The October Country
Avon Books, 1999
(Originally published in 1943)
“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and mid-nights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain… .” from the frontspiece.
This collection of 19 short stories reflects not only the season of the year in which they take place but the dark mysteries that autumn brings with it. No Martians in this book – instead stories of life, insanity and death – but mostly death. Here are some of my favorite stories:
The Next in Line – A weird story of a husband and wife vacationing in Mexico and the husband becomes obsessed with mummies while it totally freaks his wife out. Mom said it reminds her of the move “Gaslight” where the husband drives his wife mad.
Skeleton – A man goes to war with the skeleton inside his own body.
The Lake – Haunting story of a boy who loses the love of his life only to find her again 10 years later – only not in the way you would expect.
The Small Assassin – Totally creepy story about a new born baby. The stuff of nightmares!
The Scythe – What would happen if Death took a holiday? What would happen if Death went a little mad and started taking those who weren’t supposed to die, leaving the ones who were? Who would know?
There Was an Old Woman – This one made me laugh at the spunk of a little old lady who refused to die!
The October Country differed from the other Bradbury books I’ve read so far in that the stories are mostly dark and brooding and tell of death in various ways. Still, I liked some more than others and some it will take a second or maybe even third reading to really enjoy them. The writing is, of course, signature Bradbury – filled with beautiful descriptions of some pretty ugly things. His imagination holds no bounds and he stretches the limits of our understanding of death and dying in this collection. Normally I don’t read such dark material – but it is Bradbury after all, and I will always make an exception for him!
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws for sheer imagination, creativity and the guts to face down our darkest fears.