The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles Cover

The Martian Chronicles


I was first introduced to Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles when I was 11 years old with the short story "There Will Come Soft Rains". It left an indelible mark on my soul, so much so that every five or six years after, I would hunt up a copy and reread the story. I still had the text book, and would reread it just to keep it fresh in my mind. This being said, if baffles me why would I wait over twenty-five years to read the book the short story came from.

The Marian Chronicles is not a novel per say, but is instead 27 short stories tied together by similar themes, Mars, its exploration, and eventual colonization. Although compiled into one book, each story stands independent. There are crossover characters, but in general, one could read each story without having read any of the others, and still be able to understand what the author wanted to say. The exception to that might be the story "April 2057: The Long Years" Where Mr. Bradbury ties up what happened too many of the characters we met earlier in the book.

Like all books of short stories, there are standouts. "June 2032:- And The Moon Be Still As Bright" is an important story, because Mr. Bradbury spells out quite eloquently the dangers of America's policy of Manifest Destiny in regards to how we treat new lands and new people, who have a society that differs from our own. Needless to say Humanity does not come out smelling like roses.

Martian Chronicles has made its way onto the Banned and Challenged Book List for various reasons, but one reason listed is the attitude of women as secondary citizens in the novel. All the explores are male, and women factor into the stories hardly at all. This does not bother me so very much because I feel it is important to remember the time in which it was written, i.e. 1946. I must say I was slightly offended by the line in "October 2033: The Shore" The story starts out describing the first pioneers of Mars, hardy men, describing them as cattle men, used to being alone, the second pioneers were men looking for space to grow and thrive from the overcrowded cities, And then Mr. Bradbury uses the line "Everyone knew who the first women would be." Now I have read reviews that stated that he meant the wives of the pioneers, but if one looks at the writings from any pioneer mining camp during the westward expansion, it is easy to see he meant prostitutes. This is further substantiated by the next story, "November 2033: The Fire Balloons" That deals with the introduction of missionary priests into Mars. Where the women who came with the men were described as "wicked" and the reason the priests are needed in the frontier towns.

This novel is a classic of science fiction, but to me it reads as dated. We know what the surface of Mars looks like and know that it is nothing like the Mars Ray Bradbury envisioned. This does not subtract from the fact that it is a beautiful and at times haunting vision of mankind.