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Journal of nicholas (3034)

Sunday August 20, 2006
04:50 PM

Small ones are more juicy

[ #30706 ]

I've just read The October Game by Ray Bradbury and found it rather good indeed. A sweet little story that wends its happy way until the last few lines upon which you discover that it's been programming your imagination to build a knife, without your informed consent. At which point it abruptly twists the world, the intertia of your mind keeps the knife still, and it gouges its mark in your memory.

Really good short stories seem to be able to make far more effective than their longer bretheren, but such beasts are few and far between. I guess it's because they are of the philosophy "do one thing, and do it well".

It reminds me of a John Wyndham short story that similarly built up fairly innocently, then packed its nasty twist right in the last few lines, and again leaving all the horror unwritten and thereby completely imagined. I wasn't sure of the title, and after quite a bit of digging it seems that it's really hard to find synopses of John Wyndham short stories online (Pesky non-omniscient Internet). I think that it's Compassion Circuit, written in 1954. Curiously, The October Game dates from 1948, so is even older. The good part is that Ray Bradbury is still alive, so the supply of Ray Bradbury stories is not yet bounded. Sadly the same cannot be said of John Wyndam, who died before I was born.

However, given what I did find on my travels, I'm quite happy not to have found what I was looking for. It seems that there are still John Wyndham stories I have yet to read. I thought I had read them all, but I discover that another anthology, No Place like Earth was published in 2003. It brings back memories from maybe 15 years ago, when I was looking at the row of John Wyndham books in the library in a sort of melancholy way, happy remembering the enjoyment of reading each, sad thinking that that enjoyment could not happen afresh, then realising that there was a book there that I'd not only never seen before, but wasn't even aware existed. Joy.

So I hope that this book will be as good as I remember reading it now. There's always the danger that things are not as good or as enjoyable as I remember them, which I suspect is because I'm not the person I used to be. For example, I find it much better to remember Mr Benn rather than watch it again. But there's only one way to find out - procure the book and read it.

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  • The problem with approaching Science Fiction alphabetically is that one doesn't encounter Wyndham until late in the game. It takes long enough to get through Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and Dick. Which is a shame, since there's good stuff back on the Vance, Varley, Wyndham, and (arguably) Zelazney end of things.