Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

Today I'm looking at another mid-century pulp sci-fi classic, Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. This is a collection of short stories written by Bradbury in the 1940's which all, or almost all, deal with Mars and human colonization of Mars. Bradbury added some material to help stitch the stories together into a cohesive whole so on the one hand it feels like a short story anthology, but on the other hand it feels like an overarching narrative as well which gives it a very unique flavor.

As much as I hate to say it, this book does feel pretty dated, in ways both large and small. First there's the presence of aliens, cities, and canals on Mars, which is pretty standard in a lot of the pulp sci-fi from this time period but it certainly designates it as from a time when we knew far less about Mars and the larger solar system than we do now. And then there are the smaller things, such as a novelist using a typewriter on Mars or the vaguely, casually sexist tone of some of the stories. Even though the books are set in the distant future of the 2030's and later, the technology and culture of the people on Mars definitely feels very 1940's America. Of course, there is no helping this because of the time it was written, but it does date the book considerably.

Those issues aside, this is a pretty good short story collection. There are a lot of these stories that made me feel something. Whether it was frustration, anger, sadness, or a wry chuckle a lot of these stories managed to evoke some sort of emotional response which I think indicates they're very well written. A lot of these stories also have a dramatically ironic twist at the end which made me think of a lot of Twilight Zone episodes. I almost suspect some episodes of that show may have been loosely based off of stories from this book because of certain similarities. And as readers of this blog already know, I am a huge, huge fan of The Twilight Zone so anything that's like The Twilight Zone where there's a twist at the end which I can usually guess, for whatever reason I enjoy it, even if I can predict the ending. In fact, sometimes that's some of the fun.

So I think if you, like me, have a fondness for the older, pulpy sci-fi and especially stories like The Twilight Zone I think you'd enjoy reading The Martian Chronicles. If that isn't what you like, you're probably not going to get a lot out of this book.

- Kalpar

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