The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles Cover

A classic and not just for historical relevance


I feel I should start with my expectations for this book, because I was completely wrong (and delighted to be so). I had the movie "John Carter of Mars" (and yes, I know it's a series of books and stories, but I haven't read them yet, while I have seen the movies) in my head and a general impression of science fiction from the 50s. I was ready for pulpy space-heros and battles between Martians and humans. I would have even been ready for the Earth-men to somehow slot right into Martian society because, having only read a limited amount of it, my impression of science fiction of the 60s sometimes bleeds.

I was wrong. While there were telepaths and Martians, a breathable atmosphere on Mars, and Martians that were more human than strange, Bradbury transcends all that by making the book more about our relationship with Earth and each other than about Mars. The moral of The Martian Chronicles is that no matter how optimistic we are, no matter how much our drive to conquer, things aren't always going to work out. The optimistic young man who sets out into the wild is going to die. The natives who welcome strange visitors are wiped out by disease. Mutually assured destruction is only a deterrent until someone doesn't care anymore. So these stories about Mars and Earth-men, strung together into a chronology, are at once representative of the science fiction of the time and infused with a timelessness. Needless to say, this is a classic and not just for its historical relevance. It is truly enjoyable even now.

I will also note that I listened to the audiobook ready by Stephen Hoye and was more than impressed how enjoyable his reading was. He has the voice of a 50s radio star getting, punching up the story at exactly the right times.