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THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES Remains One of My All-Time Favorite Reads

  • Jan 29, 2014
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I don’t often re-read books.  Like most of you, I probably have thousands I’d like to read, and rarely do I see the value in perusing something I’ve already perused again.  It isn’t as if the lessons I learned from it might change or that the characters will suddenly become something else … but I’ve always had a deep respect for THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES since I’d read it first in high school several decades ago … so much so that I thought I’d give it another spin just to see what, if anything, I felt today as opposed to way back then.
To my delight, much of the same magic and inspiration was still there.  For those who don’t know, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES started out in life as a series of short stories by the master himself, Ray Bradbury.  At some early point in his career, an editor spoke with him about these separate but linked stories – they all dealt with the future colonization of the planet Mars by Earthlings – and suggested that the author come up with some buffer material that would go around these established stories and serve to unify them into one volume.  Bradbury did, and the result is terrific.
What’s always fascinated me about CHRONICLES is the way Bradbury frames the entire narrative: at one end, you have mankind reaching out to the stars for a future while, simultaneously back on Earth, civilization is unraveling.  While some readers might spend more time fascinating with the novel’s exploration of introspection or xenophobia (on the part of both Earthers as well as the Martians), I’ve always found those pale by comparison to this grand, unique vision of two disparate cultures coming together and then – ever so slowly – coming apart at the seams.
Also, so very much of the book feels like it was little more than an expanded script for Rod Serling’s stellar THE TWILIGHT ZONE television series (parts of it were written in the same era) that it’s hard to discount one or the other serving as inspiration for the other.  Not every chapter (but most of them) serve up a basic premise with a twist ending – i.e. “it was all a dream,” the characters become their own worst enemy, a mad dash to save oneself ends up being exactly what speeds our demise, etc. – and the adjoining chapters fill-in-the-gaps relative to where/when we are in this grand “Fall of the House of Usher” in galactic proportions.
It’d be so hard to pick out any favorite within the entire piece, but, if you held a gun to my head (please don’t), then I’d be inclined to point to the story involving the greedy hot-dog-stand proprietor who finds himself placed to become a millionaire (yes, by selling hot dogs!) with the impending colonization of the planet.  Lo and behold – as is so often the case – it doesn’t quite work out the way he had envisioned; he’s rewarded in riches (of a kind), but it’ll mean something much darker than readers imagined.
Granted, there are parts and passages that haven’t exactly aged as well as I would’ve liked (getting back to the reason I wanted to re-read it in the first place).  Bradbury’s prose is still superlative, but there are a few parts that felt a bit bloated by today’s standards.  The writer had a way of almost lyrically ‘singing’ a tale – a kind of poetic cadence to his script – that’s largely unmatched by other authors on my shelves.  As the circumstances grow dire, some choices seem a bit … erm … brutal?  Judgmental?  Perhaps too perceptive into human nature?  Whatever the case, it’s a small price to pay in exchange for absorbing such a monumental tale about how monumentally mankind is ill-prepared to assume any place of management for the cosmos, much less his own corner of the galaxy.
And – just in case any big studio producer is reading this – the material remains ripe for adaptation today.  It could make a terrific series of motion pictures or even a solid miniseries.  I believe it was NBC who brought the material to life in the early 80’s; I think that it was fairly well critically drubbed (seems to me I’ve read somewhere that even Bradbury didn’t like it), but I thought it was quite nice.  A bit low-budget at times, yes, but it remained true to the spirit of the work as I recall from the time.
It’s a delight from start to finish, and I can’t help but once again give it my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

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January 30, 2014
Sounds logical!
More The Martian Chronicles (The Gr... reviews
review by . August 12, 2010
As the paranoia and fear of the early stages of the Cold War escalated and the prospect of global destruction in an atomic war crystallized into a terrifying possibility, a pioneering trip to a more placid Mars must have seemed welcoming. As early successes with the development of technology such as "Sputnik" made a an exploration of this magnitude a likely technological achievement within the next few decades, manned exploration and the colonization of Mars no doubt evolved into a sexy …
Quick Tip by . August 12, 2010
Bradbury uses a clever sci-fi format as a way to critique what he saw as the worst failings of the social fabric of 1950s America - imperialism, bigotry and racial prejudice, xenophobia, guns, environmental pollution, waste, foreign policy, censorship, and the untrammeled growth of technology all wrapped up in the unfailing smug sense of superiority that the American way is the only way!
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What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops".   … more
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From "Rocket Summer" to "The Million-Year Picnic," Ray Bradbury's stories of the colonization of Mars form an eerie mesh of past and future. Written in the 1940s, the chronicles drip with nostalgic atmosphere--shady porches with tinkling pitchers of lemonade, grandfather clocks, chintz-covered sofas. But longing for this comfortable past proves dangerous in every way to Bradbury's characters--the golden-eyed Martians as well as the humans. Starting in the far-flung future of 1999, expedition after expedition leaves Earth to investigate Mars. The Martians guard their mysteries well, but they are decimated by the diseases that arrive with the rockets. Colonists appear, most with ideas no more lofty than starting a hot-dog stand, and with no respect for the culture they've displaced.

Bradbury's quiet exploration of a future that looks so much like the past is sprinkled with lighter material. In "The Silent Towns," the last man on Mars hears the phone ring and ends up on a comical blind date. But in most of these stories, Bradbury holds up a mirror to humanity that reflects a shameful treatment of "the other," yielding, time after time, a harvest of loneliness and isolation. Yet the collection ends with hope for renewal, as a colonist family turns away from the demise of the Earth towards a new future on Mars. Bradbury is a master fantasist and The Martian Chronicles are an unforgettable work of art. --Blaise Selby

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ISBN-10: 0553278223
ISBN-13: 978-0553278224
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra
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