on October 23, 2004
This is a collection of nineteen classic stories (1943-1955) all under the very general theme that they take place in autumn. Most have a supernatural element, while some are more psychological, but almost all have a darker edge to them.
A lonely dwarf finds a personal use for the mirrors in a carnival funhouse, until someone makes a cruel practical joke out of it. A man becomes obsessed with the bones beneath his skin. A new mother is convinced that her child is trying to kill her. A poor family inherits a farmland and a terrible duty as well. An obstinate old woman simply refuses to die. A neurotic man fears the wind.
With all the modern horror I read I find it refreshing to pick up Mr. Bradbury's work from time to time and travel back to a quieter, simpler era, and this anthology satisfies. The stories are no less chilling for being over fifty years old. If you like tales in the vein of 'The Twilight Zone' this is just the sort of thing you will like.
This edition contains an introduction by the author in which he talks about the origins of some of the stories, and illustrations by Joe Mugnaini.
on April 27, 2000
Ray Bradbury's name is synonymous with imagination and in this collection of short stories he proves that beyond a reasonable doubt. I know, I used to cringe at his name. That is before I learned that he didn't just write science fiction (a genre of which I am not too fond). These stories range from a bizarre account of one couple's visit to a Mexican town and the mummies that reside there (The Next In Line), a loyal dog that brings its young bed-ridden owner things from out in the world, even things from cemeteries (The Emissary), a baby born with an evil intelligence (The Small Assassin), a man who is the heir to Death's job (The Scythe), and an observant boy who deals with a tenant vampire in a very unique way (The Man Upstairs). The stories I have listed are of particualr impact and my favorites of the collection, but overall word for word, page for page each story is priceless. If you are a fan of horror fiction or just plain old imaginative writing in general invest in the works of Ray Bradbury, you won't regret it.
on July 18, 1999
Every year just before I reread The Homecoming. It was the first Bradbury story I ever read, way back in 5th grade, and I fell in love with it immediately. When Bradbury writes about an apple pie, in a few quick words you smell it. I love this collection, as I love Farenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. The stories in here range from the odd to the silly to the chilling, the kind of stories you want to tell in a tent by a flashlight on a camping trip with your old buddies. They are for the child and the terror in us all. May you all fly with Uncle Einar!
on November 22, 1998
Mr. Bradbury is truly one of the most creative, macabre, intelligent writers of this or any other century. This collection of 19 stories is a fine example of the range of Bradbury's abilities. I must admit, after the first couple stories, I wondered aloud the excellent reviews the book received. After I'd finished, however, I realized how remarkable this book is. I gave it a 9 (out of a possible 10) rating; the above graphic is actually 4.5 stars. Of the 19 stories, only one or two are veritable duds. About half are above average reading, and the remaining seven or eight are simply enchanting. Or harrowing. Or, well, touching. "Uncle Einar" is touching. By the way, here's my top five stories in "October Country," which I'd recommend to any reader wishing to enjoy a Poe-type experience: 1. The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone 2. The Scythe 3. The Wind 4. The Crowd 5. The Small Assassin
"The October Country" is often overlooked when fans and literary critics cite both "The Martian Chronicles" and "The Illustrated Man" as comprising some of Ray Bradbury's best tales of fantasy and science fiction. Without question, "The October Country" also merits ample praise for Bradbury's prodigious gifts as an elegant story teller and prose stylist. These stories were first written and published between 1943 and 1955, comprising his first major body of work devoted to horror and fantasy. It was truly a pleasure reading these tales after a long time; they remain as vivid and fresh as when I had encountered them for the first time years ago in high school. Ray Bradbury offers a fascinating look into how they were written in the Introduction that he has written for this edition.
Bradbury's affection for small-town Midwestern United States - so readily apparent in his "The Martian Chronicles" - is an underlying theme in his book, especially in tales such as "Uncle Einar" and "Homecoming", which are, in part, inspired by his own youth. But yet another underlying theme is Bradbury's penchant for psychological horror, that is as terrifying as some of his best science fiction short stories (e. g. "The Illustrated Man"); three classic examples in this collection include the tales "The Next in Line", "The Small Assassin", and "The Scythe". Overall, Ray Bradbury's prose and storytelling skills certainly place him alongside Edgar Allen Poe as two of the United States' foremost masters of highly literate tales of horror. I certainly regard Bradbury as one of the finest writers of our time.
