The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury is a short book. You could start and finish it today, if you wanted to.
The novel is a collection of loosely-related short stories, all connected through the frame of the Illustrated Man. We’re introduced to a character called ‘The Illustrated Man’ in the prologue, when our narrator comes across a man with intricate tattoos covering his body – masterfully illustrated. These tattoos constantly move, telling stories of the future. The eighteen short stories in the Illustrated Man are the stories from the tattoos.
Each story is memorable, and no story ends without causing the reader to pause and ponder the questions each story presents. The central conflict in each story fundamentally boils down to what happens when scientific advancement and humanity collide. Though I thoroughly enjoyed each story, there are a few I keep thinking about:
The Other Foot
This story is one of the earliest in the collection, and perhaps one that I’ll take the most away from. This story takes place in an alternate timeline where African Americans, fed up with the systemic racism and oppression in the 1960’s, used space travel to settle their own colonies up on another planet. For years, these colonies have lived in harmony, and haven’t been contacted by anybody on Earth – until a ship lands with several white diplomats begging for help. The story begins with the social discontent that occurs from what is called ‘The White Man’s Landing.’
The Long Rain
Simmons and Pickard experience anyone’s worst nightmare in this story. Imagine having no shelter, with little food and supplies, trudging towards your base on Venus for weeks on end. Also imagine that there is always rain, always pouring down on you during those weeks. Will they find their base before they go mad? That’s what us reader’s need to find out.
The Rocket Man
Rocket Man is a charming tale about a young boy, his mom, and his father. It’s sci-fi setting takes a back-seat to the central conflict between Doug, the boy, and his father’s intermittent work schedule. I’d highly recommend this to anyone wanting a more familial story – this and The Veldt.
There’s so many fantastic stories in here that I can’t describe them all – you’ll just have to read it yourself. I’d highly recommend The Illustrated Man to anyone, whether you’re a sci-fi fan or not. Bradbury’s work is open to anyone.