top of page

The October Country by Ray Bradbury

The October Country is a collection of 19 short stories by Ray Bradbury (b. 22 August 1920 – d. 5 June 2012). A larger collection that features 15 of these stories was first published in 1947 under the title Dark Carnival. This collection was first published in 1955.

The short stories, written as early as 1943, are not sci-fi dystopian like the novel Fahrenheit 451 for which Bradbury is probably most famous. Most are dark and just weird with elements of fantasy or even urban fantasy and horror although I would not categorize every one of them as horror. They range from ten to twenty pages long.

The October Country by Ray Bradbury

These short stories are generally well-written. The thoughts of the viewpoint character are usually quite explicit so there is little mystery as to their thoughts and mentality. This is not a bad thing—at least the stories are clear—but the telling rather than showing does add to the wordcount.

Structurally, the longer stories can be tighter and progress a little faster. The author never fails to signpost, so the endings mostly make sense and are clear even if the execution can be better. He could, however, at times be subtler to avoid being too predictable.

“The Dwarf” – Aimee and Ralph are part of the carnival. The latter runs a mirror maze which a dwarf visits alone every night. Aimee is curious and pities the dwarf and intends to help him.

“The Next in Line” – Marie and Joseph are vacationing in some small town in Mexico. It is implied the two are not that old, but they are not that young either and definitely not newlyweds. Joseph comes across as an insensitive jerk at times and, either way, the two simply do not communicate well. Marie does not feel secure. Amongst other themes, it examines death, including the fear of death. It is somewhat long for a short story and drags a bit.

“The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse” – George Garvey is supposedly the most boring guy in the world. Which is why people visit him. It is an absurd and mildly comical piece, presumably about pretentious people keeping up with what they consider to be the avant-garde.

“Skeleton” – Mr Harris is a hypochondriac. His bones ache and he considers his skeleton to be the enemy inside. It is another absurdist piece.

“The Jar” – Charlie buys a jar, its content a mystery. It is implied to be something organic in preserving alcohol. Charlie buys it and takes it home, hoping to impress folks in his town. They do gather at his place. It does try to include some intrigue regarding the contents of the jar and there is some tension but the conclusion doesn’t quite hit the mark.

“The Lake” – One of Bradbury’s earliest stories which is based on a childhood memory of him and a girl building a sand castle on the beach. It’s not quite poignant but it does avoid being pretentious. The pacing is very well-managed.

“The Emissary” – Martin is bedridden and relies on his dog to bring the world to him. The dog roams the neighborhood and upon its return, Martin is able to interpret where the dog has been and what’s been happening. For a moment, it has an amusing Dickien feel to it but then takes a darker turn…

“Touched with Fire” – Two retired old men observe a woman who has anger issues. They approach her in the hopes of changing her attitude. It is somewhat comical. It is short and tight but can use more of a denouement. Either way, it is a well-constructed piece.

“The Small Assassin” – Alice is convinced that her newborn son is trying to kill her. Dr Jeffers is convinced that it is merely stress given the difficult childbirth and advises her husband David to be patient as they settle in. Is Alice crazy or is the baby not as helpless as he looks? It’s not a new idea but Bradbury does well with it. Good pacing with short scenes.

“The Crowd” – Mr Spallner gets into a car accident at night which attracts a crowd. He is convinced that it is abnormal for a crowd to get to the scene so quickly and is determined to find out why. It is effective, using a relatable premise in a mildly absurd manner. The ending, however, can contain a little more exposition on the nature of the crowd.

“Jack-in-the-Box” – Edwin lives with his mother in a mansion, forbidden to enter certain rooms. He is taught that his home is the Universe and that beyond the trees is unsafe. The story is written as a fantasy with Edwin longing to see the outside world. The progression from fantasy to reality is mostly well-handled but it is too predictable and the end is perhaps too realistic.

“The Scythe” – Drew Erickson with his wife and two children come across a large wheat field and a house, desperate for food and shelter. Drew enters the house hoping to ask the owner for help but instead finds the owner dead with a scythe next to him as well as a note bequeathing the farm to the one who finds his body. Drew and his family move in where Drew tends to the wheat fields. The imagery is obvious and the plot predictable but it is a well-constructed piece.

“Uncle Einar” – Einar is a winged man who due to an accident cannot fly as well as he used to as he typically flew only during the night to avoid being seen. Now a family man, he is gets increasingly bitter about his inability but deals with it. This is a lighthearted and positive story.

“The Wind” – Herb Thompson constantly gets phone calls from his best friend Allin telling him about how the wind is after him. Thompson believes his friend is in potential danger but on this particular night is unable to drive to check on Allin as Thompson and his wife are expecting guests. Much of the story is dialogue over the phone between Thompson and Allin but nonetheless has good pacing and tension that builds to a satisfying conclusion.

“The Man Upstairs” – Douglas, 11 years old, lives with his grandparents. One day, a strange man rents a room in the house. He works during the night and sleeps during the day. This is an amusing tale of the annoying young boy who pries into the life of a stranger.

“There Was an Old Woman” – Old Aunt Tildy is the curmudgeon who refuses to believe in or accept death. It is apparent what is going on after a few pages (if it even takes that long) but then it drags on, lacking substantial movement or even a meaningful conclusion.

“The Cistern” – Anna dreamily watches the rain from the window and tells a story set in the stormwater drains, in “a city under a city”. It is not a bad idea but for much of it is Anna being the narrator so it is a story within a story without sufficient movement. The ending is somewhat too predictable which would be not a problem except it is also too abrupt.

“Homecoming” – Timothy is part of a big family. Even though he is the odd one out, he looks forward to the Homecoming party on Allhallows Eve when hundreds of relatives visit. It tries to be one of those stories that are lighthearted-on-the-surface-but-has-a-poignant-lesson centered on a family of weird creatures and monsters. Unfortunately, neither the plot nor the resolution hits the mark, emotionally or otherwise.

“The Wonderful Death of Dudley Stone” – The narrator discusses with his friends the mystery surrounding author Dudley Stone who suddenly quit writing about twenty-five years ago. Is he even alive? The narrator travels to find him and Stone tells his story. Even though it is like “The Cistern” in that a character is telling a story, this piece has more movement and a satisfying ending.


Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list so you get each new Opinyun that comes out!


Recent Posts

See All


Screen Shot 2021-12-09 at 4.49.31 PM.png

10% Off


bottom of page