cover image Now and Forever

Now and Forever

Ray Bradbury, . . Morrow, $24.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-06-113156-1

This slim volume eloquently displays two sides of the venerated Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles ) with two highly contrasting tales of the fantastic. “Somewhere a Band Is Playing,” the quieter piece, explores journalist James Cardiff's unexpected attraction to the rural town of Summerton, Ariz. Summerton's secrets unfold with Bradbury's hallmark pacing, gentle and inexorable, and the plot arcs just as gently into the fantastical before circling back to Cardiff himself. Framed by engagingly wistful lyric verse, this classically appealing Bradbury fantasy is at distinct odds with the prickly and disturbing “Leviathan '99.” In this space-faring homage to Melville, the dread comet Leviathan takes the whale's place, and Queequeg becomes the enigmatic telepath Quell. The result, while not at all comfortable, cogently packs Moby Dick 's psychological complexity into a quarter of the space, despite the padding of lengthy quasi-Shakespearean dialogue. Bradbury's brief summaries of each novella's decades-long path to completion invoke the extraordinary length of one of the most distinguished careers in speculative fiction. (Sept.)