May 26, 2019

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Sometimes classed as fantasy, the Martian Chronicles is written in an elegant style. While not steeped in hard science like Clarke or Asimov, Ray Bradbury introduces a certain poetic read to science fiction. The setting is a very Lowellian Mars as envisioned in the early 20th century. Man tries and fails three separate attempts to colonize Mars only to find out on the fourth that the native Martians were wiped out after being exposed to the chicken pox virus, a sort of “War of the Worlds” solution in reverse. Bradbury continues to parallel interplanetary colonization with the settling of the Americas, a theme that hadn’t yet been beaten to death. Especially of note is how truly alien Bradbury’s Martians appear; not many Sci-Fi novels and fewer still movies or television shows pull this off well. At most, we’re expected to believe in Star Trek-like aliens that have a few cosmetic differences but have basically a human appearance and motives. The Martians portrayed are utterly incomprehensible to humans. I especially liked the “bee-gun” and sunflower like house…this work still begs a proper Hollywood production!

Later on, the focus turns towards human colonization and migration to the red planet. Keep in mind when reading; this was the post Viking/Mariner Mars… until the 1960s, some hope was still held out that a sunny day on Mars was, say, like a bad day in the Arizona desert. Themes of nuclear apocalypse are also present here. Masterfully, Bradbury also predicts the clash of science and humanism, a theme he expanded in another outstanding work, “Fahrenheit 451″. An outstanding chapter doesn’t even take place on Mars;”The Robotic House” stands mute and alone but still functioning after the devastation.
Without realizing it, Bradbury’s human colonists have resumed the mantle; they have become the Martians. And ultimately, that may be the role we assume once we have finally set foot on Mars.
“The Martian Chronicles” definitely stands as mandatory reading to grasp the feel and influence it continues to have on modern science fiction.

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