This book is for my edge book club so look forward to a post about our meeting in early January. I think it will be an interesting discussion.
I’ve never been much of one for science fiction, but our facilitator said she’d have me read a science fiction book by the time she was through with me and she succeeded. Well, I listened to it, but I think that counts still. Or, I hope it does.
The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories that Bradbury wrote focusing on the human colonization of Mars. The book starts off with the four successive exploratory missions of human spacemen to Mars to see if the planet is fit to inhabit. Subsequent stories talk about human adjustment to life on the new planet from how they change it to be more like Earth, the relationship with those back on Earth, and interactions with the native Martians. In the end, another World War starts on Earth and everyone goes home, leaving a stranded few on Mars for the forseeable future as rocket technology is wiped out on Earth.
I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would from the description. To me, Martians and aliens had a very 1970s feel and wasn’t something I was interested in. It goes to show how cutting edge Bradbury’s book is because it was published in 1950. (For the record, I’ve typed 1920 when trying to put a year every time. Can you tell what my favorite decade is?) This says to me that Bradbury inspired all the Twilight Zone reruns I watched as a child. Kudos to him.
I liked that the main character was the setting, Mars. It was the one thing that strung the stories together because characters changed in each one with only a few repeated. The long list of characters didn’t bother me because I approached the piece as a collection and not as a novel. This kind of answers a question I posted before about the difference between the two: It’s all about reader’s expectations for a level of consistency. I just finished another short story collection where the characters were consistent, but the setting and time were not. That didn’t bother me because I expected the setting to change.
There are a ton of popular cultures references in the stories that help make them relatable despite the futuristic setting. My favorite was the story “Usher II” which described a house built in the style of the House of Usher from Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher.” There were tons of Poe references in the story and I’m a fan of his work so I was laughing the whole time.
One of the themes that rang oh-so-true today was conservation of the Earth. The people of Earth were coming to Mars to get away from nuclear war and the over-population there. 60 years after it’s publication, humans are still looking for ways to avoid these problems. If, like Bradbury suggests, the atmosphere on Mars was breathable for humans, I think it’s likely we would start to colonize the planet. The ending idea is that humans hold the power to destroy our own civilization and that our advancements in technology also have the ability to cripple our technology and send it backwards in development. Wow. Bradbury was very far ahead of his time.
When he was writing this, the world was going through/recovering from World War II and the threat of nuclear annihiliation. I think Bradbury’s ending depicts the fears that people at the time had of a nuclear war. These fears continued through the Cold War era and I think are still relatable today with the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea.
Writer’s Takeaway: I love when authors are able to drive home a political point without hitting you over the head with it. Bradbury does a wonderful job. Many people write with a political agenda, but the most affective pieces are ones where the reader finds out slowly.
Enjoyable read even for someone who’s not in to science fiction. 4 out of 5 stars.
Until next time, write on.