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“Frost and Fire” by Ray Bradbury

September 4, 2010

The Book: “Frost and Fire” by Ray Bradbury.  Originally published in 1946 in Planet Stories as “The Creatures that Time Forgot.”  The edition read is in R is for Rocket, published by Bantam Books in 1978.

The Setting: A distant planet.

The Story: A spaceship crashed on a distant planet where night and day are harsh enough to kill within minutes, and only the hour at dawn and dusk is habitable.  The survivors of the spaceship live in caves in cliffs.  The extreme radiation has accelerated human life so that a full life cycle is lived in only 8 days.  Sim is born, grows, and decides to reach the crashed spaceship (a little more than an hour’s run away) or die trying.  He doesn’t die.

The Science: The science in this story is so, so bad.  Let’s look at the life cycle issue.  Life is 8 days long, okay?  This is because, according to the story, the heart is beating at about 2000 beats per minute, accelerating everything.  Cognitive ability is not impaired because everyone is born with a racial memory going back to the crash.  It’s just…. impossible.  A heart beating that fast is going to explode.  A body growing that quickly is going to overtax itself, even if the owner of that body is eating constantly.  It just doesn’t work.

The Reaction: As bad as the science is, it’s a great story.  Bradbury is an ideas man – the science part of the fiction is just incidental.  And this idea is really good.  Again, slightly disappointed in the ending, but really enjoyed the ride.

The Cover: Same as last time.

Next Up: “Uncle Einar” by Ray Bradbury.

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4 comments

  1. I read this story when I was thirteen and suspended all disbelief (the science you refer to). It blew me away.

    This week, as temperatures in Kansas soared and indexes routinely topped 110, I went out into our pasture each morning trying to fix my ancient Ford tractor. One morning this story came back to me, with my tractor serving as Sim’s spaceship. Ah, what intricate minds we have. More than 40 years later it all came back except the title of the story. In trolling the net for Bradbury’s title I found your very fair and intelligent post. Bradbury was truly an idea man extrordinaire. Tomorrow as night evolves into day, armed with new distributor parts, Sim and I will try to reach our spaceship and fire it up.


  2. Good Story, believable or not.


  3. I’m not sure it’s impossible. Some animals have very short life cycles and must therefore grow at percentage rates that would be beyond impossible for humans. Insects are probably the best examples. Hummingbirds have heart rates as high as 1,260 beats/minute and their hearts don’t explode; granted, 2K is almost twice as much, but it is not completely impossible. (Unless you’re a biology professor, in which case I’ll feel very stupid.)


  4. Dude, metaphor.



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