Book Review: The October Country by Ray Bradbury

8/10 A few lows hold back this series of otherwise masterful short stories

The October Country collects morbid and dark short stories set around many of life’s mysteries from creepy neighbors to the creeping dead.

Story

The stories in The October Country are mostly horror and fantastical, though a couple of them are a bit lacking in one or both, making the book a little inconsistent. There are ghosts, undead, vampires, a skeleton, death itself, and a mysterious jar. What’s most interesting is how Bradbury explores these various October tropes and puts his own spin on them. The Scythe is probably the most famous story from them and truly illustrates how something familiar can be made strange and new. And I enjoyed how two stories were connected, telling the story of one Uncle Einar and his unusual extended family.

But they’re not all winners. A few of the stories feel undercooked. Bradbury seems to have two minds here. One is to delve deep into an idea, explore it, and squeeze all the creative juice he can from it. On the other hand, some stories feel rushed, offering only a surface-level look at an idea, without the cohesion and depth of the other stories. These few stories ride entirely on Bradbury’s unique prose.

Writing

Speaking of prose, Bradbury is a writer’s writer. If you need a hit of inspiration, a glance at what an artist can do with language, Bradbury is a writer to turn to. His best stories read like poetry, and even the worst still have good work in them. It’s rare for any page to be lacking in a creative splash of words or thoughtful musing. It’s easy to lose yourself in his writing.

Conclusion

While a couple of these stories have aged less than elegantly, and the book finishes in what I feel was the weakest one, the highs of The October Country are very high. It’s an excellent collection of imaginative stories. Great any time of the year.

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