When the Ranting Dragon was first contacted about reviewing Shadow Show, I was intrigued. A collection of short stories honoring Ray Bradbury? Neat! However, once I got my review copy, I realized how very special this collection is. While Shadow Show was published a little over a month after Bradbury’s June 2012 death, this anthology was not thrown together at lightning speed to commemorate him. This book is actually a carefully curated collection of all original stories and was started well before Bradbury’s death; it even includes a secondary introduction from him. This anthology is meant to honor and celebrate not only Bradbury’s work, but also the influence he’s had on modern literature and current authors.
For those who are unfamiliar, Ray Bradbury was an American author who was extremely influential within his own lifetime. He published twenty-seven novels (the most famous of which is the dystopian Fahrenheit 451), screenplays for movies and TV shows, as well as over six hundred short stories. Bradbury’s earliest work was in the science fiction genre, though he also published in the mystery and horror genres. His work appeared in numerous publications, from niche SF magazines to The New Yorker. This wide diversity has been credited with giving the entire speculative fiction movement greater exposure as more mainstream readers sought out Bradbury’s less mainstream work.
Nothing short of epic
Editors Sam Weller and Mort Castle certainly set themselves a herculean task with this collection. How do you celebrate the work of such a prolific and varied writer? And remarkably, there are twenty-seven short stories and two introductions in fewer than five hundred pages. My original thought with this review was to tell you about a few of my favorite stories, but some of them are so short that to spend more than a sentence or two on them would give away the entire story! And I don’t want you to read my three sentence reduction, but the original tale. Don’t worry if you don’t like extremely short fiction; there are some longer, twenty-page stories included as well. They are all exquisitely written by masters at their craft. The SF world is represented by none other than Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Harlan Ellison, Kelly Link, and Audrey Niffenegger. The authors coming from the mystery, adventure/suspense/thriller, and horror genres also read like a who’s who of modern publishing. You literally cannot go wrong with this crowd.
One of the best parts of this collection is the notes attached to each story by its author. Some are inspired by Bradbury’s work as a whole, but many are tributes to a single short story. For instance, David Morrell’s “The Companion” is a reverse of Bradbury’s tale “The Crowd.” Audrey Niffenegger’s “Backwards in Seville” is in response to Bradbury’s “The Playground.” For those who may be experiencing much of Bradbury vicariously for the first time in this anthology, these notes offer an interesting roadmap to various works they may enjoy. Often in these notes, the authors will tell you just what Bradbury and his work mean to them. For some he served as inspiration throughout their careers, and for others he was a dear friend and mentor. I can’t imagine a more touching tribute for any writer.
Why you should read this book
I will be honest with you: short fiction is not my favorite reading. I was sold on doing this review by the list of the authors involved, and I have not been disappointed. If ever there was a short story collection you could not go wrong with, this is it. It’s a literary buffet filled with dishes prepared by award winning chefs. Even if a story is not to your particular taste, you can still sit back and appreciate the craft that went into it. Also, what better way to sample genres you may have read sparingly than with a collection that also includes pieces in genres you’re sure to love?
Janea received a review copy of Shadow Show courtesy of TLC Book Tours.