That Ray Bradbury will ultimately be remembered as one of the finest writers of fiction of the 20th century is a virtual certainty, and the stories contained in this collection are some of the best examples of his remarkable body of work. The bujilding suspense and ultimate horror of "The Veldt." The unrelenting despair of "The Long Rain." The gentle wistfulness of "The Rocket Man." These stories are Bradbury at the peak of his powers and are treasures, each unto itself. Tied together in this volume they represent a literary feast.
I could go on and on about Bradbury, but the other real treasure of this edition is Scott Brick's absolutely remarkable narration. Brick captures every emotion that Bradbury wrote into these stories, delivering them with mastery, feeling and style that often transform passages from prose to pure poetry. I found myself often backing up a disk (I burn to CDs) just to hear Brick's delivery of a passage once again. Whenever I acquire an audiobook read by Scott Brick I expect a wonderful listening experience, but this reading was off the charts. Immediately prior to this edition I hear Brick's reading of Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles," which was also wonderful. However, in the case of "The Illustrated Man," something about his reading was different, deeper, more engaged and immersed in the tone and meaning of the stories. This is one of the best audiobook experiences I have ever enjoyed.
Hands down, this is one of the most entertaining and engaging SF audiobooks I have purchased from Audible, and you don't want to know how many I have. For one thing, as a dyed-in-the-wool SF fan for almost 50 years, it was great to revisit one of the most memorable characters from the wacky space operas of the 1960s, of which Harry Harrrison and his contemporary, Keith Laumer, were masters. This is a thoroughly entertaining, nutty story, well-written, satirical and charming.
Now, as to Phil Gigante's reading. Calling it a reading or a narration is a gross misrepreentation of one of the most entertaining performances I have yet encountered in my huge Audible collection. His tone and delivery is absolutely, flawlessly perfect for DiGriz -- sardonic, larcenous but totally suggestive of the "diamond in the rough" that is the Stainless Steel Rat. Not only that, but the range of voices and accents that Mr. Gigante is able to project, effortlessly phasing from one to another without missing a best, is nothing less than astonishing. At times, I almost forgot I was listening to an audiobook, but instead an old radio play such as X-Minus-One or Dimension X. I frequently caught myself laughing aloud not only at Harrison's turns of phrase but also Gigante's perfect timing and delivery.
If you like wacky, vintage space opera told with humor and style, catch "The Stainless Steel Rat" ... if you can. They don't call him Slippery Jim DioGriz for nothing.
I was taken by Robert Charles Wilson's work first with "Bios" (hint, Audible, hint, hint...) and then with the wonderfully weird and epic "Darwinia." I think "The Chronoliths" is my favorite. This is a compelling, often melancholy novel peopled by sympathetic characters who come alive in their vulnerability, ambivalence and, in the end, profound commitment to helping each other cope with a world made despairing and dysfunctional by forces beyond understanding. The reading is flawless and perfect for this novel, well-paced with good character differentiation and a keen sense of irony, wit and melancholy. My sincerest compliments to Mr. Wyman. While my library of Audible SF readings is ridiculously large, almost begging clinical intervention, this is one that I will be happy to experience more than once. A fine work of character-centered science fiction. God, I wish I could write like RCW!
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