Classic Review – The Martian Chronicles (1950)

A mountain looms over a desolate landscape with a single tiny person in front of it

Overview

Synopsis A collection of short stories describing the future history of Earth’s relations with its neighbor, Mars.

Author Ray Bradbury
Publisher Originally published by Doubleday
Genre Science Fiction

Length 181 pages

Release Date 1950

The Martian Chronicles is made up of short stories Bradbury had written and published as early as 1946. It also contains material originally intended for this anthology. There are twenty-six stories in all, which tell of the comings and goings between Earth and Mars from 1999 to 2026.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: In The Third Expedition, alternately titled Mars is Heaven, the Martians use their mental abilities to project lost times, places, and loved ones into the minds of human explorers to lure them to their deaths. In The Settlers, a crew member of the fourth expedition believes he has had a spiritual encounter with the extinct Martians, which leads him to kill his irreverent fellow humans.

Violence: There are many deaths throughout this anthology, but they are not depicted graphically. The closest thing to an exception may be the story Usher II, in which a deranged Edgar Allan Poe aficionado kills off his political enemies using methods befitting the poet himself.

Language/Crude Humor: Some characters, particularly the officers, use words such as h*** and d****, and take the Lord’s Name in vain on occasion.

Sexual Content: In the story Ylla, a Martian housewife dreams of having an affair with an earthman.

Drug/Alcohol Use: Some of the officers, especially those in — and the Moon Be Still as Bright and The Settlers, get drunk and smoke.

Other Negative Themes: This anthology operates from a humanistic perspective on the life and death of races and civilizations.

Positive Content: Bradbury constantly reminds his readers of the smallness of the human race, but also of our ability to survive. Hope for the future is reinforced, even in the midst of melancholy circumstances. Many of the stories deal honestly with the evils caused by colonists and settlers as they conquer new lands and peoples.

Golden humanoids watch over a red desert landscape with futuristic buildings in the foreground

Review

In the summer of 1999, a rocket ship is launched from a sleepy American suburb to the planet Mars. Several missions to the red planet are conducted, but three of the groups are never heard from again by Earth. After the fourth mission returns to report that Mars is empty and available for colonization, settlers pour in to the new world.

These interstellar pioneers face the trials and triumphs that all settlers do, but in the shadows of ruins of an ancient alien race. Though corruption, materialism, and war stand in their way, these new Martians become a part of the home they have created for themselves among the stars.

Ray Bradbury is rightly remembered as one of America’s greatest storytellers. His precise and beautiful language transports his readers to a future that never was on a world that never will be. He cuts to the heart of the human condition. He deals with both the failings of humanity (our selfishness, carelessness, and violence) and our virtues (our adaptability, durability, and love).

The Martian Chronicles is not only a collection of beautifully written stories, but also an intricate tapestry of speculation. The pieces range in length from one page to several, and are well balanced in their content and characters. One may be a short story about gruff astronauts fighting their way through space, and the next may be a tender flash fiction about a family dealing with the implications of a strange, interstellar future.

Overall, the theme of this collection seems to be the multi-faceted nature of humanity. We are corrupt. We destroy beautiful, old things to make way for “progress.” We destroy ourselves in our selfishness and greed. However, we possess the ability to start new lives in strange locales. We also have the capacity for incredible love and forgiveness.

Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles deserves its place among the classics of science fiction. It lays out an expansive, yet intricate future history. Though many of the years described in it have since passed without the realization of Bradbury’s ideas, they still have an element of realism to them. Readers can easily put themselves into the shoes of his characters.

Anyone interested in science fiction, literature, or even simply an afternoon or two of reading pleasure, should consider reading The Martian Chronicles. Master author Ray Bradbury crafts immersive and beautiful worlds, forcing readers to confront the good and bad in their own natures.

Positives

+ Beautifully written
+ Convicting exploration of the human condition

Negatives

- Humanism

The Bottom Line

In "The Martian Chronicles," master author Ray Bradbury crafts immersive and beautiful worlds, forcing reader to confront the good and bad in their own natures.

 

Story/Plot 9.8

Writing 9.9

Editing 9.7

9.8

Elora Powell

Elora Powell is a Bible college student from Portland, Oregon who spends her time analyzing, writing, and loving science fiction, and occasionally talking about herself in the third person.

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