Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Casual Shorts & the ISFdb Top Short Fiction # 29: The Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury, Ray. "A Sound of Thunder." Collier's, 28 June 1952.

This article is part of my attempt to read all the 155 stories currently (as of 1 November 2022) on the ISFdb's Top Short Fiction list. Please see the introduction and list of stories hereI am encouraging readers to rate the stories and books they have read on the ISFdb.

ISFdb Rating:   8.91/10
My Rating:        7/10

"The sign on the wall seemed to quaver under a film of sliding warm water."

Wealthy Eckels joins a hunting safari that takes him far into the past to hunt a Tyrannosaurus rex. The guide warns Eckles and his fellow hunters to remain on the path they have set up, and to shoot only the dinosaur they have marked with paint. Any other action, no matter how infinitesimal, can change the future.

Bradbury plays with the theory of the butterfly effect to exaggeration, and as expected, Eckels strays off the marked path. This slight action infuriates the guides, as they fear nothing more than to change the course of history, and even threaten to leave Eckels behind. As expected, great change in the far future of 2055 awaits our time travellers.

So many variations of this story have been published over the years that it has become too familiar. Yet in the vein of predictable dated Bradbury, it is nonetheless a good story. I particularly like his use of the titular sound of thunder as it unites the threat of the distant past with the threat of the changed future. Of greater impact than a massive, threatening monster, is awakening in a world that has completely changed. I also like that Bradbury takes the time to explain the certainty of why the death of the hunted animal will not affect the future. Far-fetched, sure, but that he takes the time to close this potential hole with logical reasoning is great.

The original Collier's included a nice, and nicely accurate, illustration for the story by Frederick "Fritz" Siebel.

In 2005, a movie adaptation was released, The Sound of Thunder, directed by Peter Hyams. I have not seen it, nor do I particularly wish to.


TracyK said...

I read this story in The Time Traveler's Almanac edited by Ann and Jeff Vandemere. I enjoyed it and was glad to finally read a story I had heard much about. And this reminds me I need to read more of those stories. The book is gigantic.

Todd Mason said...

While I read this one first in R is for Rocket or S is for Space, as a kid. One of his most deft, and clearly a pop fave.

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