Friday, 26 November 2010

The Martian Chronicles

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of brilliantly imagined short stories all of which interlink with each other to create a fantastic science fiction novel.

The stories in the book were written during the 1940s at a time when scientists were seriously discussing the possibility of intelligent life on Mars. The book works on the premise that there is not only intelligent life on Mars but they are technologically and socially more advanced than humankind.

At the beginning of the book humanity sends a series of expeditions to Mars in an attempt to make contact with the Martians and establish if they are peaceful. These fail disastrously as the expedition members (in typically human style) blunder in without any caution or understanding and are, without exception, slaughtered by the Martians.

As the story progresses humanity successfully colonises Mars, replacing the indigenous Martians with vast human cities. There are numerous moral and psychological issues raised within the book making it not just entertaining but thought provoking. The question of outsiders occupying a new place and destroying or enslaving the indigenous population is a real problem we as humans have witnessed time and time again throughout our history. What Bradbury has done is taken this ancient desire for conquest and control and shifted it so humanity is not just dominating and taking control of another continent but another planet and an intelligent alien species.

Bradbury gave his indigenous Martians a tremendous amount of thought not just creating the oft seen, stereotypical little green men with large eyes, bulbous heads and three fingers on each hand but creating several different species of Martians all of which are unique and react differently to the encroachment of the earthlings. The indigenous Martians are wonderful creations and one of the strongest aspects of the story, Bradbury’s originality knows no bounds and he really outdid himself this time.

The frightening thing is humanity is still not learning its lessons and the early pioneers live in denial truly believing they will make peace and live in harmony with the Martians. The Martians know differently which is why they react so strongly to human expeditions.

There is a strong sense of irony within the novel too, as the human invaders take control of the planet and the indigenous Martians die out the human colonists begin to refer to themselves as ‘Martians’.

By the end the story comes about full circle when, in another wonderful twist of irony, a catastrophic war breaks out on Earth destroying most of the major cities. A plea for help is sent to Mars prompting the colonists to abandon Mars and go to the aid of Earth. One or two stragglers remain and the book focuses on how each of these characters cope with their loneliness (some loving it, others hating it) and leaves us wondering if humanity will ever return.

I really enjoyed this book and strongly recommend it.

Final verdict 4/5


  1. Thanks for this review. I just read Fahrenheit 451 and loved it. I definitely plan on reading more Bradbury.

  2. I love this one, perhaps even more than Fahrenheit 451. I loved the imagery and the mood of the whole novel. So beautiful and thought-provoking!

  3. This isn't something I would normally pick up but I really liked your review. I read Fahrenheit in high school but don't remember but about it except for the burning of books. I'm going to add this one to my TBR. Thanks!

  4. This sounds excellent! I actually didn't enjoy Fahrenheit 451 when I read it, but I absolutely loved The Illustrated Man, so I think I'll give this a try when I get a chance.

  5. @ Everybookandcranny: Fahrenheit 451 is Bradbury's most famous work but he wrote so many great books its worth keeping an eye out for him :o)

    @ Allie: I know what you mean about the imagery, I have never seen Mars portayed in such a way. It really gets under your skin.

    @ Brenna: Thanks, I'm glad you've added it to your TBR pile, sometimes i'm surprised by books I normally wouldn't read.

    @ Zara: You didn't like Fahrenheit 451?! I'm amazed! lol I remember you liked the Illustrated Man. This book is similar and alot of it is written along the same lines so you will probably enjoy it :o)


  6. I would argue that this is a stronger work that F. 451 is. But I've always had trouble with the ending. All those colonist move to Mars to get away from some aspect of life on earth. Why would they go back in the end? Especially at that time when everyone, at least everyone who read science fiction, knew that an atomic war would mean complete distruction for earth.

    Other than that, I love it.

  7. I loved your review of this. I've had mixed experiences with sci fi, but think I will give this one a go.

  8. @ C.B James: I didn't have too much difficulty in seeing why the colonists would return. We see the same thing in real life when expatriates return to their home nation in a time of war. Although they have left, they still have ties and a love of their heritage and will fight to defend it if called upon. Bradbury wrote that the colonists all had family and friends back on earth whom they missed alot so for me it makes sense that they would go back.
    For me it also meant that no matter how far mankind comes, we will only have one home in the universe. As for it being a stronger work than Fahrenheit 451 I guess that will always be a matter of opinion :o)

    @ Sam: Glad you liked the review. I like sci-fi but, like you, I've read a few bad ones which have almost put me off. Ray Bradbury has a distinctive style I really enjoy so I always appreciate his sci-fi


  9. Now that you mention it, I can see your point. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and my only real earthquake fear is that I won't be home at the time. I'd much rather be at home during an earthquake than off travelling somewhere.

    Same thing for the Mars colonists, I guess.

  10. I loved this one too. Bradbury has such a talent for offering up interesting commentaries on society while using elements of fantasy or sci fi. Great review.