Fiction. Literature. Science Fiction. Short Stories. HTML: Mars was a distant shore, and the men spread upon it in waves... Each wave different, and each wave stronger. The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury is a storyteller without peer, a poet of the possible, and, indisputably, one of America's most beloved authors. In a much celebrated literary career that has spanned six decades, he has produced an astonishing body of work: unforgettable novels, including Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes; essays, theatrical works, screenplays and teleplays; The Illustrated Mein, Dandelion Wine, The October Country, and numerous other superb short story collections. But of all the dazzling stars in the vast Bradbury universe, none shines more luminous than these masterful chronicles of Earth's settlement of the fourth world from the sun. 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. Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is a classic work of twentieth-century literature whose extraordinary power and imagination remain undimmed by time's passage. In connected, chronological stories, a true grandmaster once again enthralls, delights and challenges us with his vision and his heart-starkly and stunningly exposing in brilliant spacelight our strength, our weakness, our folly, and our poignant humanity on a strange and breathtaking world where humanity does not belong..
Original publication date
That said, Bradbury is imaginative and often writes beautifully and strikingly especially when depicting his Martians--their contact with Earthmen is poignant and tragic--reminiscent of the collision and destruction when the Old and New World of Earth met. I think the most powerful parts of the book are the ones that were originally published on their own as short stories, especially "--And the Moon Be Still as Bright," "The Off Season" and "There Will Come Soft Rains." And I still found the close powerful and moving.
Some characters appear multiple times throughout the book but mostly it is the planet - the strange alien atmosphere - that strings together Bradbury's vignettes. The entries are at times chilling and suspenseful while others are lighthearted and humorous and still more provide biting social commentary. Uniting them all, is Bradbury's masterful prose and textured descriptions that bring rich life to Mars and it's alien inhabitants.
Oftentimes science fiction is a genre avoided because it can seem too "out there", yet Martian Chronicles - though riddled with rockets and robots - is as much about human sensibilities as it is about futuristic space adventures. This is a novel that can be appreciated by lovers of the sci-fi genre as well as those first encountering Bradbury's work. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
However, the good news is that he wasn't, and while all of those tendencies are on display here, they're restrained and put to use in the service of much more worthy ends. His pastoralism is neatly subverted in "The Third Mission," where the idyllic American small town of his youth turns out to be a death trap. His PC persecution complex at least leads to some good if implausible meta-literary fun in "Usher II". But what's most interesting is that he deploys these conservative impulses mostly in the service of what we'd think of today as liberal causes. He tackles racism in "Way in the Middle of the Air," sexism in "Ylla", "Madness and Civilization" sorts of issues regarding the societal construction of mental illness in "The Earth Men", and nuclear weapons and ecology throughout. He even displays an almost Edward Abbeyesque radical environmentalism in "The Moon Be Still As Bright," which for me is the best story in the collection. This is pretty progressive stuff for the early Fifties.
Politics aside though, what sticks with you from the Martian Chronicles and what makes it great is the imagination and the atmosphere. It's just a short story collection, but it manages to create and embody a world and a culture and an era in ways that subsequent huge multi-volume Scifi series can't approach. I've read quite a bit of Mars literature since The Martian Chronicles, but Bradbury's Mars is still the Mars I see in my mind, and that's quite an accomplishment.
Although Bradbury cited Burroughs' Barsoom and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio as literary influences, the title here aptly alludes to the "chronicle" or annal genre of historical recording as developed in the middle ages. Most of the book is taken up with short stories which represent some development in the human tenancy of Mars, and these are interspersed with shorter descriptive passages characterizing the time. All are headed with the month and year, and arranged in chronological sequence. Many of the stories, and most of the longer ones, were published independently in periodicals (mainstream and pulps) prior to their collection here, and the character overlap from one story to another is minimal, but they do all fit into a single continuity.
