Bradbury Daily: “The Man Upstairs”

Not a great story to read during or after eating. Even I felt a little queasy reading the opening paragraph, and I’m not too easily affected by things that fall under the category of “squick.” Just a fair warning to anyone planning to read this one.

In some ways this story feels a bit like a spiritual precursor to The Shining. We follow the curiosities of a young boy living with his grandparents who rent rooms out to people. So, obviously it’s quite different from The Shining given that there are occupants in the rooms rather than an empty haunted hotel. But it is similar enough in the broad strokes that I have to wonder if King was influenced by it in some small way.

At any rate, it’s a little hard to get into the details of the story without giving it away; it’s in many ways a supernatural mystery. A new boarder arrives, and Douglas (the young boy in question) feels there is something not quite right about the man. And so we follow his investigation, as it were, of the mysterious Mr. Koberman.

As a supernatural story, it is a bit weak, but it still works fairly well, for the most part. There are some details about the ending that feel hokey, to say the least, but the ending itself if fine. Again, being more specific would really ruin the story, and though it’s not the best one ever, it is worth reading. So I’d like to avoid ruining it.

I suppose there are some things that are predictable. About two-thirds of the way into the story there’s a conversation that gives away part of the ending — not that the ending is flat out spoiled, but any astute reader can figure out right away what the import of the conversation is.

It should be noted that Bradbury does an excellent job portraying Douglas as a bit of an… odd child. There are many things about him that are quite normal for a young boy, but there are a few proclivities that set him quite apart from the norm. Of course, the way Bradbury chooses to illustrate these, while quite well done, such as the opening paragraph I talked about, also serve to make the details of the ending seem even weaker. Again, I want to make clear that I’m talking about certain specific details here, not the actual events of the ending.

It’s a little hard to make my points clear when I’m trying not to spoil the story, but if you read it and then look back at this review I think you’ll have a better understanding of what I’m trying to say. Ultimately, this is a pretty good story, with a few flaws. They aren’t deal-breakers, but they do weaken the impact of the story a bit.

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