The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely connected short stories – stories that have, as it were, been stitched together like a patchwork quilt. This being the case, an all-encompassing synopsis is not really possible. Suffice it to say that the book tells of mankind’s arrival on, and subsequent conquest of, the planet Mars.
Though often classified as science fiction, The Martian Chronicles misfits that description. It belongs more to the genres of fantasy and mythology. In the introduction, Bradbury glibly explains,
[Chronicles] is King Tut out of the tomb when I was three, Norse Eddas when I was six, and Roman/Greek gods that romanced me when I was ten: pure myth. If it had been practical technologically efficient science fiction, it would have long since fallen to rust by the road. But since it is a self-separating fable, even the most deeply rooted physicists at Cal-Tech accept breathing the fraudulent oxygen atmosphere I have loosed on Mars. Science and machines can kill each other off or be replaced. Myth, seen in mirrors, incapable of being touched, stays on. If it is not immortal, it seems as such.
Each story is fascinating: some are humorous, some are eerie, and some are just plain bizarre, but all of them will cause you to think. I was enthralled from start to finish. Bradbury’s Mars is a world unto itself – a place of marvels beautiful, mysterious, and deadly. And behind it all, reinforcing this imaginative setting, is the breathtaking prose.
The rockets set the bony meadows afire, turned rock to lava, turned wood to charcoal, transmuted water to steam, made sand and silica into green grass which lay like shattered mirrors reflecting the invasion, all about. The rockets came like drums, beating into the night. The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. And from the rockets came men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night. And when the carpenters had hurried on, the women came in with flowerpots and chintz and pans and set up a kitchen clamor to cover the silence that Mars made waiting outside the door and the shaded window.
For lovers of fantasy or even just lovers of good writing, The Martian Chronicles is a can’t-miss book, and comes highly recommended by me, though I would reserve it for ages 15 and up. There’s some language scattered throughout, and one story features several mildly graphic descriptions of immoral behavior amongst the colonists.
I should also add that, theologically speaking, Bradbury is often way off base, and God, as Sovereign Lord of the Universe, plays little part in the stories. Finally, I thought that Bradbury went a little overboard with portraying mankind as a greedy, arrogant, disrespectful pest hell-bent on raping the environment and heedlessly destroying other cultures. True, man should be a good steward of God’s earth, and true, he often isn’t. Bad-stewardship and strife among humanity is the result of living in a sinful, fallen world among sinful, fallen people. However, there are times when Bradbury seems to be holding up the environment (and other “better” cultures) as gods to be worshipped and obsessed over; which is more than slightly silly when you look at it in the framework of a Christian worldview.
Aside from these issues, The Martian Chronicles is a brilliant piece of literature, and one that I look forward to re-reading for years to come.
- Corey P.