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Book Review: The Toynbee Convector

December 21, 2021

The Toynbee Convector is a collection of 23 short stories by Science Fiction pioneer Ray Bradbury. It’s also the name of the first short story in the collection. The book was published in 1988. Certainly not the oldest book I’ve reviewed, but also not new. I’ve looked for the short story The Toynbee Convector for years.

The short story is a time travel story. But, it has an odd name. It’s named for Arnold Toynbee, an English historian and philosopher of history. Toynbee studied the rise and fall of 26 civilizations and concluded they rose by responding successfully to challenges under the leadership of creative minorities composed of elite leaders. There’s a reason that Bradbury chose to name his short story after Toynbee.

The story is about a time traveller who tells people he’s traveled 100 years into the future, seen how much the world cleaned itself up. Society responds to his revelation and does in fact clean itself up. (Spoiler alert!) He admits on the date of his “arrival” that he in fact lied about the whole thing.

It’s clear why Bradbury chose to name his story after Toynbee. The problem of world pollution was cleaned up due to people believing they could.

The Toynbee Convector, the book is 225 pages long. The Toynbee Convector, the short story is 11 pages. Why have I spent all this time focused on just the one short story? Because, it’s the entire reason I bought the book. And in fact, while short stories are my favorite type of story, Bradbury’s work is a mixed bag. The Toynbee Convector is every bit as good as I remember it. But, several of the stories fail to rise to the level of the namesake story.

I’m glad I bought the book. I’m glad to finally add The Toynbee Convector to my library, even if it’s just a 30 year old used paperback.

What I Liked

The first story, of course. Bradbury’s writing is timeless. The book is 30 years old. And many of the stories predate that, of course. But, they don’t feel “old.” They do what great science fiction should do. They take the reader far away, or very close to home. And, I enjoy short stories as a format.

What I Didn’t

Sadly, much of the book. The signature story had a clever reveal and engaging story. But, not all the stories had a similar reveal. Some where character studies. Some where travelogues. One bordered on pornagraphic. Some were excellent. Some were good and some were mediocre.

What It Means To You

If you are a Bradbury fan, you’ll find things in The Toynbee Convector that you’ll enjoy. As I said, the first story was worth it for me. If you are a science fiction fan, I’m not sure there’ll be enough to engage you for the entire 225 pages.

My Rating

4 stars out of 4: The Toynbee Convector short story
2 stars out of 4: The Toynbee Convector book

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Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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