The October Country is a pretty damn nifty book by the celebrated science fiction author Ray Bradbury. Along the lines of his more celebrated books The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, The October Country is a collection of short stories Bradbury wrote for various pulp magazines in the 1940s and 50s.

The short stories are:

  • "The Dwarf" (originally appeared in Fantastic, January 1954)
    The mirrors at the funhouse distort everything. But occasionally they show a bitter truth ...
  • "The Next in Line" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • Dia de los Muertos, the day of public mourning. But one visitors fears she may be .. the next in line.
  • "The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse" (Beyond , March 1954)
    Tired of the 9 to 5? So was Mr. Matisse. A delightful comedy about doing something.
  • "Skeleton" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • Those aches and pains he feels aren't just his imagination - his body is revolting!
  • "The Jar" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • The farmer buys the jar at the flea market. "Looks interesting." But the real interest is what you can't see ....
  • "The Lake" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • After a schoolboy crush on a mysterious woman who drowned in a lake 100 years ago, a grown man returns with his wife to the waters.
  • "The Emissary" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • A sick boy's dog brings him memoirs of the world outside he can't visit. But where else can the dog travel?
  • "Touched with Fire" (as "Shopping for Death," Maclean's, June 1954)
    When all hell breaks loose, is there a method to its madness? A thermometer might reveal the answer ...
  • "The Small Assassin" (Dime Mystery, November 1946.)
    A macabre and chilling tale of a newborn who is anything but mother's little helper ...
  • "The Crowd" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • Why do all of those people appear at automobile accidents? Something sinister is afoot ...
  • "Jack-in-the-Box" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • A haunting, empty world has its own surprise ...
  • "The Scythe" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • When he inherits a strange farm, Drew is at first excited. But as his true responsibilities are revealed, it shakes his whole world ...
  • "Uncle Einar" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • A fabulous poetic rendition of a fallen angel's remembrance of things past.
  • "The Wind" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • It whips at your back, brushes your cheeks, howls at your soul. And sometimes it can be much, much worse ...
  • "The Man Upstairs" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • The boy simply can't help his curiosity. But his visit to the man proves most revealing indeed ...
  • "There Was an Old Woman" (Dark Carnival, 1947)

  • When death comes knocking, the woman simply doesn't answer .. can she really do that?
  • "The Cistern" (Mademoiselle, May 1947)

  • An undead couple live in the streets of New York City. A surprisingly charming story of love and loss.
  • "Homecoming" (Mademoiselle, October 1946)

  • Poor Timmy. He isn't like the rest of his family. No sleeping in coffins, or drinking blood, or avoiding crosses ...
  • "The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone" (Charm, July 1954)

  • A tale of murder where the victim is delighted! What reasons could he have for enjoying his demise?

Of course, it's vintage Bradbury - poetic, resonating, engaging; the man is simply a master of the English language. This anthology suffers in comparison to his other collections of stories because they don't have a common bond running through them. They're merely a scrapbook of his above-average writing. Still, this is highly recommended reading to all story lovers, and practically required literature for sci-fi fans. Rating: 9.2 out of 10.

An interesting, if irrelevant, anecdote: In 1995, Del Rey Publishing announced they were releasing a 40th anniversary edition of The October Country with a new intro from Ray himself. So, they gear up, run the printing, and release the novel .. on Thanksgiving weekend. Umm, hello? October Country, people. As MOJO Press editor Rick Klaw noted, "It ain't called Ass End Of November Country."

Bradbury, Ray. The October Country. Ballantine:New York. 1955.

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