Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category

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“The Screaming Woman” by Ray Bradbury.

October 9, 2011

The Book:  The Screaming Woman” by Ray Bradbury.  Originally published in the magazine Today in 1951.  The edition read was published in S is for Space by Bantum in 1970.

The Setting:  Middle America.

The Story:  A girl hears a screaming woman and tries to save her, despite skepticism on all sides.

The Science:  Not really a science based story – more what they might call “a blood chilling tale of crime.”

The Reaction:  It’s a fine story. Not exceptional.

The Cover: Still unremarkable.

Etc: I once saw the Ray Bradbury Theatre version of this story, starring Drew Barrymore. It was also unremarkable.

Next Up: “The Years Draw Nigh” by Lester Del Ray

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“To People a New World” by Nelson Bond

April 10, 2011

The Book: “To People a New World” by Nelson Bond. Originally published in Blue Book Magazine, November 1950. The version read was inBeachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Setting: Earth, the future.

The Story: A family lives an isolated life without any metal.

The Science: Something happens which disrupts the atoms in metal, making them, I presume, highly radioactive and making those who come into contact with them highly sick. This is a nice bit of pseudo-science. It’s hard for me to imagine that any sort of chemical reaction that resulting in unstable and radioactive metals would affect only metals and not other materials. So I think it’s just a convenient plot device, not really science.

The Reaction: I was interested in this story – a family lives in a strange new world with strange new rules – until the end. Then it got biblical. A boy killed his brother. The boy’s name? Cain. Oy. So cliche. Not even a twist. Just something that’s supposed to make you go “oooh… what a clever thing this is.” But it’s not. The ending ruined it for me.

The Cover: Alas, no cover art credit for this book. Because it has got a really awesome spaceship on the cover, and an outpost on a hill, and is very lovely science-fictiony in general. Awesome.

Next Up: The Stars Like Dust by Isaac Asimov.

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The Synthetic Man (The Dreaming Jewels) by Theodore Sturgeon

March 26, 2011

The Book: The Synthetic Man (The Dreaming Jewels) by Theodore Sturgeon. Originally published in 1950, the edition read was published in 1957 by Pyramid Books.

The Setting: The United States, Earth, a mid-century present.

The Story: A young boy runs away from a cruel adoptive family with only the broken remains of his toy jack-in-the-box and ends up joining the circus where he hides from the mean circus-master by disguising himself as a female midget. He reads voraciously and is loved by Zena, a real female midget, for many years. Meanwhile, the circus master is conducting research on sentient crystals which produce life. His aim is to destroy mankind by forcing the crystals to create evil and poisonous things instead of, say, little boys *coughcough*. After a decade or so, the boy (now a young man who, as the product of the crystals is able to control his shape) and the circus master face off in a battle which may determine the future of mankind. Or not.

The Science: The crystals, or dreaming jewels of the original title, represent a truly alien form of life. The crystals can work singly or in pairs, and create life, copies of other life (not always very accurate or pretty). But creating life is merely a by product of whatever sort of thought life they lead. Horty, the boy in the book, is ultimately able to enter into that thought life and force his impressions on the crystals, but they’re not all that interested. Definitely an original life form for a novel, and one which we would not be able to recognize if we were to encounter one.

The Reaction: I liked this story. It’s original and readable. The evil characters are REALLY evil and the good ones are REALLY good, but it’s a sort of fairy tale that centers on the idea of what it really is to be human. And Horty, in the middle, has to decided what that means to him. Not a stellar book, but enjoyable.

The Cover: Cover art by Art Sussman. Crazy looking broken face, guy holding up red hand missing three fingers. Important plot elements and a cover that makes you go WTF? Seems to be out of the mystery novel school of covers. I’m not in love, but I’m not complaining.

Next Up: “Silence Please” by Arthur C. Clarke

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Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke

October 31, 2010

The Book: Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke.  Originally published in the magazine Startling Stories in 1948, the edition read was published in 1954 by Perma Star, a division of Doubleday.

The Setting: Earth, in a distant future.

The Story: A boy defies his unquestioning, immortal society by traveling outside the bounds of the last city on earth, discovering another city with living people in it, making a friend, and traveling across the stars where he finds the key to rediscover history.

