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R is for Rocket

by Ray Bradbury

Foreword by Ray Harryhausen
Introduction by Michael Marshall Smith

(PS Publishing, £25, 227 pages, illustrated, numbered, limited edition, hardback; also available as signed limited edition hardback at £75 and signed, numbered, limited edition special two-book set at £295; first published 1962, this edition published September 2005.)

S Is For Space

by Ray Bradbury

Foreword by Sir Arthur C Clarke
Introduction by Tim Powers

(PS Publishing, £25, 215 pages, illustrated, numbered, limited edition hardback; also available as signed limited edition hardback at £75 and signed, numbered, limited edition, special two book set at £295; first published 1966, this edition published September 2005.)

 

Review by Keith Brooke

There's not really much to say about these two books.

This is Ray Bradbury. You know: Ray Bradbury. Thirty-nine of his short stories collected into two volumes. And they're published by PS Publishing (shorthand for beautiful production, careful and articulate introductions, signed copies -- although in this case, only the more deluxe editions are signed -- blah de blah).

That should be all you really need to know, shouldn't it?

R is for RocketR is for Rocket

Okay: here's some more.

PS Publishing. PS books are nice, but these two are special: beautifully produced and typeset, with the original pulp illustrations and great covers. And that's just the bog-standard trade hardback editions. They're also available as signed, slipcased hardcovers. And if you're both wealthy and quick off the mark PS produced 100 deluxe slipcased sets signed by Bradbury, Clarke, Harryhausen, Powers and Smith, comprising both of these collections plus a third book, Forever and the Earth, featuring the eleven additional stories Bradbury had intended for Space, plus correspondence from that time and an extract from his biography. "Quick off the mark" because last I heard there were only 11 copies of the deluxe set left...

Bradbury. As Michael Marshall Smith very perceptively says in his Introduction to R is for Rocket:

You don't just mutter "Yeah, I read Bradbury as a kid" in the same offhand way you say "I played football on most Wednesday afternoons". Bradbury is a formative experience. Bradbury was news. He isn't a writer to be referenced with cool appraisal and judicious appreciation, but someone you absorbed, a teller of stories which seeped into your pores until they coated the inside of your bones. Bradbury is the first time you see a tiger, or first sense that girls are some day going to become extremely interesting. Bradbury is ice cream.

Some of the things Ray Bradbury does...

...He takes you right back. "A Sound of Thunder", the classic time-travel anomaly story -- you know, the one with the butterfly -- took me right back to reading it as a kid. Others I never read as a kid, took me right back to a childhood I never had, a gentle American childhood, rooted in a future that is really the past, the past's future.

...He undermines you relentlessly. The gentle, idyllic mood cast by his prose, by his scenes of domestic harmony, is a screen, waiting for the true horror to reveal itself: family picnics on Mars while Earth destroys itself in nuclear war, children's games that hide something sinister, the boy whose role it is to make childless families complete.

...He lays the groundwork for Chaos theory. (That butterfly again: the butterfly effect rippling through time rather than weather systems, but the principle's the same.)

...He extrapolates along with the best: a future where to stand out from the zombie-like masses is a warning sign; an extraordinary alien world of extreme hot and cold where everything is accelerated, compressed, intensified.

...He constructs sentences, paragraphs, scenes, entire stories, where not a word is out of place, where the gentle poetry of the language is a potent weapon. In an odd kind of way, these stories put me in mind of Philip K Dick: don't let the graceful charm of his words fool you -- this man is out to unsettle you, to disturb you, to undermine you.

This is Ray Bradbury. You shouldn't need to know anything more than that.

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