Editors: Sam Weller & Mort Castle
Contributors (listed in order): Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Jay Bonansinga, Sam Weller, David Morrell, Thomas F. Monteleone, Lee Martin, Joe Hill, Dan Chaon, John McNally, Joe Meno, Robert McCammon, Ramsey Campbell, Mort Castle, Alice Hoffman, John Maclay, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Gary A. Braunbeck, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger, Charles Yu, Julia Keller, Dave Eggers, Bayo Ojikutu, Kelly Link, Harlan Ellison
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: TLC Book Tours
Description from Goodreads:
"What do you imagine when you hear the name" . . . Bradbury?
You might see rockets to Mars. Or bizarre circuses where otherworldly acts whirl in the center ring. Perhaps you travel to a dystopian future, where books are set ablaze . . . or to an out-of-the-way sideshow, where animated illustrations crawl across human skin. Or maybe, suddenly, you're returned to a simpler time in small-town America, where summer perfumes the air and life is almost perfect . . . "almost."
Ray Bradbury--peerless storyteller, poet of the impossible, and one of America's most beloved authors--is a literary giant whose remarkable career has spanned seven decades. Now twenty-six of today's most diverse and celebrated authors offer new short works in honor of the master; stories of heart, intelligence, and dark wonder from a remarkable range of creative artists.
First Sentence: "He published in Weird Tales and The New Yorker."
I must begin this review with a confession: I am actually not a fan of Ray Bradbury. Why accept for review an anthology all about him? Fair question. Easily answered: they had me at Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood.
As a child, my parents recommended Ray Bradbury to me as something they thought I would like, hoping to train me up to be as big of a sci fi fan as they are, and bought me a copy of The Martian Chronicles. This and The Hobbit haunted my childhood, as I struggled between my desire to love the books and my inability to slog through the author's prose. Throughout my childhood, I tried repeatedly to read both of these books and never made it far. In school, I was forced to read Fahrenheit-451 and loathed it.
However, opinions do change as you grow older. I fell in love with Tolkien in undergrad. In graduate school, I revisited The Hobbit and found my opinion quite change. This time it was not so much of a struggle. Of course, I also revisited Fahrenheit 451...and still really didn't like it. Oh well. Maybe I just haven't grown into Bradbury yet. Or, maybe, I need to try one of his other works. If you have any suggestions, do share them. I say this just to explain that my rating might have been higher were I Bradbury fan. Much as I enjoyed it, I can only imagine it's better with knowledge of Bradbury.
Anthologies are rather tricky things to review. Usually, what I do (in the two I've reviewed) is have a little awards ceremonies for the stories awarding 'Best of' various wacky categories. For this one, I don't feel like that would really get my point across. I'm also not sure what categories I would choose. A couple I do know, so I'll share those for your edification. Funniest story: Charles Yu (his story seems indebted as much to Douglas Adams as to Bradbury); Most forgettable story: Thomas F. Monteleone (I read his story twice, having gone back unable to recall just that one, and I still have no idea what happened); Best Twist: Julia Keller (she got me).
The stories in Shadow Show break down into two basic categories: science fiction stories with twists and stories about the endurance of love, life and language. While I liked all of the latter stories, my favorites were the former, as were my least favorites. The latter are more philosophical than anything else and were, for the most part, not as much fun to read, though I did like the thoughts behind them.
My favorite part of Shadow Show, though, was not the stories. That seems a rather dismissive and insulting thing to say, but I don't intend it to be. Following each story, each author wrote a brief note about their story, about its debt to Bradbury, and about their relationship with Ray (personal or literary). I loved these. Even for my least favorite story (also one of the longest stories unfortunately), I liked reading that bit.
What I found so incredibly moving was the incredibly love for Ray Bradbury and his work that welled out of these pages. The explanations made this so incredibly clear. The stories were on some level so incredibly personal, many based on personal experiences. Many others had been in the author's mind for ages, inspired by Bradbury not out of a duty to write a short story for this collection but because they WERE really inspired by Bradbury. That was so incredibly powerful.
While I'm mostly avoiding specific discussion of particular authors, I do have to speak to the most moving piece of writing (one of my personal favorites). Harlan Ellison nearly made me cry, though his account of his friendship with Ray Bradbury is largely light-hearted. His writing style, his wit and the clear friendship between the two is simply beautiful. What made this so incredibly poignant was Ellison's clear knowledge that this would likely be his last published work and that both he and Bradbury would soon die, and, certainly, he was proved correct about Bradbury who passed away in early June. Before reading this, I didn't have any plans to read Ellison, but now I definitely will be.
Shadow Show bursts with love for both Bradbury and writing. For those who love Bradbury, you definitely need to procure a copy of this to read. For those that don't, you still should consider it.
Favorite Quote (from Harlan Ellison's Account of Bradbury):
"Ray contends that in very short order he and I will be sitting down together cutting up touches with Dickens and Dorothy Parker, shuckin' 'n' jivin' with Aesop and Melville.
Uh . . . well, okay, Ray, if you say so.
(I am rather less condolent with that Hereafter stuff than is Ray. As averred Nat Hentoff, I come from, and remain as one with, a grand and glorious tradition of stiff-necked Jewish atheists. Ray and I have a long-standing wager on this one, which of us is on the money and which is betting on a lame pony. Sadly, the winner will never collect.)"
About My Song Choice: I thought of this song as I was reading,the love and the gratitude that comes from it. This book felt, more than anything, like a thank you to Ray Bradbury for a lifetime of enjoyment and inspiration from all of these authors. If you change the words a bit to speak of writing and books rather than music, I feel like this fits perfectly. Besides, beautiful writing has a sort of music of its own, doesn't it?
"So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?"