“There Will Come Soft Rains” Short Story Review

You may have heard that Ray Bradbury, the author of one of my favorite books Fahrenheit 451, sadly passed away this week.  So I decided to write a review on one of his short stories.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” was originally published in the May 6, 1950 issue of Collier’s.   It’s the story of an autonomous house (through the dizzying integration of various AIs) that has kept on going after its occupants perished in a devastating nuclear strike.

One word review: Woh.

More than one word review:

This is a fabulous short story.  One of the few places that writers fear to tread is when a story (or a segment of the story) does not have any human characters.  Bradbury forms a story about what humans have left behind.  We have legions of robot mice, virtual animals, a lonely cigar, a diligent garage door, cheerful sprinklers, a scary incinerator, and (among many other interesting things) a central AI that is humorously unaware of its master’s fate.  It all just keeps on going.  Woh.

I like this story a lot.  I’ll make that clear.  There are no humans in it but there is plenty of life in the shrinking vacuum of their absence.  Bradbury inserts physical details of a scene that would have been completely unnecessary in a story centered around people, but work wonders in a post-human landscape.  Each of the little quirks are characters unto themselves as they dutifully carry on their responsibilities to the perfect letter of their original design.  Nothing less will suffice.  The garage door opens at a certain time and for a certain time, but at no point does it think to question otherwise even after outliving its usefulness.  A dedicated character that is absolutely blind to the nihilism around it.  So let it be well known that the “Soft Rains” garage door is one of the most tragic heroes in all of literature.

I’ll also say that it’s not just about this little robot house.  There is a conflict and it gets nasty.  You won’t get bored.  Only a few pages and its all over.  Doesn’t outwear its welcome and the time it stays over is very well used.

In the Canon?  Tell it to my great x 1034 grandchildren?  Yeah, why the heck not.  I like this story and I’d highly recommend it to others.  Only real reticence is the fact that its first entry into the Canon.  Which it is!

 

If you’d like an easy way to read “There Will Come Soft Rains”, you can read it like I did in The Story and Its Writer.  Or you can read it in The Martian Chronicles.

SPOILERS, here we come!

 

You’ve been warned.

If there is one thing to say about the final page or so when the house is “dying” and eventually “dead” is that what man does never lasts.  This is part of the groundwork of the Christian faith.  What God does endures and is perfect, what man does is never perfect and always eventually fails outside the work of God.  Men are never justified in the sight of God because of their own goodness in accepting Him, they are justified because God drew them with His wonderful gospel.

So what we have in the story is the revealing of what will happen to all your things and its really quite humbling.  For you personally, you will die.  Perhaps like the family in the story in the flash of an instant or maybe not.  But all the things you built up over time will eventually return to dust.

It’s at least interesting that Bradbury calls out the scary incinerator as “Baal.”  Just what does all of our stuff amount to?  Look in some Buddhist homes and you’ll find that the arrangement of the furniture is centered so they all face a statue of the Buddha.  Look in many American homes and the furniture is aligned to point toward the television set.  Now am I condemning television or the abundance of material things?  No, absolutely not.

One of our central struggles is that of wealth.  We tend to worship our things and ascribe to them ultimate value, meaning, and purpose.  Is getting exciting about your new phone bad?  No, not necessarily.  But look at your heart.  If you’re worshiping that phone (or if your world revolves around it), then you got yourself a Baal.  So keep in mind when getting so excited about the things of man.  Are they fun? Yeah!  But they make poor gods.

 

Consider Isaiah 44:12-17:

12  The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14  He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

 

Isaiah wants to point out how silly idolatry is.  How blessed we are to have a God that is not made but makes us.  Think about that for a second.  What is made will be limited by the confines of its creator.  Meaning if we make a god, it’s at least smaller than us.  And that’s just moronic.

I  want and have a God that I can trust in that is bigger than me.  Jesus was tempted in all ways that I am.  My computer hasn’t.  Neither have any of my books or video games.  I have a God that is bigger than me and can still relate.  One word review: Woh.

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2 Responses to ““There Will Come Soft Rains” Short Story Review”

  1. Hey, Alex. I didn’t read after the spoiler bit but what you wrote above it has me intrigued. I will definitely be reading the story. Thanks.

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