2012 Book 135: The Martian Chronicles
Written by Ray Bradbury, Narrated by Peter Marinker
This is a collection of Ray Bradbury’s Mars colonization stories which were originally published in pulp magazines over a period of a few years. They are independent of each other in plot, but it is fascinating how Bradbury managed to pull them all together in a cohesive whole which told a story in itself. This book is considered the bridge between classic pulp science fiction (which targeted lowest-common-denominator audiences) and the more thoughtful and sophisticated modern science fiction. The stories have the same raw imagination as pulp, but each one tackles one or more social issues as well. The stories are fast and fun, and yet intriguing.
My favorite story is about two missionaries bent on saving the Martians from sins that we humans haven’t even imagined yet. The philosophical discussion of sin and the ironic use of Christian symbolism meshed surprisingly well with the sf-pulpy imagery. Bradbury also touched on evils-of-colonization, race-relations and xenophobia, and politics…to name but a few issues. I was also impressed by Bradbury’s expectations of “the future” (1999 – 2020). Unavoidably, some of his themes were dated–we no longer worry about nuclear holocaust and (I hope!) lynch mobs are very rare in the US these days. He didn’t foresee the civil rights movement or the cooling of the arms race. Despite this lack of foresight, he showed that humans never change. We may think we’re living in an enlightened age, but xenophobia still exists and we’re still willing to destroy the history and of an old land in order to set up our new world. Yes, I did feel that the stories tended to be a bit on the dreary side, but for some reason it didn’t bother me so much because it was made palatable by Bradbury’s fantastic imagination.
This is a fantastic classic that any science fiction fan should read.
8 thoughts on “The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury”
They do say that all fiction is a product of its time and I think this is so true of The Martian Chronicles.
I don't think that Bradbury was particularly interested in the future, he was simply using it as a setting to talk about the present and the problems of the present as he saw it.
This is my first Bradbury, I must read more 🙂
Hmmm, I sort of interpreted it as a message that even though we might move to new places we never change. 🙂 I haven't read as much Bradbury as I ought to have. He wrote so many classics!
Oh, I really need to read more Bradbury. I've only recently started to explore classic science fiction, and he is a must! -Sarah
Hi again Sarah! As far as classic SF goes, Bradbury most certain IS a must. 🙂
I still have to finish Fahrenheit 451 (only because I need to borrow it again from a friend who wanted to finish it first), but I have been wondering about his other books. This sounds like a great addition to the classic sci-fi canon!
hi Chinoiseries! I think this book is certainly his most popular set of short stories. 🙂 I, also, have to read Fahrenheit 451…so many books, so little time.
I adore Ray Bradbury. I like how you've reviewed this one — with the comparisons to sf conventions and the social themes he brings out. He has such a power of imagination in his concepts and even in the way he writes. I really do think everyone should read Bradbury 🙂
Melwyk: I agree, everyone should try a Bradbury book at some point in their lives. Those who just scoff at it as “genre fiction” are missing out on some imaginative and revealing stories!