This book is neither sword-and-planet fantasy, nor futurist sf. The narrative voice reminded me of no one so much as R.A. Lafferty. It is set in the period from 1998 to 2026, and with the exception of fairly convenient interplanetary travel by "rocket" and some fanciful luxury automation, nothing much seems to have changed materially since 1950. On Bradbury's 21st-century Mars, people listen to phonographs (jukeboxes, even!) and build houses out of wood imported from Earth. Earth itself is on the brink of mutually-assured nuclear destruction. Ultimately, the book didn't read as if it were about Mars or the 21st century at all. It's a set of fables that use Mars to reflect on very terrestrial, very American, very mid-20th-century concerns.
The book has its unity of place (i.e. Mars) violated twice by stories set on Earth. The first of these is "Way in the Middle of the Air" (replaced in the 1997 revision), which presents a Southern town in a 2003 US without any of the consequences of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The result is fairly surreal for a reader today, and certainly interesting as a reflection on understandings of race in the US in 1950. Although "Way in the Middle of the Air" witnesses an exodus to Mars of the town's entire black population, it is the only story in the book that seems to have any human characters who are not presumptively white.
The second non-Martian story is the penultimate one of the book: "There Will Come Soft Rains." This one had nothing whatsoever to do with Mars, and just seemed out of place, even though it was set in the future history defined in the book. I had actually read this story separately many years ago, but had forgotten--if I ever knew--that it was included here. On it's own feet, it's quite good: very evocative. It is a contemplation of human impermanence, using an automated household to rehearse the habits of vanished humans--habits that seemed very 1950 for 2026 (to say nothing of 2056).
Just as the Civil Rights Movement was absent from the continuity of these stories, so too were the Sexual Revolution and the feminist developments of the late 20th century. In the opening story, the domestic scene of native Martians (a race nearly extinct by the later time of human settlement) seemed almost to be satirizing American middle-class marriage circa 1950. In general, human women are objects with little agency in this book. There is an odd and elliptical reference after describing the hard men who were the first to work the Martian frontier: "Everyone knew who the first women would be" (87). But Bradbury doesn't say. Prostitutes, I suppose?
The story that I found most surprising and gratifying was "Usher II," at roughly the midpoint of the volume. It is sort of a Martian Chronicles counterpart to Bradbury's novel Farenheit 451, contemplating a draconian, biblioclastic censorship regime. In "Usher II," though, the censorship seems to be especially trained on fantasy, weird fiction, and horror; or at any rate, these are the constraints which the story's protagonist William Stendahl most resents. He takes advantage of the Martian isolation from censoring agencies to create a haunted house that will manifest all of his fondest tropes from Poe. The mood here is very different from that of Farenheit 451, and the motivation is not resistance but revenge.
The book as a whole is divided into three rough arcs: exploration, settlement, and retreat. There is an elegiac element even to the first section, due to the vanishment of the telepathic natives and the ways that they evoke lost desires from the explorers. The third section is somewhat perplexing, in the insistence that with the outbreak of cataclysmic war on Earth, everybody on Mars would want to go back there. If it were true of some, or even many, there would certainly also be many who would want to stay clear. Bradbury at least rationalizes against war refugees going to Mars because their rockets would be shot down by the Terrestrial states at war.
My 1963 pocket paperback copy of the book includes a foreword by literary critic Clifton Fadiman, who wants to emphasize Bradbury's role as a "moralist." It may be a fair tag for Bradbury, but I don't think there's even one of the various cautionary tales among The Martian Chronicles that supports Fadiman's notion that Bradbury is warning us off space travel altogether. Nor do I suppose, for all that this Mars now carries a thick perfume of nostalgia, that Bradbury shared Fadiman's pronounced neophobia. If there's a single "moral" that brackets the whole book, it's one also perpetuated in the later Martian sagas of Robinson and McDonald: Emigration to Mars won't allow us to escape our humanity, and being human won't immunize us from becoming Martian.
Two things are surprising about these two classics: they are still relevant almost fifty years later; and the older I get, the more meaning they have for me. I first read these novels as a teenager, but my second reading has revealed nuances
When it works, it works because Bradbury is, at the sentence level, such a good writer. The parts of "The Martian Chronicles" that describe the Martians and the structures that they leave behind are genuinely haunting and beautiful: you can feel the ruins' silence and power. The guy was a real master of atmosphere. Whatever other problems it might have, "The Martian Chronicles" remains a joy to read.
