Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Martian Chronicles

Yeah! I've now read two books by Ray Bradbury that I actually like! After enjoying Something Wicked This Way Comes, I decided to check out The Martian Chronicles.

The Martian Chronicles is a series of interconnected short stories about life on Mars, mostly in the 2030s. I thought it was interesting that Bradbury wrote these in the 40s, a time before space travel, setting them nearly 100 years in the future. Now, it's 2012, Bradbury is still alive, has seen us travel to space, and I was born in the same decade as several characters, yet we've just suspended our space program, making attempted settlement of Mars by the 2030s unlikely. :) Thinking about all of that was just a big of a mind trip for me.

Speaking of mind trips, since we get the Martian perspective in some stories, you tend to view the Americans attempted to explore Mars as a bit unwelcome. I wonder how much of that was a criticism of WWII. Oddly enough, I had just heard a story about an old Twilight Zone episode where a woman is being attacked by tiny men with tiny guns, and she has to start throwing them in the fire and smashing them like bugs, and you cheer for her when she defeats them. Then the camera goes up to the rooftop to show the tiny spaceship the tiny men arrived on - they were U.S. military arriving on Mars. Dun dun dun. Some of these stories felt a bit like that - they forced you to think about someone else's perspective.

The most moving stories to me where the ones about being able to "see" your dead relatives again, seemingly alive and well. I thought about my grandfather, and I understood the characters' desire to believe that at any cost, even if they rationally knew that their dead loved one couldn't be there in front of them. I ached along with the characters as they realized their mistake in believing and had to go through the pain of loss again.

These are really my favorite type of short stories - those that interconnect to tell pieces of a whole story. I liked that you get all the meat without a bunch of filler, the freedom to jump perspectives and times in a page or two. I also liked that these weren't too heavy on the science fiction, even though they take place on Mars. The focus is much more on the characters and making you think, not on the science behind everything. I can't wait to read more Bradbury in the future and am glad that I can now say I like him as an author even if Fahrenheit 451 seems to be forever ruined for me.

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