Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Illustrated Man

A man has tattoos covering his entire body. However, nobody wants to see them because they tell realistic three dimensional stories of not-so-flattering events. We get stories of people with too much technology, including a thought-enacting nursery that becomes their downfall.

Another story talks about a colony of southern blacks on Mars. A white man flies up their 20 years later and asks for their health. In that time, nearly the entire world has been destroyed. The few remaining survivors would like to come to Mars and become the servants of the current residents.
The remainder of the stories explore various aspects of human behavior in the context of a technologically advanced near future. By using space and aliens, the stories can explore some extremities in behavior that would not be possible with extreme realism. In one story, a poor family longs to travel to Mars. They have saved enough for only one person. After drawing straws, they realized that there would be downsides to sending only one person. They decide that nobody should go. Later the father is offered a rocket model for junk parts. He puts an "engine" in and fixes it up for a trip to Mars. He takes all the children on a "trip to Mars". They all have a great experience and think they really went to space, even though they never left home. They had a great family experience that was far better than what would have been experienced if just one person had made a real trip to Mars.

Another story talks about a martian invasion of earth. The martians land in southern California to a big celebration. Rather than fighting the invaders, the earthlings shower them with gifts. The Martians end up losing their will to fight in the process.

Bradbury also continues with one of his bet themes of the importance of books and literature. One story has dead authors in a powwow where they "disappear" as soon as the last copy of their banned works are removed. (Fahrenheit 451 later takes this further.)

The framing story of the "Illustrated Man" really only appears at the beginning and end of the collection and serves as a connecting point for these stories that explore the futuristic concerns of a post-World War II world.

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