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