Before he died, Bradbury voiced support for the Tea Party movement, which caused a lot of anguish in leftish literary circles. But I don't think that, as some suggested, he was just going senile: there's a lot of forthrightly populist material here, particularly in the chapter in which a man constructs a replica of Poe's "House of Usher" in which to trap and kill a bunch of academic social-improvement types who would criticize or ban fantasy literature. Of course, Bradbury's political views also seem to contain some particularly, maddeningly American contradictions. His Mars seems, like many Westerns, a vision of an unspoilt anarchist/libertarian paradise, which makes his obsession with comfortable American domesticity all the weirder, to say nothing of his own clearly literary pretensions and his reverence for Martians as a spiritually oriented, aesthetically refined civilization. The gee-whiz tone of some of the book and the author's obvious pessimism about the inescapable self-destructiveness of human nature are also difficult to reconcile. Personally, though, I can't take battle cries against censorship too seriously from an author whose work doesn't contain a trace of sex, little explicit violence, and, from a certain perspective, not too much psychological danger, either. The tone of this book is sometimes mournful, often awestruck, but generally placid. The lady doth protest too much: while it was written in the first days of the Comics Code, there's nothing here that seems worth censoring. "The Martian Chronicles" is, in a sense, a fine read, but I ended up respecting its author a bit less after reading it. How many times do you hear yourself saying something like that?
I enjoy reading Bradbury - he writes well and he always leaves you thinking about what you would do in those situations or he's reminded you of your childhood. This book made me a little sad that such a good author couldn't imagine a future with wonderful inventions or more for women to do than prepare dinner for their families.
There are some redeeming features, though - well, there is one, but that is quite a weighty one, at least to my mind, and that is the specific quality of Bradbury's writing -nobody does nostalgia and the melancholy for things lost quite as well he does and his descriptions of empty Mars, its dried canals and crumbling cities, deserted dwellings and desolate landscape are as beautiful as they are eerie, and their mood is likely to haunt the reader's mind for a long time after turning the last page of the book. It certainly did mine, and while I'm not quite as enthusiastic about Martian Chronicles as I was as a teenager, I still enjoyed it for that sensation of autumnal melancholy.
The author wrote them as short stories but later was encouraged to publish them as a book so there are some short vignettes to connect the stories. I think the publishing date is 1950 for the first edition by Doubleday. The genres are considered to be Science fiction, Post-apocalyptic fiction, Horror, Dystopian fiction.
There is a lot of literary influence in these stories. Bradbury said the John Carter of Mars books and Harold Foster's 1931 series of Tarzan Sunday comics had such an impact on his life that "The Martian Chronicles would never have happened" otherwise. Bradbury cited the Barsoom stories and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson as literary influences.
I liked the Fire Balloons that addresses evangelism and Christianity and the concept of sin in other beings. Especially interesting was Usher II which addresses censorship and moral police (House of Usher, Poe) and would later be revisited when the author wrote Fahrenheit 451. And the last story, The Million Year Picnic, reminds me of an Adam Eve type story.
Over all, you can tell that these stories are dated and the audio was good but not exceptional in any way. While the stories are dated you can still recognize how a book written in 1950 contributed to a lot of current literature and it does capture the age it was written (cold war, fear of blowing up the earth, rocketry).
While the stories are fascinating, one thing I noticed and had a hard time ignoring was the boring gender stereotypes. It makes sense that Bradbury stuck to what he knew (men are heroes, women are their wives), but it felt more foreign to me than the Martian's and their lifestyles did. As a woman, I have a hard time with these back-burner roles women are relegated to. II find that I have to remind myself, on occasion, that the stories were written several decades ago and that the author's inability (or unwillingness) to imagine a bolder future for people (women adventurers, nurturing men, etc.) doesn't take away from the stories which are already full of rich imagination and bold ideas.
So, yes, the gender stereotypes are annoying, but the stories are still good and I still love Bradbury's work.
The respect for the books which taught him was so deep the theme of the barbarity of burning them returns obsessively in both “Fahrehheit 451” and in “Usher II,” from “The Martian Chronicles,” a collection of short
The books he avidly read made him a man respectful of “the other,” of the supposed “different,” and a true democrat. It is no marvel that in “The Way In The Middle Of The Air,”Afro Ameerican slaves are finally given the ultimate chance of freedom, climbing on rockets and being off to the new planet.
To Bradbury, Mars isn't just a resource to plunder and dominate; to him it's the frontier, and the best myths that go with it: a place full of marvel, a cathartic world where starting all over again is possible, along with a chance to restore the corrupted moral of a terrestrial world headed toward the atomic dissolution.
To Bradbury, Martians are not aliens, but an epiphany of “the other” we ourselves are. The success of mankind in taking over Mars goes hand in hand with the respect and the knowledge men acquire and develop toward the Martians.
Bradbury’s Martians are difficult to visualize. For each story, there’s something different about them, they have a brownish skin (Ylla, The Summer Night) or they have a transparent body filled with sparks, like a starry night (The Meeting At Night,) but it's remarkable how they have golden eyes, a symbol for ever-watching judgment. Often telepaths (Ylla, The Earth Men, The Off Season,) Martians dwell in our best memories and crushed hopes, until they become us (The Off Season, The Long Years.)
Two years before his death, Bradbury said, “We’ve gotta become the Martians. I’m a Martian. I tell you to become Martians.”
When Bradbury looked at the Martians, he saw... himself.
Bradbury also explores the links between science, religion, and art. He looks at censorship and the killing of dreams. There are so many timeless themes in this book.
I believe if you consider yourself culturally literate, you should read this classic book. If you enjoy thoughtful fiction with philosophical implications, then you'll enjoy this book. If you read science fiction and haven't read this book, then you should pick it up next to see the roots of the stories today.
August 1999: The Earth Men
They declared that they were from the Earth. The people on the planet Tyrr were not impressed.
April 2000: The Third Expedition
Captain John Black's
August 2002: Night Meeting
Tomas Gomez meets a Martian.
June 2003: Way in the middle of the air
He said he can't publish this story on 1949.
The story is about black people who did not rely on the politicians and set themselves free with technology.
April 2005: Usher II
This is where Fahrenheit 451 started. I haven't read Poe's Amonticillo so I'm convinced I should read it.
I listened to an audiobook of Martian Chronicles narrated by Ray Bradbury. I like that he added commentaries. After finishing the audiobook, he said that he was more optimistic than he was when he wrote this. He believed that we are going to Mars not to runaway from ourselves but to fulfill ourselves. If he would write it again, it will have a different ending. But, he said that he has total respect to the young person than he was. After reading the final chapter, he was touched by the feeling that he put in it for these people and for their hope and the face of annihilation to exist in the universe and eventually to move on out to the stars.
"I believe that we will someday live among the stars and live forever."
The book is episodic--arranged like the medieval chronicles of Britain with entries for specific
I'm glad I read this because I'd been curious for so long, and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon, but it doesn't go on my favorites list.
I found that the stories have dated to some degree, with the social structures very much those of America in the 1940's and 1950's. In the main this didn't worry me too much as I think that you need to judge books according to the values of when they were written - it's no good looking at a 60 year old book and expecting it to be written in the same way as a contemporary novel.
In the main I think my main problem with the book was in its depiction of the character of the first explorers and colonisers. Despite mainly seeming to consist of scientists and engineers of one sort of another, with very few exceptions the members of the early expeditions have hardly any curiosity about the planet which they have arrived at or about its inhabitants. In the story 'The Earth Men' for example, the members of the Second Expedition are disgusted to find that instead of being given the ticker tape parade that they seem to be expecting, they are treated as madmen for claiming to come from Earth. At no time do they show the slightest interest in what is around them, or consider that the Martians might reasonably be something other than delighted to see them or might even be hostile. They come over as a group of petulant small children who are upset at not being given a toy after doing something clever. As the colonisation of Mars continues it's obvious that Bradbury is making a point here about the effects of contemporary society, as the human colonisation on Mars starts to have as detrimental an effect on that planet as humans have had on the Earth of the book, but it just seems rather overdone.