The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, 1950
The magic trick:
Maximizing the story’s horror and suspense
“The Veldt” has more than one magic trick going for it. Certainly, the satire, the social commentary, and the eerie-accurate portrait of a future over-reliant on technology, all bear mention. Those are the tropes, however, of the best science fiction. Bradbury is so much more than a genre specialist. He is a master storyteller, regardless of categorization, and his craft shines through in “The Veldt.”
Every sentence, every word, is expertly placed, building toward the terrifying conclusion. Bradbury is in complete control, giving enough clues to the reader to illuminate the path but never totally throwing light on the destination until we get there.
The pacing of the story is remarkable. The reader gathers that things are a little “off” in the fifth sentence when Lydia Hadley suggests her husband call the psychologist in to look at the nursery. The madness builds slowly from there – first the notion of the nursery door buckling under pressure from the lions; later, the saliva-soaked wallet. Along the way, the reader perceives the Hadley children as innocent angels or perhaps typically mischievous youth or perhaps seriously deranged murderers.
It’s quite the trip, and one that is authored with supreme efficiency and craft. And that’s quite a trick on Bradbury’s part.
George Hadley walked through the singing glade and picked up something that lay in the comer near where the lions had been. He walked slowly back to his wife.
“What is that?” she asked. “An old wallet of mine,” he said.
He showed it to her. The smell of hot grass was on it and the smell of a lion. There were drops of saliva on it, it bad been chewed, and there were blood smears on both sides. He closed the nursery door and locked it, tight.