on May 8, 2008
Adapted from ISawLightningFall.blogspot.com
Autumn is the season that draws me back to my central-Kentucky childhood. Back then, the daytime temperature would hover just above freezing point, the sun a warm disc in the chill blue sky. Leaves would slowly shift to orange and ochre and brown before cascading down in piles that reached your knees. The air smelled of cider, and you could always find pumpkins -- lined for purchase in fields, in stacks at the grocery, by every front door. Nights were different. The cold came down like a hammer. It stiffened the leaves into parchment and brittled the grass with frost. Wind would moan around the eaves like an afflicted spirit. As the season crawled near to winter, I'd wake to find the water in the horses' paddocks frozen like a stone. Autumn was a thing of beauty and eeriness, as is Ray Bradbury's short-story collection The October Country.
Nearly all of the material tilts toward horror, although it's an older kind that's unafraid to commingle sentiment and scares. Many of the stories are one-weird-idea tales, throwing an intentional kink in the order of things. In "The Scythe," a migrant farmer inherits a field of grain from a stranger, along with a sickle on which is engraved "Who Wields Me -- Wields the World!" He discovers too late why the wheat ripens in patches, why there's just enough for him to cut each day, and why it springs up again soon after he slices it down. "Skeleton" features a nervous hypochondriac whose bones might be rebelling against him or who may be in thrall to a sinister physician. Another doctor inadvertently aids "The Small Assassin" -- a newborn with the facilities of an adult and murder on his mind. A youngster dispatches a vampire residing in his grandmother's boarding house ("The Man Upstairs") and a newly married man reconnects with a long-lost love decades after her drowning ("The Lake").
While the collection contains more than a few spooky tropes, many of the shorts avoid the supernatural, focusing instead on the dreams and darknesses within the human heart. There is "The Dwarf" who nightly ventures through a circus hall of mirrors to watch his reflection stretch and elongate. A lonely Louisiana bumpkin becomes the center of small-town life when brings home "The Jar," in which floats a shrunken, pickled thing that might have once been human. Both light-hearted and gruesome, "The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse" finds a boorish fellow becoming the cynosure of an avart-garde movement. When his admirers' interest begins to slacken, he decides to make his body into a work of art. Two retired life-insurance salesmen try to save future murderees from self-destruction ("Touched With Fire").
Not all of the stories work. There are plots that fail to gain traction ("The Next in Line") and characters flatter than the paper they're printed on ("The Cistern"). Interesting conceits get sidelined by swathes of expository dialogue ("The Wind"). The cheery tone and gushing prose of the final story, "The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone," clashes with the others. But these are minor quibbles. Over fifty years after its original publication, The October Country can still chill, whether it's autumn or high summer.
on March 31, 2006
I liked this book. Some of the stories veer a little too far into fantasy for my taste--with vampires, et cetera--but many of them are very original, and very memorable. Ray Bradbury, as anyone who's read "Dandelion Wine" can tell you, is not just a hack writer with good ideas: he's also a terrific writer, period. His prose is lovely; he could write any genre he wanted to. He could write about nothing and it would probably have good enough tone, style, sound, and metaphors to pull it off. But he doesn't. Instead, he crams his stories full of the weird and the unusual: a jar full of something that everyone obsesses over, a baby that kills, a man who finds himself becoming the grim reaper.
He finds the strangest plots, and then wraps them in beautiful words and gentle insights.
Not every story in this book is a classic. Some are trite and kind of dull--the story of the winged man, for one, and the story of his family--but most are well worth reading more than once.
When I finished this book I felt as if I'd just gone on countless journeys--each story made an almost perfect little world, and there was an undeniable feeling of whiplash from going from one world to the next to the next. I felt as if I'd just lived a long time, a long weird series of lives. And it was a good feeling.
on December 23, 2000
When Bradbury speaks you feel like you grandfather is sitting on the porch telling you a ghost story . . . but to the tenth power. When Bradbury wrote this collection (originally under the title of Dark Carnival) he broke away from the influence of Lovecraft's dark gods from beyond. No where in this collection do you find nameless creatures from damned regions of the universe. But you do find homicidal strangers, a boy who lives in a magical palace(or is it?), and a man who undertakes a task which affects us all. You find others as well, not as malevolent as the others, like dear Uncle Einar. Bradbury spins stories that happen right next door, not in some nameless dimension. They happen in the world that we wake up in everyday, and that is what is so scary about them. So pull up a chair and listen to what story grandpa has for you in the October Country.
on August 17, 2012
When Ray Bradbury passed, I felt that a last remnant of my childhood and memories of my father's generation had gone. He and my father were the same age and his stories of childhood in a small Illinois town in the Depression were quite similar to my impressions of my father's childhood in a small Missouri town which I visited every summer for a few years as a child where life at that point had not changed significantly since he was a boy. Bradbury evoked a time and place that I could easily imagine. Of course, these were magical memories infused with the strange and bizarre.
