The Toynbee Convector (Magill Book Reviews)
Reading THE TOYNBEE CONVECTOR is a bit like watching Willie Mays in his last season, a shadow of his former self. The analogy is not exact; unlike athletes, writers do not necessarily decline as they age. Still, the author of these stories--the Bradbury of the 1980’s--could not write a book like THE ILLUSTRATED MAN or THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.
The title story, “The Toynbee Convector,” is typical of the collection. It is set in the late twenty-first century, and the world it depicts is much more hopeful than our own. How has this transformation been brought about? Late in the twentieth century, a man named Craig Bennett Stiles pretended to travel into the future, “returning” with tapes and films which he had faked to simulate a glorious world free of pollution, free of war. The time traveler’s benign trickery was accepted by the millions who watched his televised report on the future: Thus inspired, humankind proceeded to make Stiles’s lie a reality.
The story is a fable, then, meant to counter the negative thinking that has characterized so many state-of-the-world assessments in the 1980’s. Given that intent, it would be unfair to fault Bradbury for a lack of realism, yet even on its own terms, as a fable, the story does not work. The language is trite, the sentiments are saccharine (in a typical bit of overkill, the time traveler speaks of a world which has “cured cancer and stopped death”); there are no individual details...
(The entire section is 315 words.)
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