In an attempt to get back to my nerd roots, I’ve been seeking out a lot of old sci-fi lately. That’s sci-fi radio, the original Jeckyll & The Time Machine, some old sci-fi short stories … and this here book by Richard Matheson, “Button, Button.”
Mattheson wrote a lot of old Twilight Zone episodes (the few that Serling didn’t write himself), and did the original stories for “I Am Legend,” “Somewhere in Time” and “What Dreams May Come.” The proximate cause for this collection is the movie “The Box,” starring Cameron Diaz, based on the title story “Button, Button.”
The stories themselves cover a lot of ground. The title story feels like original Twilight Zone. In my head, I saw it in black and white, the wife played by Agnes Moorehead or someone like that. The twist is pretty corny, but there are worse ways to pass 20 minutes.
“Girl of My Dreams” reads like an especially dark Twilight Zone … a small-time hood romances a girl who can see the future, and is left with a terrible prophecy for himself. “Mute” is a domestic drama about a mute boy who can read feelings, not words. A few are lighthearted, like “A Flourish of Strumpets,” about a door-to-door prostitution service; and “The Creeping Terror” a truly wacky piece about Los Angeles spreading across the country. I’m not so sure that didn’t happen.
I read this book about six months ago, and I had to get it back out of the library to review it. Danged if I could remember any of the individual stories, other than “Mute” and “Button, Button.” I just have an impression of SO MANY TWIST endings.
In terms of quality, it’s solid. But more than that, the stories tend to be about ideas, rather than being action movies in space, as much of our modern sci-fi is. And it’s an interesting look at the early days of our sci-fi cliches.