The Science: The book is set at least a billion years in the future. It’s a time so distant that making any assumptions about it are wholly useless because the variables are so many.  But humans remain humans. Clarke makes the beautiful gesture of referencing intervening stages of evolutionary change, which I appreciated immensely. One group of humans is mostly normal, but pretty much immortal – lifespans of at least a million years. The other group of humans is also mostly normal – a more standard lifespan, but they have telepathy. The story reveals, near its end, that it was scientific manipulation of the genome which led to these developments in the first place, but long periods of evolutionary divergence which led to the disparate groups. Not quite species, because interbreeding seems possible, but very disparate.

It’s all the more striking when you compare the timeline of the book, a billion years in the future, with how long it took to go from anatomically modern humans to Homo sapiens. 200,000 years. That’s a blink of the eye to distant future of this story.

The Reaction: This is a story, first and foremost, about what makes us human. There are many parallels with Destination Infinity – a distant future, an isolated and waning civilization, individuals with something so close to immortality it hardly matters whether it is or not, and a character which defies the status quo. But this story has a very likable protagonist – he’s a kid. In fact, I bet this is shelved under Young Adult in many libraries because of that very fact.

I liked this book a great deal. There are a lot of little bits of plot which seem kind of pointless or are unexplored, but this is a good story, and worth reading.

The Cover: Young man running from a desert toward a rocket and stars? Yep, that’s the story right there, with great art and some really excellent 1950s hair.

Next Up: “Fever Dream” by Ray Bradbury

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NSF: “El Dia de Muerte” by Ray Bradbury

October 11, 2010

The Book: “El Dia de Muerte” by Ray Bradbury.  I can’t find any publishing data, but several sources indicate the story is from 1947.  Story was read in The Machineries of Joy, published by Bantum Books in 1965.

The Setting: Mexico City. Earth.

The Story: A child is killed and other things happen on the Day of the Dead in Mexico City.

The Science: N/A

The Reaction: I think it’s supposed to play as a snapshot of the day – many things happen, centered around a child, but I was mostly annoyed with it. I didn’t care.

The Cover: Awesome. A rocket, a psychedelic dinosaur/skull/cobweb mushroom, and a dimetron. Doesn’t make sense, but I’m loving it.

Next Up: NSF “I See You Never” by Ray Bradbury

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NSF Double Header.2 “The Miracles of Jamie” and “One Timeless Spring” by Ray Bradbury

September 3, 2010

The Book: “The Miracles of Jamie” and “One Timeless Spring” by Ray Bradbury.  Both originally published in magazines in 1946, they were read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.

The Setting: Earth, middle America

The Story: “Jamie” is about a boy who thinks he can do miracles, but he can’t.  “Spring” is about a boy who thinks he is being poisoned out of childhood.

The Science: Not Applicable.  Well, maybe child psychology stuff, but, meh.

The Reaction: Both stories start with the thought that there could be sci-fi or fantasy in the stories, but bring you to the eventual conclusion that these are just kids who don’t understand the world yet.  Or who refuse to see it with adult eyes. Which is fine.  But not what this project is about.

The Cover: The subtitle of the book reads “22 Hauntings and Celebrations.”  The cover art has clearly decided to focus on the hauntings side.  Not one of those creepy faces is wearing a party hat.

Next Up: “Frost and Fire” by Ray Bradbury.

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NSF Double Header: “The Invisible Boy” and “The Big Black and White Game” by Ray Bradbury

August 1, 2010

The Book: “The Invisible Boy” and “The Big Black and White Game” by Ray Bradbury.  Both stories originally published in 1945.  Read in the anthology Golden Apples of the Sun, edition read was published by Bantum Books in 1961.

The Setting: Earth, the Ozarks and Wisconsin, respectively.

The Story: WARNING!  These stories are Not Science Fiction.  “The Invisible Boy” tells the story of a lonely and creepy old lady in the Ozarks, not a boy who is invisible.  “The Big Black and White Game” is about baseball and racial tension.

The Science: Not applicable.

The Reaction:A couple of very nice little stories, but…  not project appropriate.  I fear there’s going to be a fair amount of this with Bradbury.

The Cover: It’s a confusing cover – whirls and swirls of old timey pasted together graphics.  Supposed to confer a sense of wonder and mysticism, I suppose.  But I don’t even want to think about what’s going on with some of those graphics.

Next Up: That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis.