The Illustrated Man

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The Illustrated Man is a 1951 book of eighteen science fiction short stories by Ray Bradbury that explores the nature of mankind. While none of the stories has a plot or character connection with the next, a recurring theme is the conflict of the cold mechanics of technology and the psychology of people.

The unrelated stories are tied together by the frame device of "the Illustrated Man", a vagrant with a tattooed body whom the unnamed narrator meets. The man's tattoos, allegedly created by a woman from the future, are animated and each tell a different tale. All but one of the stories had been previously published elsewhere, although Bradbury revised some of the texts for the book's publication.

The concept of the Illustrated Man would later be reused by Bradbury as an antagonistic character in Something Wicked This Way Comes, the tattoos coming to represent the souls of sinful victims of a mysterious carnival.

The book was made into a 1969 film starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom. It was adapted by Howard B. Kreitsek from the stories "The Veldt", "The Long Rain", and "The Last Night of the World", and directed by Jack Smight.

A number of the stories, including "The Veldt", "The Fox and the Forest" (as "To the Future"), "Marionettes Inc.", and "Zero Hour" were dramatized for the 1955-57 radio series X minus 1. "The Veldt," "The Concrete Mixer," "The Long Rain," "Zero Hour," and "Marionettes Inc." were adapted for the TV series The Ray Bradbury Theater.


Plot summary

  • "The Veldt" — Far into the future, two parents use a high tech nursery to keep their children happy. The children use the nursery's simulation equipment to recreate the predatorial environment of the African veldt. When the parents threaten to take the nursery away, the children lock their parents inside where it is implied that the parents are mauled and killed by the "harmless" machine-generated lions of the nursery.
  • "Kaleidoscope" — A bitter astronaut feels he has accomplished nothing worthwhile in his life as he and the rest of his crew fall irrevocably to their demise in outer space because of a malfunction in their ship. The story illustrates the collapse of the sanity and logic of the crew members as they face their death. Ultimately, the lamenting narrator is incinerated in the atmosphere of the Earth and appears as a shooting star to a child after wishing that his life would at least be worth something for someone else.

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