And so it seemed like a good time to revisit him from the beginning. The October Country is the revised, reconstituted and supposedly improved version of his first collection, Dark Carnival. These stories are slightly different from the ones that follow in the 1950's. There is no space travel, no other planets. These stories are definitely Earth-bound, or at least a facsimile on which most of us have resided or visited even briefly through distant memories or dreams.
Most of the stories deal with children and most of them have gothic, autumn-like settings, even if they don't actually occur in October. Bradbury doesn't let implausibility get in his way of making a heartbreaking tale of love lost, where a man finds the body of the little girl he loved at twelve, drowned and now washed upon the shore all these years later. Many of the stories deal with Death personified and grotesque images--the man obsessed with his own skeleton, the infant murderer, the awful creature in the jar, the man compelled to become the Grim Reaper, eternally cutting wheat with a scythe that has become like his third arm. Even "Homecoming," a tale of a family of vampires, psychics and shape-shifters, is told from the point of view of the fourteen-year old boy who doesn't fit in. He is an anomaly in this family, a seemingly normal boy who feels inferior because he possesses none of their hereditary powers.
A habit, trademark, tic or idiosyncrasy of Bradbury's that I've noticed, at least throughout the first few decades of his career, is the practice of naming characters 'Douglas' which is Ray Bradbury's middle name. These `Douglas' characters are almost always surrogates for the author, whether they are children or adults. The most obvious one is the main character of his novel, Dandelion Wine, but I will be looking for others as I reread his other early books.
The October Country is a good first collection from Bradbury. It contains most of the elements that became trademarks of his stories. In most of them, Death is personified in a gruesome, almost Addams Family manner. However, in the nightmarish Mexican story, "The Next in Line," a young woman's fears are delineated in a very human, naturalistic way. Bradbury stated that his visit to Mexico was terrifying and he captured his fears in this very non-comic, non-monster-like story.
All of these stories illustrate Bradbury's love affair with language. He stated many times that most of his stories began as word associations, mixing this image with that idea that one would never think of pairing and seeing where they lead. The impact of a Bradbury story, like many great writers, is conveyed by the power of the language. It is one reason why, despite many attempts to film his stories and novels, most of them have been unsuccessful because the language did not translate to the screen.
I cannot neglect to mention the illustrations in this collection by Joe Mugnaini. They are quite evocative and certainly contribute to the effect of these stories. This feature sets them apart from those in most of Bradbury's other collections. Reading this book would be a completely different experience without them.
on January 30, 2005
THE OCTOBER COUNTRY is a collection of short stories like no other.
It's one of my desert island books and along with such masterpieces of dark/disturbing/supernatural fiction as The Nighmare Factory-Thomas Ligotti; Tales of Mystery and Imagination-Edgar Allan Poe; The Dunwich Horror and Others-H. P. Lovecraft and few others, one of the best dark fiction collections ever to grace print and certainly the most underrated of all Bradbury books.Although collections like The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, The Golden Apples of the Sun, Medicine for Melancholy and I Sing the Body Electric contains very fine material IMHO none of them replicates the dark Bradburyan magic of such tales as The Scythe, The Wind, The Cistern, The Lake and many others.
The Dwarf ============================= *****
The Next in Line ====================== **1/2
The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse = -
Skeleton ============================== *****
The Jar =============================== ***1/2
The Lake ============================== *****
The Emissary ========================== *****
Touched with Fire ===================== ***
The Small Assassin ==================== *****
The Crowd ============================= *****
Jack-in-the-Box ======================= -
The Scythe ============================ ****1/2
Uncle Einar =========================== *****
The Wind ============================== *****
The Man Upstairs======================= **
There Was an Old Woman ================ -
The Cistern =========================== *****
Homecoming ============================ *****
The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone === -