The Machineries of Joy
(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 yes:
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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