Book Reviews

Book Review: The Illustrated Man


The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury, is a collection of short stories dressed up in a clever and creative delivery vehicle: the book’s namesake. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the book. The stories ran hot and cold with little middle ground. On top of this, all of them were predictable. It certainly isn’t a book I’m going to walk around recommending to people. If you’re a fan of Bradbury’s writing, or science fiction short stories, I wouldn’t let my dislike of the book turn you away. There are some worthwhile things to be found between its covers.

The Good:

  1. I think the most interesting experience this collection of short stories has to offer is the juxtaposition of 1950s science fiction to modern science fiction. The two are incredibly stark in contrast; the 1950s is The Jetsons while modern day science fiction is Star Trek.
  2. Some of the stories are excellent and play off of fun, imaginative ideas.
  3. The vehicle that Bradbury develops in order to deliver his short stories to the reader is a brilliant one, and probably the piece of fiction that I enjoyed most.


The Bad:

  1. I think one of the coolest concepts of this book is the way that Bradbury delivers his short stories:through the illustrated man. However, this is also one of the book’s most neglected elements. I really enjoyed his interactions with the only other “real” person in the book, and it was a huge letdown to me that this incredibly interesting character wasn’t explored or developed more.
  2. This is a collection of short stories, and while I have nothing against them, I feel like Bradbury put these tales together in a collection because he knew that most of them could not stand on their own. There are so many common threads, one dimensional characters, and repeated themes that many of the stories seem to blend together, rather than stand out. Powerline would be displeased.
    Does he look pleased to you?

    Does he look pleased to you?


    3. Bradbury’s story telling was without surprise to me. I’m not sure if it was a fad, if I’ve simply read too many stories, or if that’s just the way Bradbury writes. Whatever the reason was, I can’t recall a single one that truly surprised me.

    4. Bradbury’s vision of science fiction felt incredibly bland and boring to me. Everything was air tubes, silver rockets, and Mars.


The Meh:

  1. Bradbury makes up lots of words, and most of these words have to do with future technologies. I’m sure at the time these words sounded wondrous and futuristic. To me they sound silly and dated.


Unfortunately, this section is a trap. And you’ve fallen right into it.

As I mentioned earlier the book is a collection of short stories, there’s no real way for me to give you a synopsis of the overall story.


4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Illustrated Man

  1. Why exactly is dated technology ever a problem? It’s a different historical context — a different social context. If I were to read about a Victorian or Eduardian Era novel I try not to complain about the jargon of the day… Is not Bradbury’s view of the future from HIS time and HIS place what makes SF so intriguing?

    As for the frame story of the illustrated man, that might be the most inventive element of the work — and, consider SF was obsessed with fix-ups (stitching together short fiction to make a novel) Bradbury’s attempt is one of the more successful ones of the era.

    • “Is not Bradbury’s view of the future from HIS time and HIS place what makes SF so intriguing?”

      Of course it is, I’m fairly certain that I listed that as one of the most interesting experiences I had in regards to the book :).

      As to why the abundance of dated technology bothers me? It simply does. Everyone has little ticks they like to see and don’t like to see when they’re consuming a story, and the inclusion of (what I consider) to be silly techno-babble words, especially ones that seem hokey (the Ornithopters in Dune drove me insane) is one of my such ticks. I know that it’s not going to be a problem for everyone, and that some people even like it. That’s why I included the complaint under the Meh section of my review and your comment illustrate why that section exists, it’s a space for me to list things that I felt were an annoyance to me, but wouldn’t be problems for all.

      Thanks for the comment and sharing your opinion!

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