The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is coming up on its 70th year publication anniversary, believe it or not. I was surprised too. This gem was published in 1946 and it’s finally showing its age.
5 out of 10 stars. This used to be one of my favorite short story collections, but now that we know so much about Mars the stories in this collection are kind of outdated. Sorry, Ray, but it’s just not as good anymore.
Each of the short stories in this collection is about the colonization of Mars by Earthlings. Depicted as a golden planet with red sand and blue rain and plentiful canals of blue water, the Mars of The Martian Chronicles is a wonderful place to live. The earthlings who colonize Mars get around in canals and are mesmerized by the Martians who appear beautiful and sometimes golden. The set of short stories start on earth date January 2030 when astronauts land on Mars. Within a couple of years, people are purchasing their own spaceships and launching themselves up to Mars to live, leaving the wars on Earth behind. In the beginning Martians are plentiful but by the end they are a rare thing. The last short story is on earth date October 2057. By then earthlings have destroyed Mars too and only a few remain behind to restart the human population, three young boys, all brothers, and three young girls, all sisters. I guess Ray’s moral is that we can’t seem to learn to take care of our planets. 😉
Some of the stories are a bit scary, others are boring. My favorite is September 2036. The Martian. In this story, during a blue rain storm, Lafe and Anna Lafarge find a boy outside their home who looks like their dead son Tom. Tom died on Earth and they buried him there. They did not move his grave to Mars, so it’s quite surprising when they suddenly find him on their doorstep. What Lafe realizes rather quickly is that Tom is a Martian and Martians are changed by the desires of those around them. They become who we want them to be, or at least who the strongest willed person in the room wants them to be. In this case, Lafe and Anna want their son Tom more than anything and so that’s who the Martian becomes. Not realizing that he is not really Tom, Anna insists they go to town so she can show everyone that Tom has returned. Foolish woman. The moment they get to town, the Martian turns to Lafe and tells him he’s terrified of getting trapped. But he can’t explain. They leave Tom alone for just a moment and he disappears. Within minutes they hear that Joe Spaulding’s missing daughter Lavinia has returned. Lafe leaves Anna looking for Tom and runs to the Spauldings’ house. There is Tom as Lavinia. He speaks to Lavinia and tells him he knows he’s really Tom and his need is so strong that Lavinia becomes Tom and he climbs down and follows Lafe to their boat. Lafe gets Anna but by now the Spauldings are after them, trying to get Lavinia back. The pull of the two families wishing for a different person inevitably turns the Martian into a pool of mush like wax. This, I guess, is how you kill a Martian. No one wins and they go on home. Does Anna realize the foolishness of her wish to show him off? No. Not a bit. Which is kind of the overall theme of the stories, the foolishness of man.
From February 2030. Ylla.
Mr. and Mrs. K had lived by the dead sea for twenty years, and their ancestors had lived in the same house, which turned and followed the sun, flower-like, for ten centuries.
Mr. and Mrs. K were not old. They had the fair, brownish skin of the true Martian, the yellow coin eyes, the soft musical voices. Once they had liked painting pictures with chemical fire, swimming in the canals in the seasons when the wine trees filled them with green liquors, and talking into the dawn together by the blue phosphorus portraits in the speaking room.
This story is about the K couple, the first Martians to meet earthlings. Mrs. K first dreams about them, and it’s difficult to tell if she actually met them or if it really was a dream. Mr. K insists that no creatures could survive the inhospitable environment on Earth and that their scientists have said as much. Mrs. K has russet hair and Martians are a very musical type of being. But what really got me curious were the wine trees. Hmmm, I could do a lot with that. How about chocolate trees? Or candy trees? I think this is probably why this collection of short stories is still so popular after all these years. Mrs. K seems to be having telepathic conversations with the first earthling astronaut and she makes the mistake of telling Mr. K who gets his gun and goes outside hunting. She hears gunshots and the earthling astronaut never appears, but the story is purposefully vague and that makes it annoying. The perfect example of where this collection fails. Ambiguous and vague stories don’t make a very interesting tale.
5 out of 10 stars Still worth reading, but not all the stories are interesting. Some are boring and some are kind of scary for kids. I purchased two copies of this book years ago and got rid of both of them. Whenever I feel like reading it, I just snag a copy from the library.
Reviewed by Devin.