Book 17 on My List, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, is a collection of short stories detailing the first expeditions to Mars and the ensuing human colonies that develop there.
You may already know of Ray Bradbury, a staple author in the science fiction canon, for his famous book Fahrenheit 451.
The Chronicles is an imaginative collection that also offers us insight into how the culture of the ’50s shaped the ideas of what life would be like on Mars.
The book comprises almost 30 shorts and vignettes that detail man’s first expeditions to Mars and the encounters with Martians, followed by the subsequent colonization, then abandonment of the planet. The stories are presented chronologically.
Of course the main sci-fi theme throughout the book is the colonization of Mars and the effect this has on humans and Martians alike. Like our own attempts at colonization throughout history, the effects prove disastrous for the ones being colonized. Funny how we can’t seem to even make up stories where conquering another land turns out well for all parties involved. I think it’s because we know it’s inherently a bad deed. Not even our fiction will allow it!
In the book, space travel to Mars and beyond is a given. The rocket technology is there and readily available for public use. There’s no mention of any details, such as cost. However, I assume that it is affordable for the general public, since it is the ordinary citizens who colonize the red planet.
Affordable spacecraft is something that scientists are working on right now, primarily by recycling boosters. This would greatly reduce the cost of building rockets and is an exciting development in space technology.
One theme that I gleaned from the stories, and that I enjoyed, is loneliness. Several of the stories are about characters dealing with loss as well as the loneliness that comes from being so far removed from Earth. The inclusion of the emotional impact of life on Mars is a strength of the book.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, this theme pops up as well in the collection. Some of the settlers leave Earth in order to get away from the bureaucracy and government overreach. They view Mars as a sort of Wild West and enjoy the freedom therein.
I could probably list several more themes that show up in The Martian Chronicles, as the series takes a look at all sorts of different aspects of Martian living and issues that would conceivably pop up were we to actually settle on the planet. But I’ll leave it here for now.
Strengths & Weaknesses
The main strength of The Martian Chronicles is that it tries to grapple with all sorts of interesting issues that could conceivably come up during the colonization of Mars. And not just technical or logistical problems, but human problems and emotions as well.
Another strength is simply Bradbury’s writing. Some of the shorts are quite compelling because his writing is just so good!
I found the book to be a bit slow in the beginning. Some of the stories are more interesting than others. However, at about the middle of the book to the end I found the momentum picked up and the stories became more compelling.
Overall, I think I would recommend The Martian Chronicles. It’s a staple of science fiction and shows us what a writer in the 1950s imagined life on the red planet would be like. It’s incredibly creative and some of the stories are really excellent in terms of writing and style. For me the best parts were the deep dives into the human psyche and how living on Mars affected the characters personally.
Coming up next, Farmer in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein!