Martian Chronicles

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martian.gif

Ray Bradbury

Genres:
Sci-Fi, Short stories

Summary:
Arranged in a sporadic chronology, each of these stories tells about man's attempt to colonize Mars. Mars, however, is already populated by golden-eyed beings similar to humans in appearance but very different in other ways.

Although each story is unique and relatively independent, they all generally tell of the extinction of the Martian civilization as humans try to change the planet into something similar to that which they left behind--Earth.

Some stories are serious, such as those telling of the death of Martians from plagues brought by man. Others are lighter such as "The Silent Towns" where the last man on Mars ends up on a blind date. Most of the stories in this collection revolve around humanity's need for the familiar and their need to shape the unknown into something familiar. This is evident in the nostalgic feel of some of the colonists' homes with their hot dog stands, lemonade, and windchimes:

"From the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye." -- "The Locusts"

Response:
It's difficult to specifically review the book as a whole without detailing each story, and I feel that would ruin the readers' individual interpretations of Bradbury's tales. How's that for saying I'm lazy and don't want to chronicle each story?

This book is a surreal trip that flips between future and past. It's great because Brabury takes something unknown like the Martian terrain and sticks a piece of nostalgia like a tinkling lemonade glass in the middle. I feel that this is one of the strongest ways that Bradbury weaves his theme of humanity's insistence on the familiar and known in the face of "the Other" (to use Freud's coinage).

The similarities between the plight of the native Martians and that of real historical colonizations cannot be ignored here. This gives the all-important intellectual and historical application we love in science fiction so we can prove that this genre really can be intellectually worthy and important to the mainstream.

The only complaint truly technical scifi fans might have is the unrealistic portrayal of the planet Mars and its colonization. Ok, so colonists can breathe there perfectly without adapting to atmospheric and pressure variances. So what? This book is not a handbook for starting your own colony on Mars; it is a sci-fi collection laced with fantasy that has more humanist themes than "how to build your own rocket."

Point Blank:
Well worth reading. A surreal, dreamy journey through many characters' attempts to establish home while inadvertently destroying one. Quintessential Bradbury.