The Illustrated Man is an interesting "novel" to read as it is actually a short story collection framed within the concept of a tattooed man whose images come to life to tell true stories and have a prophetic aspect that effects anyone who watches them long enough.
The book consists of 18 different stories ranging from the ultra "sci-fi" to the less "sci-fi" tales of wonder. Think of it like an eclectic collection of 'Twilight Zone' episodes done with expert mastery. Even though these stories were written individually over a number of years, the framing together with the larger narrative made me look at these stories a little differently...not as a single cohesive story by any means, but I did notice ways in which some of them related to one another or "spoke to" themes and elements of others. Part of me wanted a little more "wrapping" to learn the story of the Illustrated Man and how he interacted with the characters in these various stories (granted, we get some of that in 'Something Wicket This Way Comes' but I was left wanting more here).
As with many (most? all?) of Bradbury's stories, there are certain twists and reveals that I don't want to spoil with a plot synopsis but I will comment that I absolutely enjoyed all of the stories in this book. Admittedly, some were better than others but I wouldn't say any are specifically "bad" stories...I'm certain some will be less liked than others but that will largely be an issue of preference as well as an early writer finding his voice.
As a parent, I felt a certain unease with the opening story ("The Veldt") which was then set back in balance by the closing story ("The Rocket"). I didn't do a full compare/contrast of the stories but I felt like this sort of balance was present in the book. I don't see any heavy handed balancing act in place but I was truly impressed with the selection and order of the stories in the book. I felt like everything flowed together in a way that felt natural and helped keep the reader engaged and with a good emotional ride.
There is definitely a fantastical element to all of the tales but whether you're a die hard fan of Bradbury and/or sci-fi or if you're just a lover of a well written story, The Illustrated Man will surely have something you will enjoy. I'm thinking about re-initiating our "bedtime story time" routine and reading these stories to my kids. This is a collection that is definitely recommended. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
4.5 out of 5 stars
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