This is a companion piece to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953). It really should come with a warning on the cover but it doesn’t. I’ll give it: DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU'VE ALREADY READ FAHRENHEIT 451. It'll spoil that novel for you completely if you do. It has 14 shorts and 2 novellas. They all echo or inform the 451 novel in some way, some are tenuously linked and others could almost be a part of it.
Editors Donn Albright and Jon Eller should be ashamed for the lack of information they give about the works. Were they written before 451? After? Do they pave the way, or reflect upon it?
I’m a long time fan so know that all but two of the shorts (‘Bonfire’ and ‘The Library’) have been printed before in previous collections. The novellas, both also previously published are ‘Long After Midnight’ and ‘The Fireman’. Both are early versions of 451; they’re well written but the plot is almost identical to the novel, and the two stories are almost identical to each other. With no explanation from the editors the casual reader will be confused.
If you’re thinking of buying the book for the two new pieces I mentioned, you may be disappointed. They feel like they were abandoned midway. The ideas were later integrated into other works.
Every writer has these kinds of things lying around in an ideas drawer; they're extended notes, disembodied scenes, ideas given form but crude and severely underdeveloped. I don’t believe they were intended to be stand-alone works. Bradbury isn't that shoddy, ever. The cynic in me says they're simply used to sell more books. I wonder what the author would think of their inclusion?
I love Bradbury. I believe he's the finest living American author and I will shed real tears when he leaves us. I mean no disrespect to his name but I don’t feel this book is of the usual high standard that we've come to expect. It’s repackaged reprint by editors that aren't fit to wipe the old man’s ass; reprint that offers little in the way of variety for the reader. Its only real merit is Bradbury’s poetic voice and his words that settle into the mind like treacle. My score reflects that aspect of it not the collection which is insulting to the long time fan, and ruinous for the newcomer. Seek out the original.
2½ kerosene canisters and controlled freedoms out of 5