The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury. Collection of short stories.
“There was Earth and there the coming war, and there hundreds of thousands of mothers or grandmothers or fathers or brothers or aunts or uncles or cousins. They stood on the porches and tried to believe in the existence of Earth, much as they had once tried to believe in the existence of Mars; it was a problem reversed. To all intents and purposes, Earth now was dead; they had been away from it for three or four years. Space was an anesthetic.”
This is not only a review of a collection of short stories about Mars colonization, but also a salute to one of the most prolific and excellent science fiction writers the world has seen. Ray Bradbury, who died last night at the age of 91, created dystopian literary works like Fahrenheit 451 and over 600 short stories that included themes of aliens, the future, artificial intelligence, and pretty much everything else we consider part of the science fiction helm.
He carved a path for sci-fi into mainstream literature with such flair that not only did he connect the disparate worlds of rural
high-technology futures and create hundreds of worlds outside of the typical
Cold War-extraterrestrial trope, an award was created in his honor for
screenwriting by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
And so, at the moment when both a great author has died and Mars One has announced plans for an actual Mars colony, here’s a review of The Martian Chronicles.
We're the alien invaders.
This very interconnected group of short stories acts as a novel to present a one hundred year history of humans colonizing Mars. The book begins with a series of failures for humans to survive contact with Martians – who kill them coldly, jealously, and empathically. Once humans have successfully taken root in this strange new Martian world, Bradbury explores the widening distance between people and the Earth they left behind, as well as their connection to the alien world they now call home.
Eventually, however, the call of Earth is stronger than the call of Mars, and humans leave to live out their final days in a catastrophic war taking place on Earth. Only a few stragglers and survivors remain (or arrive at) Mars, and these last few remnants of the space-going human civilization become truly Martian.
Each story is taken from a different perspective, full of different protagonists and characters that reference the same general event but only occasionally overlap. The stories follow each other chronologically and, with only a timeline of events and the same human condition to hold them together, portray the struggle of Earth people fighting to become Mars people.
A large theme throughout the book is the echo of the Martians that died before colonization really began, leaving behind echoing spirits, their architectural ruins and bits of culture, and the geographic strangeness of a world already claimed and named by a species that evolved with the land.
Who Should Read This Book?
Each individual story can be taken on its own, and they range from the blissfully nostalgic to the horrific to the apocalyptically dismal. But many of the stories carry out the same interests, so I’d recommend this story to anyone who:
- Is curious about other alien races
- Likes reading about potential colonies on different planets
- Wonders how people will interact with extraterrestrials, or even just the evidence of other extraterrestrials
- Is interested in exploring humans’ connection to Earth
- Wants to read about space travel from a more social and quasi-historical point of view
- Likes alien stories full-stop
This story – or, rather, collection of stories – definitely has something for everyone, and probably the majority of stories have several somethings for everyone to be interested in. As a whole, this story probes technology, human civilizations, our reaction to Martians or other extraterrestrials roughly our intellectual equals, and how long we can remain tethered to Earth before other planets become our homes.
The Martian Chronicles is about 250 pages, and only 7.99 on Amazon – not a bad price for a few days of interesting reading that you can read again and again.
If you’ve read The Martian Chronicles or another alien-related book by Ray Bradbury, be sure to leave a comment with your opinion about it or any of the extraterrestrial themes it might have contained!
Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.