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From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury




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Lively House of the Dead

Ray Bradbury began simmering this book in the 1940s. Some chapters were published then; the bulk of From the Dust Returned was completed recently. Bradbury’s stories are creative, well-written and take the reader into and out of another world.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The House was a puzzle inside an enigma inside a mystery, for it encompassed silences, each one different, and beds, each a different size, some having lids. Some ceilings were high enough to allow flights with rests where shadows might hang upside down. The dining room nested thirteen chairs, each numbered thirteen so no one would feel left out of the distinctions such numbers implied. The chandeliers above were shaped from the tears of souls in torment at sea five hundred years lost, and the basement cellar kept five hundred vintage-year bins and strange names on the wine tucked therein and empty cubbies for future visitors who disliked beds or the high ceiling perches.
A network of webways was used by the one and only spider dropping down from above and up from below so the entire House was a sounding spinneret tapestry played on by the ferociously swift Arach, seen one moment by the wine bins and the next in a plummeting rush to the storm-haunted garret, swift and soundless, shuttling the webs, repairing the strands.
How many rooms, cubicles, closets, and bins in all? No one knew. To say one thousand would exaggerate, but one hundred was nowhere near the truth. One hundred and fifty nine seems an agreeable amount, and each was empty for a long while, summoning occupants across the world, yearning to be haunted. And as the weathers circled Earth for a hundred years, the House became known, and across the world the dead who had lain down for long naps sat up in cold surprise and wished for stranger occupations than being dead, sold off their ghostly trades and prepared for flight.”

From the Dust Returned would be a great book to read aloud to pre-adolescents, those old enough to be frightened, young enough to listen, and able to sleep through the night.

Steve Hopkins, December 19, 2001


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