I know I’ve read Bradbury before, but I think it’s been since high school and I don’t think I ever read this one. I read this for my library sci-fi book club, and it’s been the most divisive one we’ve read since I’ve joined. Several of us thought the writing was beautiful and the stories were interesting, but several others thought it was too old and dated and sexist. Good discussion, though!
Each chapter is a story of how Mars came to be colonized, starting with a few disastrous attempts at sending astronauts, to the accidental wiping out of the Martians and subsequent taking over of the planet, to the abandonment of the Mars settlements as people head back to Earth to fight in the terrible war that takes over the home planet. It is NOT a happy book.
But it’s amazingly creative! Our club leader looked it up, and this book was written five years before we knew anything about Mars we couldn’t see through a telescope – it was a red dot in the sky, and that was it. So Bradbury could do whatever he wanted with the setting, and he took advantage. There are some stories with humor, like when the Martians think the astronauts are crazy Martians and put them in an asylum. There is a straight-up horror story ode to Edgar Allan Poe. There are super tragic stories, and quiet dramas, and a terrible story about all the people of color fleeing to seek a better life (that one got LOTS of discussion at book club). Bradbury has a lot of snide things to say about human hubris and arrogance in general, and colonialism specifically.
My least favorite story was one where the one lone man left on Mars finds out there’s one lone woman left on Mars, and he goes to find her, visions of love and happily ever after dancing in his head. Then he finds her and – GASP – she’s FAT. The NERVE. So he runs off to the other side of the planet and that’s it. But when we talked about it in book club, somebody pointed out that Bradbury spent most of the book skewering the settlers, and the (white) men in charge. So even though he was a writer of his time (very few of the female characters even have names), it’s quite possible the judgy jerk was meant to be a jackass.
I listened to the audio book, and I kept thinking about how beautiful the language was. I feel like I would usually say “the writing was great” or something prosaic in my review, but now I feel moved to use the fancy word “prose.” This was just absolutely beautiful prose, and I can see why Bradbury is considered one of the greats.
P.S.! My husband found a kitten under the office mailbox on Monday, and brought her home, so since this was an audio book and I don’t have a photo, you get a kitten picture instead! She’s as yet unnamed, and we’re not 100% sure we’re keeping her (we totally are)(I really hope big brother cat stops hating her soon), but she’s four weeks old and .9 pounds and we had to bottle feed her for the first two days and she is SO CUTE and SO LOUD!