Sunday, June 08, 2008


The Long March, William Styron, Random House, 1953, 120 pp

This is the only other piece of fiction (The Bridges at Toko-Ri by James Michener being one) I have read, chronologically speaking, that has the Korean War in it. The setting is a Marine training camp in the Carolinas and features two former marines who fought in WWII, then became reserves and have now been called back as the armed forces mobilize for Korea.

One of these men, Culver, tells the story as he watches his friend Mannix fall apart during a 30-mile forced march, dreamed up as a training exercise by their colonel. The book is a study of military psychology, human strengths and weaknesses, as well as the effect of an exercise in futility on different types of men.


Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1953, 191 pp

In the final volume of the Foundation trilogy, the Mule rises again with an altered method for conquest of the universe. But the real surprise is the emergence of the "Second Foundation," mentioned in Hari Seldon's plan but never before taken into account.

This is the most exciting of the three books and I can't say more without giving it away. What was most interesting to me was the idea that the two foundations, having the same goal, would come into conflict. Also the idea of science versus spirit is part of the story. Is there anything this writer did not cover?

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, Ballantine/Del Rey Books, 1953, 165 pp

This is probably Bradbury's most famous book but I had never read it before. It is said that the book is about censorship but it is actually about the loss of literacy and the willingness of mankind in general to agree with being dumbed down and giving up their freedom to think for themselves.

Guy Montag is a fireman whose job it is to burn books and any houses that contain them. 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns. He meets a young girl who opens his eyes to the actual pleasure of life and the beauty of literature, which leads him to rebel against the powers that be. He eventually goes underground and joins up with people who are trying to preserve the knowledge found in books.

I had a problem with the writing; I thought it was his worst so far. But the story is a unique take on a universal theme (Keep the Wisdom!). I especially liked the image of the TV room in people's houses. All four walls of a room comprised the TV screen. How prescient.

The Golden Apples of the Sun, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1953, 209 pp

Another collection of Bradbury's stories from 1947 to 1953. He covers a wide range of subjects from all his usual concerns. Some of the stories are only a few pages and not many of them really thrilled me. I read two stories a day for 11 days and was bored most of the time. Part of it is his writing which just makes me cringe. Another part is that he may have been one of the first to put forth some of these thoughts and ideas but over 60 years later, they are no longer new ideas.

The best story is "Powerhouse" in which a woman finds faith and understanding about life while sleeping in a power station and having her first out of body experience. In it, his idea overcomes his writing.

The Silver Chair, C S Lewis, HarperCollins Inc, 1953, 243 pp

In the fourth book of the Chronicles of Narnia (by the old numbering system), cousin Eustace and his school chum Jill enter Narnia to help Aslan release the son of Prince Caspian from an enchantment. I don't recall ever having read this volume and found it to be a good story that kept me enthralled.

Lucy and Edmund can no longer go to Narnia, being too old now. Eustace has no traces of the disgusting side of his personality, having been cured in The Voyage of the Dawntreader. Jill is a sensible girl who readily adapts to Narnia. They journey through moors, mountains and even the underground, encountering yet another wicked witch as well as giants.

None of the later stories quite measure up to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but this is one of the better ones with not so much moralizing or religious symbolism and some good tips on breaking enchantments.

1 comment:

  1. I am a huge Bradbury fan. I think of Fahrenheit 451 as my ultimate horror book. I would like to think I was the woman who burns herself with her books. I just watched the old movie with Julie Christy this weekend and it is so dated, the opening scene with the "firemen" going out on a call in their fire truck reminded me of a cross between the old Adam West Batman and the original Willy Wonka movie.