As always, this book review is spoiler-free!
R is for Rocket is a collection of short stories published in the ’40s and ’50s by author Ray Bradbury. In his preface, Bradbury writes:
“I dedicate these stories to all the boys who wonder about the Past, run swiftly in the Present, and have high hopes for our Future. The stars are yours, if you have the head, the hands, and the heart for them.”
I read the collection after I finished The Halloween Tree, because I wanted to read more Bradbury, but didn’t have time to get sucked into a full novel. Fahrenheit 451 will have to wait for another day. Until then, here are some of my thoughts about R is for Rocket:
Lush prose—I mentioned this the last time I reviewed Bradbury, but his writing is wonderfully melodic. He has no fear of breaking traditional writing rules for effect. Reading one of his short stories is like reading a prose poem, and it absorbs you, makes you live and believe his world. There were two passages in the book—one on the butterfly effect (which gets its name from the story “The Sound of Thunder”) and one on tennis shoes from “The Sound of Summer Running”—that hit me square in the heart and gave me cause to think. I list both of the referenced stories as two of the best in the book.
Nostalgia—Nearly all of the stories in R is for Rocket have an element of nostalgia, especially a certain nostalgia for the wonder of childhood. Often, Bradbury connects that nostalgia to space flight, exploring the consequences of nostalgia in adult experience. My favorite short story from the collection, “R is for Rocket” deals directly with the experience of growing up. For me, the story evoked memories of when I left home for the first time to go to college. I loved how Bradbury is able to evoke raw emotional responses in sci-fi and fantasy settings.
Scientific Inaccuracy—One of the longstanding critiques of science fiction is that it sidesteps basic laws of physics. These short stories are easy to dismiss, especially from a modern scientific perspective, if you think too hard. No, humans can’t just walk around on any planet they want to; no, you can’t have temperatures 1000 degrees below zero; no, you can’t carry energy in a bucket; and no, you can’t time travel (or can you?). However, as a writer of fiction, Bradbury invites readers to suspend their disbelief and give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, it’s called science fiction. Just because you don’t think it’s possible, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a fun story.
Overall, I give my favorite short stories from this collection 5 out of 5 stars. You will likely have different favorites. This is a good collection for kids middle school aged on up. The stories are largely clean, with occasional bits of violence. If you want to feel the excitement of the space age and remember childhood, this is a great collection for you.
Have you read R is for Rocket before? What did you think?