Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)

The Martian Chronicles
Ray Bradbury
Fiction, Collection/Sci-Fi
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: A Martian woman's strange dreams provoke a strong reaction from her husband... an expedition to Mars inexplicably finds a small town from the 1950's American Midwest waiting at the landing site... a man has a strange encounter on a lonely road one long Martian night... an automated house patiently awaits the return of its masters... The story of humanity's exploration and conquest of Mars unfolds in this classic series of short stories and vignettes by noted sci-fi author Ray Bradbury.

REVIEW: I've read a couple short stories from this classic collection over the years, but never the entire volume, so I figured it was worth a try when I found the eBook version at a discount. Bradbury's work pushes into poetry, riddled with ethereal descriptions of both ordinary and extraordinary things. Though characters rarely return, the whole collection works as a narrative, as well as an examination of two civilizations doomed by their own inescapable flaws. The Martians, already in their twilight, refuse to accept what the coming of Earth-men means until it's too late, while the young hot-blooded humans, fleeing their own collapsing planet, fail to realize that the seeds of their own self-destruction are within them all along. Moments of wonder and otherworldly beauty punctuate a slow-motion tragedy, with glimmers of hope all too often quashed by Martian denial and human ignorance. It's more allegory than hard science, a space-age myth, in which the future Earth consists of hermetically-sealed 1950's white Midwestern American people, values, and lifestyles, and Mars is an especially exotic New World for human progress to destroy, plunder, and exploit. Men are independent scientists and explorers and doers, while women are needy and emotional tag-alongs. One wonders how much of this was a deliberate conceit on the part of Bradbury and how much was a result of cultural blinders of the era in which he wrote, the assumption that cultural norms (not to mention American dominance of space travel) would remain intact through interplanetary colonization. I have to admit some of those assumptions irked me, but such was the era in which Bradbury wrote these tales. They weren't meant to be literal scientific speculation anyway, but more a literary mirror to explore and expose our own flaws, not to mention the likely outcome if those flaws remain unacknowledged and unchecked. On the whole, despite some aging around the edges as the mid-century America he waxes poetic about fades ever further into history, this collection becomes more than the mere sum of its stand-alone parts, still well worthy of its classic status.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury) - My Review
Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) - My Review
The Martian (Andy Weir) - My Review

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