By Chet Yarbrough
The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury
Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia (this version not available at Audible)
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012, American Author and screenwriter)
Flights of imagination sparkle and spin in this updated 1950s classic by Ray Bradbury, “The Illustrated Man” and its accompanying short stories.
Bradbury writes stories that remind one of late night re-runs of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone”. (Serling died in 1975.) Every episode sparkles with stars and planets, habitable by man but riddled with fear, death, and destruction.
Bradbury grasps human nature and turns it against itself by writing stories that illustrate man’s selfishness, insecurity, wantonness, and aggression.
Tattoos come alive on rippling skin to act out a series of plays about mankind’s future. Everyone fears the illustrated man because his tattoos expose the worst in man.
Bradbury writes a story showing nuclear cataclysm will end life on earth. Traveling to other planets changes mankind’s environment but man’s nature remains the same.
These are not happy stories but they are great flights of imagination. Bradbury tells a story of human exile and deprivation that heightens human selfishness.
When personal reward is dangled in front of exiled and deprived human beings, the dangled reward is stolen by one to keep it from the many. In the end the reward is destroyed by the selfishness of each against the other.
As the psychologist Erich Fromm notes: Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.
Insecurity is a devouring beast in the story of a planet blessed by an appearance of a Visitor (presumably Jesus) just before a rocket ship lands on the planet that has been visited.
The ship’s captain disbelieves it has happened. The captain who lives here is living in paradise. He is driven to track down this Visitor rather than settle in the secure surroundings of a blessed world. The captain is left to wander the universe, never to arrive in time to actually see the Visitor.
Wantonness is illustrated by the husband that is unhappily married. He duplicates himself. His duplicate takes his place beside his wife so so the real husband can buy a ticket to Rio to exercise his fantasy.
The duplicate is so perfect it becomes as human as the husband. When the wanton husband returns from Rio, the duplicate puts him in a box to die. The duplicate then buys a ticket for the wife to accompany him to Rio.
Human kind is aggressive. Humans conquer and destroy civilizations. Bradbury creates a world of the future invaded by humans. The humans destroy its civilization.
The remnants of the destroyed civilization prepare for a second visit from mankind. The remnants of the city devour the humans of the second visit and assume their bodies. These doppelgangers plan to return to earth to destroy those who had destroyed them.
Bradbury is a master story teller. Paul Michael Garcia’s narration is a tribute to Bradbury’s skill.