Bradbury Daily: “The Long Rain”

There was a lot about this story that I liked. Including the opening paragraph, which at the very least borders on purple prose:

The rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped.

Talk about a long description. But it’s a really well-written paragraph despite the fact that it’s overkill. Or maybe because of that fact.

This is the first story in this collection set on a planet other than Earth THAT ISN’T MARS. I think I actually said “Not Mars!” out loud the first time someone mentioned that the setting was Venus.

There’s some stuff in here that’s troubling, scientifically speaking; first off, perpetual rain just doesn’t make any sense, especially on the planet that’s second closest to the Sun. In fact, according to my cursory research, Venus is actually the hottest planet in the Solar System, and is a dry desert that may once have contained oceans that have been vaporized by the heat. It’s also covered in clouds of sulfuric acid. So, a pretty horrid environment and the complete opposite of the rain-drenched swampland Bradbury presents. I assume none of this was common knowledge when Bradbury was writing the story, though, so it’s really an effect of modern knowledge ruining stories from a more uninformed time.

The other thing I noticed was that the rain is mentioned on more than one occasion as bleaching the color from things, including human beings. Which sounds extremely unhealthy, to say the least. If the rain is bleaching you, you’re probably going to get some sort of poisoning or cancer or something. There’s a reason you’re not supposed to get bleach on your skin or in any bodily openings.

There are only two things which killed this story for me, which means that instead of liking the story, I liked certain aspects of it. The first thing comes about halfway into the story, maybe a bit earlier, when the characters encounter some sort of giant lightning monster, basically described as a walking lightning storm. Honestly, it’s really hard to tell if the talk of it being a monster was metaphorical for the immensity of a passing lightning storm, or if it was really a living thing. But it felt tacked on and was probably the weakest part of the story.

The second thing that ruined it for me was the ending, so if you don’t want to know about that skip to the part of this post that says “END SPOILERS.”

While I was reading this I was heavily reminded of Stephen King’s The Mist, mainly because of the whole “surviving in extreme weather” thing, and also because of the random, stupid monster that didn’t really have a purpose except to kill of a character. But the problem is that The Mishad two endings, depending on if you’re looking at the novella or the film. The novella ends on a somewhat hopeful note but does hint at the ending of the film, a MUCH darker ending with a twisted and ironic tragedy. Both of those endings work, though I much prefer the film ending for its sheer brilliance and ballsy-ness.

“The Long Rain,” however, doesn’t really have a satisfying ending. Everyone except the Lieutenant dies and then he finds the Sun Dome. It’s supposed to have that irony that worked so well in The Mist, but it didn’t really work. Maybe because I didn’t care about the dead characters, maybe because it didn’t really feel like the dead characters would have had a chance anyway (where as in The Mist they were seconds away from salvation). But the whole thing fell flat. I almost wanted it to end with the Lieutenant not finding the Sun Dome and falling into the same madness that took the rest of his crew. At least then there would have been a sense that there was something worth reading the story for. But as it stands, when I got to the end I found myself wondering what the point was. Everyone died but him and for what? For a lackluster story with a weak ending and a random monster for no reason.

END SPOILERS.

Overall the story is incredibly well written in terms of the actual prose. Obviously in terms of the plotting and such I have issues, but the writing itself is beautiful. From an artistic standpoint it’s certainly worth reading. But if you’re looking for a good story, this one’s a bit weak.

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