Echoes of Thunder
“The Sound of Thunder” is probably one of the first stories written by Ray Bradbury I have ever read. I can’t remember the grade I was in when I read it but it was part of the readings for the English class that year. This story has stuck with me for most of my life at this point. It is also the first story within the The Best of Ray Bradbury the graphic novel. If you remember I wrote about “Picasso Summer” and “A Piece of Wood” from this collection already.
In a nutshell this is a time travel story that plays on the consequences of traveling through time. The gist is a safari company that takes customers back in time to kill dinosaurs. Of course, they do this in a prescribed way in order to protect the timeline. They have all sorts of safeguards in place to ensure there isn’t a moron that does something stupid and the world they come back to is changed. Of course, because what is the thrust of a story like this, there is a moron and the timeline is going to change.
Of course, we don’t know that going in. But the way the story plays out, you have to expect it. Based on the clues laid out in the beginning of the story we see the things that will definitely change and know how horrible it is going to be by the time we get to the end of the story. This is the beauty of the story. The whole story plays on the concept of time and makes the reader part of the time travel journey with the characters. We can already see the future and what is going to happen while at the same time being stuck in the process of living in the present and having no chance to change the future that is coming towards us.
The story takes the concept of the butterfly effect and illustrates what will happen if you change one thing, no matter how minor, it will change the future in quite possibly disastrous ways. And the best part of that, it is actually a butterfly that is used as the symbol within the story as the thing to cause this change. Oh sure, it is the moron that breaks the rules and steps on the butterfly but still the butterfly was the important key in the changes to come.
The concepts of storytelling used within this story are telegraphed and right out in the open for the reader to find. As a teaching tool alone this can be an awesome story. But it is in the openness of the concepts that the true beauty is found. Even as the reader is conscious of how the story manipulates the reader, we are still drawn into the illusion of the story. It’s a bit like going to Disneyland and you know you are going there. You know exactly what to expect and still it excites you and draws you into the magic of the park.
Like I said, this is one of my favorite stories from Bradbury. It is one that we could spend all sorts of time exploring and still not learn everything it has to offer us. But that is the beauty of stories like this, they have a pull that bring us back to their pages again and again.
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