Somewhere a Band is Playing
By Ray Bradbury
Somewhere a band is playing
Oh listen, oh listen, that tune!
If you learn it you'll dance on forever
And yet June...
And Death will be dumb and not clever
And Death will lie silent forever
In June and June and more June.
So begins this story, as James Cardiff shuts his eyes and sees these and other verses behind the lids that make him begin his journey to a place where graveyards sit empty and schools are silent; to Summerton, Arizona, a town where no one ever grows old. In Summerton, an eclectic group of outsiders have set themselves on a mission to save one of the greatest treasures of mankind.
Here before you, reader, is a novella that was 50 years in the making. It began as an idea for Ray Bradbury in the 1950's, took many twists and turns, was made into a teleplay that was never produced, went through numerous revisions, name and location changes, and finally was put aside and never picked up again until the late 1990's.
Ray Bradbury is a writing legend. That word, legend, sure is tossed around a lot, isn't it? Tony Hawke is a skateboard legend; Bode Miller is a skiiing legend, etc... A true legend is someone like Mr. Bradbury, who has been working at his craft for over 70 years, producing some of the finest work ever seen by any writer, ever. That is what makes a legend: a very long and prestigious body of work, accomplishment and perseverance. Five years does not a legend make, wouldn't you agree?
Mr. Bradbury was a seminal influence on my reading choices when I was growing up. Who can ever forget "The Illustrated Man", "R is for Rocket", "S is for Space", "The Golden Apples of the Sun", "I Sing the Body Electric" and such novels as "Something Wicked This Way Comes"? Stories and tales that shocked, stunned, stymied, and stuttered us. Who was this man and where did his ideas come from? How did he write dialogue so true, so vivid and real?
Here in your hand right now you hold "Somewhere a Band is Playing", where as in his youth Mr. Bradbury has written verse and prose that are so perfect, so right, that you are there; you can feel the warm sun on your face, you can smell the fresh cut grass, and you can feel the sweet summer breeze in the air.
This is the thing that made Ray different from all other writers of his generation; his ability to not write you a story, but put you into that story in such a way that it gives you a feeling of giddiness to just read it and be a part of it. He didn't just write us a story to read. He mesmerized us, enchanted us and gave us back the youth we thought we'd left behind long ago. It is not just a story from Ray Bradbury, but a gift. Don't read this all in one sitting, but savor it one or two chapters at a time, making it last. Pick up this tale, read it and give it to others to read. Then, put it up on your shelves and on a cold winter's night, take it down and warm yourself all over again within its pages. Take this gift and be grateful we all have it.
This novella from Gauntlet Press is not just a wonderful story, but also contains all of the fragments that built up over the years from Ray Bradbury, finally culminating in this final novella. If not for the persistence and patience of Editor Donn Albright, most of these documents would never have made it into the pages of any finished work. He tirelessly gathered up all the old manuscripts, bits and pieces of the story with different character names and places, and put them all together into this ultimate collection that readers can cherish. See how this story evolved and changed over a 50 year period into not only the magical story it is today, but also the piece of reading history it now is. Run, I say run, don't walk, to the nearest place where you can pick up this masterwork from a master writer and buy it now. William F. Nolan, another master of writing such novels as "Logan's Run" gives an insightful and moving introduction to this wonderful novella as well. I give this all the stars in the sky out of 5 stars, and highly and happily recommend it to any reader to buy and keep forever.
Fred E. Killinger Jr.
September 5, 2007