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In Some Ways: Not So Ahead of Its Time

By Kelsy | Books | May 10, 2010 |

By Kelsy | Books | May 10, 2010 |

When I first read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in high school, it blew my mind. This time I read it, and I was only mildly interested. The ideas weren’t enriched by years of life experience so much as they became overwrought. The book consists of several short stories (some were previously published in magazines, etc.) that give different perspectives of life on Mars, from Martians to Earth men. Men first come to Mars to explore, and then to flee the violence on Earth, and then leave because a great war has broken out on Earth (solidarity, I guess).

Some of my lackluster second reading has to do with how dated I found the book this time. Obviously the story (“Way in the Middle of the Air”) involving all the black people in the South fleeing oppressive white bosses is dated in the ’40s-era it was originally written. But more dated to me was the lack of imagination Bradbury had for gender roles. I mean, even the Martian women are homemakers that live at the whim of their husband’s decisions. Sure, some of the women are given some sass or an equal relationship with their husband, but the vast majority of the stories involved little female influence (especially the stories about space expedition crews). The story that had the most colorful female character was “The Silent Towns” where all the Earth people have gone back to earth for the great war except one man and one woman. Unfortunately for the man (who was waiting for his “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” kind of wife), the woman is overweight (now that everyone who told her to watch what she ate is gone) and waaay too eager to get married, so the man chooses to be alone. Haha?

Plus, the story I remember loving the most the first time, “Usher II,” seemed kind of douchey pretentious. It’s about a rich guy getting revenge for all the stolen books/movies that were censored (Fahrenheit 451-style) by killing the government agents involved. Although I was still amused by the Poe-inspired deaths, it just wasn’t as hilarious as the first time I read it.

Things I still loved? The stories that involved Earth men falling in love with Mars and wanting to protect it. “—And the Moon Be Still As Bright” tells the story of an archaeologist, Spendor, who ends up using violence against his own crew to protect the freshly vacated Martian towns. I understood the man’s need to protect such beautiful things from those who wouldn’t get it. Also, “The Green Morning,” about Mars’ Johnny Appleseed also struck me with its aloneness and awe at an empty planet.

All in all, it’s a good collection of stories that explore what humans would do to a new planet using evidence of past conquests. I like its mosaic style of storytelling, the way different perspectives put together a more holistic view of the overall story. The Martian Chronicles is a pretty good read.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Kelsy’s reviews, check out the blog, Cheerful Cynicism.

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