The problem with greatness is you'll always be judged by it. Write one great book and every subsequent release will be measured by that one. Write many great books -
The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Death Is a Lonely Business - and you have a huge shadow you must dodge.
Ray Bradbury has been engulfed by his own fame. Everyone remembers him as the great science fiction/fantasy author who created worlds out in space and great sunny days in the bright sunshine of Everywhere, USA. In recent years, however, his output has been weak, ineffectual, poorly written, and just not engaging on any level.
This collection of stories is vapid and dull. The lead story, "We'll Always Have Paris," is about a homosexual liaison. In and of itself, that's fine. But Bradbury doesn't know what to do with it, so why is he even attempting to write it?
In the introduction he writes, "Some (stories) may surprise you. And that is good. Many of them surprised me ..." The only surprising element is how terrible they are.
Even the stories with a wonderful premise - a mother visiting a stranger who has been the recipient of her dead son's heart - falls apart. It is as if the author has never written a short story before and he doesn't know how to end it. It is unfulfilled; incomplete.
Adding insult to horrible injury is the final piece, a poem titled, "America." The key line is "We are the dream that other people dream," and that is
okay. But the other lines are insipid and hollow: "The land where other people land. When late at night/They think on flight/And, flying, here arrive."
They think on flight? A four-year old wrote more persuasive lines that one.
Bradbury has not written a worthwhile book for years. Hopefully he has one more
Fahrenheit 451 in him.