Friday, April 27, 2018

Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

It's 1999 and the people of Earth send rockets to Mars. These trips aren't just scientific exploration, they are colonization. The first few expeditions run into trouble with the locals. Martians are telepathic (so no need for translators) and, in a classic Bradbury twist, benignly skeptical about their visitors. A mission finally succeeds when the Martians have disappeared. People flood away from Earth. They hope for new opportunities and escape from old oppressions.

After the first expeditions, the book focuses on the odd and interesting individuals who come to Mars. The political and technical situation is entirely secondary to the stories. The threat of a global atomic war on Earth looms in the background, but there's hardly any mention of government on Mars, other than a story where a man recreates Edgar Allan Poe's House of Usher. The construction is deemed forbidden and offensive by the Moral Climates Department (an unfortunate import from Earth) and the eccentric homemaker gets his night of glory before the house is destroyed. The Earth war eventually breaks out, the main effect on the story being a rush on the luggage store (whose owner was ready) and the collapse of a hot dog stand (whose owner was not ready for the weird feedback he gets). And the depopulation of Mars.

The book is anachronistic, with actual Martians who have built cities on Mars and boats for the water-filled canals. Some readers will be put off by that, which is tragic since the stories are so full of imagination and wonder. Bradbury's style is very poetic and draws vivid pictures of people and places. The writing is fun, thoughtful, and generally optimistic.

Highly recommended for those who can stand a bit of fiction in their fiction.

Also, the book is discussed on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, which inspired my re-reading of this classic.

No comments:

Post a Comment