Archive | August, 2009

The Martian Chronicles | Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is lauded as one of the best science fiction writers of the 20th century. I’ve only read a couple of his books now (including the famous Fahrenheit 451), but I would have to agree. Put him and the dearly departed Asimov together in a room, and the very nature of reality might shift!

This collection of short-stories is framed by the meta-narrative of humanity’s first encounter with Mars. The stories are tragic and thoroughly human, laying bare the depravity that lies in the human soul.

Bradbury covers  a gamut of themes: racism (both human-martian, and human-human), government censorship, war, the transitory nature of human existence, and even environmentalism. The stories themselves are incredibly diverse. The only thing that remains constant is the quality and imagination that underpin each tale. Here’s an example: one of the stories features an automated house as the main character—yet he makes it work, evoking pathos in the process!

I found  this book in a box of golden age science fiction reprints at a yard sale. It’s reinforced an old adage: never judge a book by its cover—buy a book on the strength of the name. This won’t be the last Bradbury book in my collection.

God’s Paradoxical Greatness | Helmut Thielicke

Helmut Thielicke preached a series of sermons on the Lord’s Prayer (Our Heavenly Father) during the air raids on Stuttgart. Every page of these messages reveal Thielicke’s pastoral desire to comfort the horrified. Here’s a particularly moving passage:

Of course we praise him who holds the sun and the stars of the firmament in his hands. But for us he was at his greatest when the sun was darkened and as God he stooped so low that he took upon himself our human death in the death of the Crucified.

The Complete Stories | Flannery O’Connor

Brutal.

I was racking my brain to come up with the perfect superlative to describe O’Connor’s short stories and nothing fits better. All of the recurring themes—racism, murder, loss, pain, religious fanaticism—are written with an edge that can make you physically wince while reading.

This collection is no chore to read, though. Once you acclimatize yourself to her slowed down style of plot development, the thoughts and dialogue of the characters command your attention.

Speaking of characters, O’Connor’s are larger-than-life yet completely believable. Read one of these stories on a park bench somewhere and you will see the characters stumble past you.

Flawed humanity has never looked so beautiful.