The Martian Chronicles
40th anniversary edition, originally published in 1950
The book is a collection of loosely related short stories that chronicles first contact between humans and Martians to the ultimate destruction of both Mars and Earth. In many ways it is as sad as it is profound. Mr. Bradbury shows humans in all their terrible glory, how destructive as a race we are and how hopeful as well. Some of the stories are only a couple of paragraphs long; others, many pages. Here are a few of my favorites:
Ylla – Here is our first introduction of Martians and their society. It seems to be quite elegant, advanced and ancient; however, in some ways they also seem very human.
-And the Moon be Still as Bright – The fourth attempt to establish contact/conquer Mars includes a scientist who mourns the empty cities and the loss of virtually all the indigenous population – all because earthmen landed there three previous times. Think how European explorers destroyed the indigenous peoples of the Americas with disease.
The Green Morning – With 99% of Martians dead, earthman-kind sets to remaking Mars into another Earth.
The Fire Balloons – An attempt by Catholic priests to bring the Gospel to the few remaining Martians.
Way in the Middle of the Air – Actually takes place in the Southern United States where a town’s entire black population is moving to Mars. (A related story can be found in The Illustrated Man.)
Usher II – Reveals more about the moral climate of Earth that so many humans coming to Mars were trying to escape. A related story can also be found in The Illustrated Man.
The Luggage Store – The beginning of the end of earth and the mass exodus from Mars back to earth, leaving it once again, a “tomb-planet.”
The Million-Year Picnic – Hope remains alive for Earth and Mars alike, but in this book/story, more so for Mars.
My overall impression of the book—the stories—is one of deep sadness. Sadness over what humans do to each other, over what they do to our beautiful Earth home, and over how arrogant humans are in thinking they are the superior race in the Universe.
Once again, Mr. Bradbury takes his reader on a lyrical journey into the unknowable and possible. His writing is fluid and beautiful and as I have said before and it bears repeating here – so very poetical – or even, melodic. This book will find a place on our shelves and will be reread again and again.
Rating 4 out of 5 paws for imagining a world unknown and causing such a deep emotional response in me; and, not many books can do that!
When a book has been published as often as Ray Bradbury’s there are a lot of covers. Here are a few of them!