Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Horn of Time the Hunter by Poul Anderson

A science fiction story that follows Jong Errifrans and others as they search the remains of a lost civilization on a strange and haunting world. Jong sometimes hears a horn blow in the distance that may or may not be real. When a man from the search party is killed and drug into the water by strange beings, Jong decides to go in after his body to give him a proper burial. Jong runs into on of the creatures in the water and has a strange, yet peaceful encounter with it. The creature hands Jong its trident and swims off. He finds what remains of Mons, his dead comrade, and returns to the surface. The others find that all that Jong has retrieved was Mons’ head; the creatures have eaten the rest. When the men determine to go after the creatures to kill them, Jong talks them out of it, saying he feels like their brother. He thinks the creatures have evolved from the human civilization and were only protected their breeding grounds. They turn and head back to base; Jong thinks he hears the horn sound for a brief moment.

Interesting Sci-fi tale. Haunting and thought provoking.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Killers by Ernest Hemingway

Two men, Al and Max, dressed in trench coats and derby hats enter Henry’s Diner and sit at the counter. They banter back and forth in vaudeville style with the owner, George, as the young Nick Adams wipes the counter. The two gangsters talk down to George, Nick, and the black cook, Sam, and eventually tie Sam and Nick up in the back. Max reveals that they are there to kill Ole Anderson, a Swedish ex-boxer. They wait, and Ole never shows, so Al and Max leave. George unties Nick and Sam. Nick runs to Ole’s room at the boarding house to warn him. He finds Ole in bed, fully dressed, staring at the. Nick tells him about the gangsters, and Ole has little reaction. He has accepted his fate and tells Nick he just can’t bring himself to go outside. Nick returns to the diner and says he is going to leave town. He can’t stand the thought of someone just sitting there waiting to die.

One of my favorite short stories of all-time. Masterfully told in Hemingway’s simplistic, dialogue-heavy style. Flawless infusion of funny and suspense-filled conversation. Fantastic character arc with a no-nonsense ending. Love it.

Adapted into two feature length films.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Episode of War by Stephen Crane

An Army lieutenant divides coffee amongst his troops when he is shot in the arm. He walks through the camp as sympathetic soldiers stare at him. One soldier dresses the wound with a handkerchief. The doctor promises him he will not have to amputate the arm. The story concludes as the soldier returns home and his family is shocked by his flat sleeve.

Sad and touching. Wonderfully tragic account of the Civil War by Crane.

Hail to the Chief by Ray Bradbury

A government official is awoken in the middle of the night and told that thirteen senators have lost the entire U.S. at the Pocahontas Big Red Indian Casino to Chief Iron Cloud. The President of the United States arrives at the casino and scolds the senators. Chief Iron Cloud enters the room and through an interpreter offers the President one last game of chance to win back the U.S. His terms: Lose, Iron Cloud keeps the U.S. and the President must build casinos, schools, and colleges in all fifty states throughout the Indian Territories. Win, and the president gets back the states, but must still build on the Territories. They play blackjack and the President wins, although he never sees the Chief’s cards. The Chief asks for $26.97 for Manhattan and tells the President that he hopes he will build many ships for his journey to wherever he came from. When the President says that we are not going anywhere, the Chief replies, “Oh no?” The President and his senators sneak out, tales between their legs.

Great satire. I love this story. Smart, funny, and piercing critique of the harsh treatment of Native Americans. Expertly titled as well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Icarus Montgolfier Wright by Ray Bradbury

This is a story about the first man to fly a rocket ship. He figuratively gives up his real name (Jedediah Prentiss) for the name Icarus Montgolfier Wright. Icarus is a character in Greek mythology known for his attempt to escape Crete by flight. The Montgolfier brothers were the inventors of the montgolfière style hot air balloon. And we all know the Wright Brothers contribution to flight. The story concerns his dreaming of, and preparation for the first rocket flight in history.

Tough read if you don’t know the history, but made me go and fetch it. Thanks Ray.

Adapted into a short animated film in 1962. Nominated for an Oscar. Recently restored.

The Trolley by Ray Bradbury

This story is about a Trolley's last ride in a small town. Mr. Tridden gives all of the children, including Charlie and Douglas, one last free ride out to the country for a picnic. After a fun day, Tridden tells the children it is time to go home. He drops them off and Charlie and Douglas are saddened by the fact that the trolley will be replaced by the more “efficient” bus. They decide to play kick the can after supper.

Another great ode to the past by Bradbury. Touches upon one of his favorite themes: the fear of progressiveness that will take away the ability to love the little things, the nostalgic things, and the innocent things.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed by Ray Bradbury

The Bittering family lands on Mars. Earth is being ravaged by war and soon they get word that all the rockets on earth are destroyed. They are stuck there forever. Soon the Bitterings and the rest of the inhabitants notice changes. They are getting thinner, taller, darkened skin, and yellowish eyes. Mr. Bittering’s family begins to use Martian words and don Martian names. He attempts to build a rocket to return to earth, but soon gives it up. The inhabitants of the small town all decide to move amongst the old Martian villas and leave the humanized town. Five years later, a rocket arrives from earth. They are surprised to find no humans, only dark, golden-eyed Martians that live amongst the villas.

Fantastic sci-fi story. Subtly creepy.

Adapted into a radio drama for The Twilight Zone Radio.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Flying Machine by Ray Bradbury

The story takes place in 400 A.D. where the Emperor Yuan rules near the Great Wall of China. When a servant tells Yuan that a man has invented a “flying machine,” he goes to see it for himself. Sure enough, from atop a hill, the emperor and servant observe a man flying in a machine made of paper and bamboo. Yuan asks the flier to come down and speak with him. He then orders that the machine be destroyed and the flier executed. Yuan explains that it is not necessarily the flier who he fears but another man that will have evil in his heart and will drop huge stones on the Great Wall. The emperor concludes by saying “What is the life of one man against those of a million others. I must take solace from that thought.”

Deep story. Thought provoking. Good tale. Not your average Bradbury yarn.