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The Machineries of Joy

by Ray Bradbury

(Earthlight, 5.99, 255 pages, paperback; published 4 December 2000.)

Are we guilty of taking some of the good things in this world for granted? I'd say cover scanyes: I'd forgotten just how good Ray Bradbury could be until I read this book. Like many SF and Fantasy fans, I read R is for Rocket and S is for Space when I was younger. "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" and "The Pedestrian" still stand out in my memory, as do many others, and for some reason I had the impression that I'd 'done' Bradbury. Not true. I was surprised to find I hadn't read most of the pieces in this collection. The stories come mainly from the Sixties (quite a few were originally published in Playboy; how times change...) and they cover an impressive range of subjects and emotions, from giant mushrooms plotting to take over the world to the beggars of Dublin.

Some of the stories display a certain dated charm, such as "Almost the End of the World" where humans find time to restore order to their town after sunspots wipe out all television programs, but even so the characters that populate them, such as the Martini sozzled couple in "A Flight of Ravens", walk amongst us still today and will probably continue to do so into the future.

There is a constant pressure to push SF&F forward, to read and write the new stuff, and that's a good thing, in my opinion. But this book is a reminder of the richness of our past. Just like the character in the story "To the Chicago Abyss", who wandered the broken world of the future remembering what we once had. Like: "Coffee. Twist the key! Bright-red, yellow letter can! Compressed air. Hisss! Vacuum Pack, Ssst! Like a snake!"

Unmistakable prose. Stunning stuff.

Review by Tony Ballantyne.

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