“The October Country” by Ray Bradbury (Ballantine Books, 1955)

October Country
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Ray Bradbury is undoubtedly one of our greatest short stories writers of our time, and perhaps of all time.  Whichever collection of his you find yourself picking up, you will instantly be delighted with his magical worlds and lyrical prose.  A lot of his stories go one step further, leaving you with a sense of wonder and contemplation.  Bradbury shouldn’t be simply considered and categorized as a science fiction or fantasy writer; he ultimately writes about people and their interactions with each other and with reality, albeit true or made up.  The October Country is a perfect example of this, with a most unique anthology of stories.

In the opening tale, “The Dwarf,” we get to meet a most unusual character of short stature who spends his days paying what little money he has at the carnival to visit the Hall of Mirrors where he stares at himself, taller than life.  In “Skeleton,” true horrors are revealed in this brilliant story where a man becomes convinced that his bone structure is trying to escape his body, until he meets a doctor who agrees with him and apparently has a penchant for one’s marrow.  In “The Small Assassin,” a child is a precious thing, but this newborn seems to have a vengeful urge to kill the one who gave birth to it.  “The Scythe” is a story about a poor family discovering an abandoned farmstead; they move in and live off the land, enjoying the food and life it provides, but the father knows there is a cost to bear each day he goes out and scythes the field that was clear the day before.  In perhaps the most haunting tale of the collection, “The Wind,” we pay witness to an invisible force that wants to kill.

The October Country is a powerful collection featuring many of Bradbury’s best stories and revealing his excellence as both a storyteller and a skilled writer.  Readers looking to try Bradbury for the first time would do well to start with this collection.

Originally written on May 18, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

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