Remember when Michael Jordan retired and then returned to play once again with the Washington Wizards? It was Michael Jordan - but it wasn't Michael Jordan. And remember when Hunter S. Thompson stopped writing real books and resorted to simply sifting through his archives to release a bunch of letters? It was Hunter S. Thompson - but it really wasn't Hunter S. Thompson.
Here, someone using the once-great writer's name, has combined two novellas,
and they don't come anywhere close to creating a whole. A hole, maybe...
Bradbury has lost a step, can't hit the turnaround fade; he can't turn a phrase like he used to. He relies on past accomplishments and barely digs beneath the surface to unveil some new plot or some new and strange character.
"Somewhere A Band Is Playing" relates the tale of a man stepping off a train in Summerton, Arizona, a community lost in itself and containing dark secrets. No one grows old, and everyone here is a writer. It's a theme Ray has revisited many times, the notion of returning to a place where the grass is always green and everything has a purpose.
"Leviathan '99" is a modern adaptation of Melville's Moby Dick. Here,
a spaceship captain goes dancing among the stars to track down a renegade comet that has rendered him blind. It's another oft-told Bradbury construction.
The author's visions have been recycled many times. His last several books, including
Farewell Summer, From the Dust Returned and
The Cat's Pajamas, have all been sub-standard when compared to his true classics like
Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. It's not like you have to revisit his earliest works to recognize his gifts. In 1985, he wrote
Death Is A Lonely Business, his first novel in 23 years, and it was a wonder.
There is nothing more terrible than a writer ripping himself off. Ray is Brad-burying himself in work that does nothing to propagate his well-earned popularity and influence. Leave the typewriter silent, let the pencils turn dull. If you have nothing more of consequence or originality to tell your readers, leave the pages blank. We'll fill them in with the magic and mystery of when you were a giant.