This week, I read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. I’m a massive Bradbury fan as it is; Fahrenheit 541 and Something Wicked This Way Comes are among my favorite books. His social commentary in 541 has become a staple in American school systems, but his visions of the dystopian future of humanity are not what makes him a great author. Simply the style of his writing is enough to pick up a book and read it. The words put a smile on my face as to how quirky they are written, yet are somehow cohesive. He can convey massive stories with very few words which is why his name has become what it is today. The Martian Chronicles is no exception of a massive story that takes less than a week to read.
The Martian Chronicles is the story of Earth and Mars; two very different planets that turn out to be very much alike. The novel is nothing but segmented short stories, all of which contain different characters which have nothing to do with other characters in other short stories. This is because Bradbury is not trying to tell the story of individuals, but the story of two planets.
The book was written in the height of Cold War hysteria, and the fears of a massive nuclear war that would de-civilize Earth. Humans who wish to avoid such a war move to Mars in giant rockets. Bradbury establishes Mars as a planet civilized with its own beings and civilizations, which are abandoned, killed off, and destroyed over time, as more and more humans colonize the planet. We see the effects on the people of Earth as Mars becomes a more desirable place to live. Consequently, the more people colonizing the planet, the more the government soon attempts to take over. As tensions escalate on Earth, the "Martians" must decide weather they are to stand their ground, or give in to their humanity. All of these events are depicted in short stories that are entertaining, funny, action packed, and suspenseful. There is never a dull moment, and the seemingly limitless boundaries of the planet are open to endless interpretation by the imagination.
Bradbury tells us the large-scale story of Earth and Mars through the eyes of little humans who are concerned only with their own affairs. His characters may not know it, but they are contributing to a grander cause within the novel. It’s clever storytelling like this that continues to make Bradbury’s work worthwhile, and another must-read for generations to come.
-David Brashier; Huntsville, Alabama; April 2016