness of Crowds”.  A parent dealing with a somewhat unstable partner?  You’ll want to avoid ever playing “The October Game”.  Ever dreamed of getting even with a childhood bully?  “Punishment Without Crime” may give you pause to reconsider.

Bradbury’s mastery is drawing out the human in the midst of unusual or fantastical settings.  While he is thought of as a science fiction writer, he’s far more accurately an observer and reporter of the human condition, while sometimes imagining the human condition in space and on other planets.  His writing style is poetic, to say the least, and while his adjective-laden streams of consciousness are sometimes excessive, more often than not they hit the mark, raising in the reader a remembrance of their own childhood or other points in their life or experience.

A great collection of short stories that can be easily enjoyed in short sittings.  A must if you’re a Bradbury fan, and very worthwhile if you’ve never sampled him.

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