Until now, Ray Bradbury has been one of those authors where the only book I’ve ever read is the one they assigned in high school. I am of course talking about Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury’s classic about a futuristic world where people watch wall-sized TVs and books are illegal. While I loved that novel I somehow never caught up with his other books. Having now read another work by the man, I have an even greater appreciation for his genius, and I can assure you that I will be getting to the rest of his works in due time.
The Martian Chronicles is a series of short pieces centered around the colonization of Mars by the United States. The first few missions meet tragic ends but soon the Americans establish a presence on the red planet and alter the planet to suit their purposes. Though the conditions on Mars do not match what we all know about the planet these days, (Bradbury’s astronauts breath on Mars with little difficulty, and there are streams and fields in addition to the red sands) that is decidedly beside the point. Indeed, The Martian Chronicles, despite being set between 1999-2026, has more to say about life in 1945 than in the future. There are stories about war, nuclear arms, racial tensions, and of course, colonization and its affect on indigenous people.
The breadth and depth of these stories testify to the wonder of Bradbury’s wit and imagination. To read them is to see a master at the top of his form. The early stories are reminiscent of The Twilight Zone with their oddball premises and twist endings. The later stories are wistful laments, showing the author’s pessimism about the human race and the American character. His colonists debate the merits of what they have achieved and what they have wrought.
There isn’t a wrong note in the entire collection. These are stories that will astonish you with their creativity. The philosophical dilemmas they present will make you think. They are dazzling.