# Friday, 06 January 2017

The Illustrated Man despised the tattoos that covered his body. In the daytime, they were beautiful works of art; but at night, they came to life and told stories that predicted the future. And they always predicted a bleak future.

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury is a collection of the stories told by the pictures on the circus refugee's body - 18 dark tales of science fiction and horror.

Bradbury frames the collection by narrating an encounter with the Illustrated Man along a deserted road and relaying the stories acted out by the animated tattoos.

Some of the stories take place on Mars - the site of Bradbury's most famous short story collection - but do not necessarily share continuity with his "Martian Chronicles" stories.

The stories have no common thread, but they are all dark and many explore how man's psyche deals with his place in the universe.

In "Kaleidoscope", the doomed crew of a crippled space ship reflects on their lives as they float to their deaths. The last survivor laments that there is no way he can perform a good act to make up for his "terrible and empty life".

In "The Other Foot", a future Mars is colonized entirely by black people. When Earth is destroyed by nuclear war, spaceships filled with white people arrive, asking to be allowed on Mars, acknowledging the oppression they perpetuated that caused the blacks to flee in the first place.

"Marionettes, Inc" could be a Twilight Zone script. A company will sell you a robotic replica of yourself, so you can escape your responsibilities without your family knowing. Predictably, it all goes horribly wrong for the customers.

The edition I read included the origin story of The Illustrated Man (some editions omit this story), which is the tragic tale of a carnival worker who tries to salvage his marriage and his job by accepting an offer to be completely tattooed by an old witch.

This collection is a good introduction to Ray Bradbury and a good read for those who already enjoy his writings.