Synopsis: Haunting, harrowing, and downright horrifying, this classic collection from the modern master of the fantastic features:
THE SMALL ASSASSIN: a fine, healthy baby boy was the new mother’s dream come true — or her nightmare . . .
THE EMISSARY: the faithful dog was the sick boy’s only connectioin with the world outside — and beyond . . .
THE WONDERFUL DEATH OF DUDLEY STONE: a most remarkable case of murder — the deceased was delighted!
I received this book as a Christmas gift from my sister, and I’ve finally read it! Before now the only Ray Bradbury works I’d read were Fahrenheit 451 (read it in high school — it was assigned reading, and I felt pretty MEH about Bradbury’s futuristic tale of censorship and loss of identity) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (another MEH one for me). I’d heard Bradbury’s short stories were ace, so I decided to go for the collection that seemed to have the best reviews on Amazon — that collection being, of course, The October Country.
I know many of my book-loving friends don’t like short fiction — instead, they enjoy immersing themselves in worlds created and developed over the course of 350+ pages. I’ve heard some say short stories aren’t ‘fun’ to read because you’re planted into a world only to be ripped away twenty pages in. That’s a valid opinion, I suppose, though I must disagree. I love short stories (if done well), and this book is one of the finest story collections I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Each story manages to pack a punch in short amounts of time (the longest tale here, “Next In Line,” is only 31 pages long). Bradbury’s prose has a certain style — a certain swagger — that seems to be lacking in contemporary writers of short fiction. These stories are graceful, the prose absolutely astounding. Stories such as “Jack-In-The-Box,” (my gosh, I could write an entire blog entry on that story alone!), “Skeleton,” “The Small Assassin,” and “The Scythe” I now number among my very favorites of all-time. Equally sublime and terrifying, almost all of the stories found here are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on the reader.
If you can’t tell, I sort of really really really loved this book. I have two more Bradbury collections now coming in the mail, and I eagerly await their arrival. I’ll probably pull this book out again come October — it’s only fitting. I would recommend this one to fans of The Twilight Zone, Stephen King, and Richard Matheson.