Bradbury’s Mars is a place of hope, dreams and metaphor – of crystal pillars and fossil seas – where a fine dust settles on the great, empty cities of a silently destroyed civilization. It is here the invaders have come to despoil and commercialize, to grow and to learn – first a trickle, then a torrent, rushing from a world with no future toward a promise of tomorrow. The Earthman conquers Mars…and then is conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race.
This is the second work of Bradbury’s that I have read, the first being The Illustrated Man. The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories, like Illustrated Man, except that the former is a much more cohesive collection than the latter. It is a collection of stories with similar setting, themes, and a definite chronology, while IM is a mixture of seemingly unrelated stories tied together by a barely present premise. Despite their differences, I really love both collections. Even though Bradbury is a master of the story story, I’m still really excited to read some of his novels.
The Martian Chronicles is the story of various space missions to Mars, eventual colonization of the planet, and what that means for the native people on Mars, the different types of Earthmen who visit, and what that colonization means for Earth. Each story or vignette has a date that goes along with the story, and the stories appear in chronological order, starting in 1999 and ending in 2026. It was first published in 1950, although it contains a few stories previously published separately. The stories are interwoven, although there is very little character or setting overlap. It’s a very speculative and cautionary tale, heavily featuring themes of loneliness, destruction, and racism (towards the people on Earth and Mars, from both parties). It’s technically science fiction, but it’s really more like fantasy that happens to be set in space to me. There’s no focus on scientific details or specifics, instead focusing on the themes and plotting of short stories.
It’s undeniable that Bradbury’s prose is absolutely gorgeous. His writing is dreamlike, lyrical, and poetic. There were some passages I came across that were so lovely that I had to read them out loud several times because I just loved how beautiful they were. Each story is well-crafted, interesting, dramatic, mysterious, and a topic or story never feels repeated. All the stories are memorable and special in their own way, and there were none that I really felt like were worse than the others, and the narrative moves so well even though there is no fixed setting or characters or subject. All throughout hangs a haunting feeling of sadness and mystery, and a sense of nostalgia. The feeling stayed with me even after I was done reading and it was packed with thought-provoking ideas that I couldn’t get out of my head. I don’t know what else to say other than that I’m in love with Bradbury’s storytelling. I love it.
Genre: Science Fiction, Short Story
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics