August 2nd, 2004, 10:02 AM
Seeker of Stuff
August BOTM: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Another fine classic of SF this month. I just finished it myself, but I don't have time for any comments yet. So, does it hold up over time? How did you or did you not enjoy The Martian Chronicles?
August 3rd, 2004, 05:07 PM
The Martian Chronicles is a beautiful beautiful piece of work that one could ponder for decades and still be no further toward understanding entirely. For those who love putting together their ‘best of’ lists – surely this has to be in every one. There’s just so much to look at.
For a start we have Bradbury’s breathtaking skill as a writer to drool over. With the possible of exception of JG Ballard I can’t think of a single author who has such perfect understanding of metaphor, imagery and symbolism and, more importantly, how to deploy each effectively. Aspiring SF authors – this is the standard bearer for the genre. Pay attention!
Something else worthy of note is the size of this book. To me, the word ‘Chronicle’ evokes the image of a monstrous gilded tome such as the Domesday Book with pages so broad one needs two hands to turn them. Granted I didn’t expect something so large in the post from Amazon, but I was completely unprepared for the un-chronicle-like 240-page offering that arrived at my front door. So much so that I made a brief check to see whether I’d unwittingly bought just one part of a much larger opus.
All early disappointments soon vanished however when I began to take notice of Bradbury’s incredible efficiency as a writer. The ideas, concepts and emotions other SF authors lumber to represent over innumerable pages Bradbury effortlessly expresses in a couple of paragraphs. After a handful of chapters I distinctly recall feeling full – bloated even. Like a man who’s overindulged with a piece of Aunt Winnie’s delicious yet leaden Christmas cake.
This book is so dense that upon reaching the end, it is with the notion that one has lived, breathed and experienced something truly colossal.
The individual stories are mini-masterpieces. The muted brutality of the opening chapters soon gives way to a creeping, dread sense of forlornness and despair as the Martian colony, once so youthful and vibrant, drifts inexorably, painfully, toward extinction.
I don’t think I’m being too gushy when I describe The Silent Towns as the most haunting piece of SF ever committed to paper. I shall never forget the image of Walter Gripp, left behind and alone, frantically searching for the only ringing telephone in a deserted town, on a deserted planet. And when he does find it – oh the crushing anguish!
The Third Expedition is interesting because it gives us an early look at what Bradbury would subsequently evolve into: a highly adept screenwriter for television and a titan in the field of horror. The surreal façade which ultimately turns into something wicked is straight from the studios of the The Twlight Zone.
The final tale, The Million-Year Picnic, is pure poetry. The reveal of the ‘Martians’ stands as one of the truly great SF endings - a tiny kernel of hope in a forest of melancholy and ruin.
I'd love to chat more about this, but I think it's time to let you people have a say.
Five stars! Ten out of ten! Two thumbs up!
Bravo Ray Bradbury.
August 4th, 2004, 09:59 AM
Among all the hard sci-fi novels: Mars by Ben Bova, The Martian Race by Gregory Benford, Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis - there is the poetic fantasy that is The Martian Chronicles. I read this is one night and one morning. I could barely put it down. I actually felt like I was really there. Not many authors can actually pull me into another world. The ideas are great, everything from the sandships to the revelation of the Martian race. It is truly a novel that people will talk about 1000 years from now, and is not to be missed.
August 12th, 2004, 01:29 AM
I just finished the Martian Chronicles.
I think they were ok. I really liked the way the book was constructed.
But I thought getting rid of the Martians by having them die of chicken pox badly done, since I just cannot believe that they didn't try to isolate sick people or try to get away from the contaminated places. The survivor numbers were just way to low.
Another point that doesn't make any sense to me is, why the people who emigrated to Mars went back to earth because of a war that was believed to possibly destroy the whole planet. I definitly would not have gone back!
Nonmetheless I liked the book and I would read more books by Bradbury.
August 12th, 2004, 05:36 PM
et in arcadia ego
I'm a "fantasy forum" person, and not really a sci-fi fan, but when I saw that you were reading this book I felt that I needed to comment. I read the Martian Cnronicles probably 17 or 18 years ago as a teenager, and while I don't remember the specifics, I remember that it was a profound book that affected me a lot at the time, and I am tempted to reread it now.
I don't remember much other than a chapter called Usher II, and also the chickenpox thing. I thought that the later was very well done and I remember being blown away at the time by the concept. I mean, it's true - an entire advanced, intelligent society could be wiped out by a foreign disease and way ahead of its time.
Ok I'm rambling now, but I'm going to give an example. I am a lawyer and previously practiced environmental law, and one very overlooked and huge real-life problem involves international shipping, and ships that scoop up soil from places like the far east to use as ballast, and then discharge it in places across the globe like America, and as a result some non-native species of aquatic life have been introduced that cause a great threat to the native species. So imagine the threat if this were to happen in foreign planetary environments. I don't know when he wrote the book, but Bradbury is ahead of his time in this kind of concept.
I'm going to the library tomorrow to try to get a hold of it and reread it.
August 13th, 2004, 07:34 AM
Here's the link to the book on Bradbury's official website.
August 15th, 2004, 01:10 PM
Seeker of Stuff
I think Mugwump summed up the book nicely. It is a remarkable piece of work indeed.
This was one of the first novels I read (along with R is for Rocket and Farenheit 451) some 25 years ago that introduced me to SF. I hadn't read it since.
Bradbury is pretty harsh when it comes to the "nature" of men and this was no exception. I loved the scene where the hotdog salesman flees in blind terror from the martians.
I too was a bit baffled when everyone left mars to be slaughtered on Earth. It made little sense when they were there to escape that very thing. On the other hand, "duty" is also strong within the minds of men and it also showed that while they did want to escape Earth and all of its troubles, they couldn't bear to contiue knowing that all they loved was being destroyed.
There were so many touching points in this collection of stories. Because it focused so much on the nature of mankind, it still is relevant today, 55+ years after it was written.
August 19th, 2004, 11:25 AM
I think Mugwump says so much of what needs to be said about this one. I finished it a few weeks back but haven't yet had a chance to get in here and comment as well as I would like to. This was my first Bradbury (hangs head), and I really enjoyed it. It's amazing to see how much more the old guys could do in fewer words than people writing today can do with a doorstopper in many cases.
The only Mars book I'd read before this was KSR's Red Mars, and this was definitely a different vision. Having been written so many years ago, it's interesting to see the sort of unbridled enthusiasm that the Earth men approach Mars with. To just go knocking on doors saying "Hi. We're from Earth," is something I can't conceive of at all in a book written today, but it says a lot about both what people knew of Mars and space travel and what the dreams were in that direction.
To have all of the initial expeditions totally eradicated was also something of an initial shock to me, especially as two of them happened for such mundane reasons: The jealousy of a husband, a scientific misunderstanding.
The rest of the book seems to capture a very appealing sort of melancholy. One of the things I am happiest with this book about is just the lingering mood that it leaves behind for me. The stories were all great on their own, but they then combine for me into just a general feeling about Bradbury's whole Martian experience: something both the excitement of the frontiersman, but also the fear and loneliness of the last old and first new people on Mars, and then finally the hope of the father showing his children their reflection in the water as the Martians they were so eager to see.
On a side curiosity: I got a copy of this from a used store, and it apparently came out in the early '80s at the time NBC was doing a version of the book. Did anybody see it? How bad was it?
August 21st, 2004, 09:16 AM
I will be the odd one out and say 'They killed trees for this ?' It is so dated and reads like a book version on Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver.
I read this before and was trying to reread it and just can't force myself to finish it. I don't care about the premise, the stories, and all the human characters. I don't like a lot of old SF, and this pure DWM (Dead White Male).
The one thing that is interesting is his description of the Martians, their cities and the landscape. It may even be that my earlier reading of the book formed my view of Mars as a hauntingly beautiful place with a sadly ruined air. I liked his treatment of the death of the inhabitants through disease - ala the American Indians and the first Europeans. But I just can't wade through all the Ken dolls and their pointless stories to keep reading about the parts I like.
I also don't think much of his writing, and the lack of depth to the characters and the stories. I just don't have a nostalgic bone in my body either for a reread or for the golden past that his writing tries to evoke, both of the 50s and of an earlier more pastoral America.
August 23rd, 2004, 06:27 PM
Barring Rock Hudson's character (which conflicts with the book) it's a very faithful adaptation. I liked it for its downright strangeness, but many others despise everything about it. You can usually find the series repeated on the SciFi channel.
Originally Posted by Erfael
Veering away even further, Bradbury’s appreciation of brevity is highlighted in the delightfully macabre Something Wicked This Way Comes (borderline SF in some areas). A book that Stephen King has made a living out of rewriting again and again and again (each time with an extra one hundred pages!) for the last twenty-five years. <grin>
Last edited by Mugwump; August 23rd, 2004 at 06:30 PM.
February 7th, 2005, 08:21 AM
read this in the 80's
I rememeber that I liked it but thats about it.
June 18th, 2005, 07:38 PM
Conqueror of Dominion
Bradbury's writings may have inspired Pistopher Morley's books, but I can think of few other imitators he has had. The man was both inimitable and irrepressible. He wrote realistic stories in the Chronicles , firmly backed by a Sense of Wonder. His BEMs looked about like this: . So, he took everyone on a better trip to Mars than NASA has had. I'm on my easy chair with a bottle of coca-cola. When I was in San Diego somebody told me Bradbury, who'd just arrived in Hollywood to be a script writer, was troubling everybody with notations like this for the MOBY DICK script: "The only sound is the moon alighting on the water." I never found out if this story was true, but it sounds like Brad's approach to writing. One cheer for that author and how far he has taken sf!
June 20th, 2006, 03:41 PM
Member of the Month™
I've just read this,
most of it within one afternoon. Six words: what a book, what a book! This is real writing, real story telling. This is the honest stuff of science fiction for me. I loved absolutely every line of it; the mesmeric style, the mystery, the gentle brutality, the dialogue, the wrangling of the emotions, the rare and razor-sharp humour, the remarkable cover (by Michael Whelan) the number of pages, the way very short stories sat between the longer ones, the titles. I honestly can't think of enough superlatives.
Coming to this quite soon after reading Kim Robinson's Red Mars, I have to wonder what Robinson was thinking bringing us such a comparitively sterile view of the Martian landscape. Of course they are two different books from different eras each trying to acheive its own goals, but Bradbury's portrayl of Mars is ultimately more humane and more 'useful', to be practical. Robinson's manual on how human life may pan out on Mars is one man's view, Bradbury's is anyones'.
The only book I can think that this compares with stylistically is Gene Wolfe's Fifth Head of Cerberus. Though I enjoyed that book an awful lot it didn't resonate with me in quite the same way as The Martian Chronicles has, and as Mugwump says, each of Bradbury's tales are so abundantly rich and vivid that his tales completely overshadow Wolfe's in this instance.
Probably my favourite chapters were Night Meeting and The Off Season though there was little between any of them and the whole book worked convincingly as a novel for me. If I had to pick one fault it would be that the tale Usher didn't really seem to fit too well with the others. But it's a minor fault - it's still a good chapter.
Despite being a fast and easy read this is a book to think about for a long time after and makes most of the recent SF tales I have read, even the very good ones, pale in comparison.
Last edited by Ropie; June 20th, 2006 at 03:43 PM.
November 18th, 2006, 01:00 PM
The last time I read Bradbury was way back in elementary school where I was seldom without my copies of The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes. I considered him the greatest living writer of our time. Of course, back then, I also thought Phantasm was the scariest movie ever made.
I picked up The Martian Chronicles with a certain amount of trepidation. Would reading Bradbury, some 30 years later, quash those happy memories? Would his writing hold up or would it prove as underhwelming as, say, watching Phantasm again after all these years? Well, some three stories in and I was ready to announce: "The Emperor has no clothes!". I was unimpressed with Ylla, found Earth Men incredibly silly, and downright hated "-And the Moon be Still as Bright". Bradbury's prose was as beautiful and polished as I remembered but, dear God, the dialogue! I'd wager that even in 50's, people did not talk in such a stilted, expository manner. Ouch.
And then, I read Night Meeting and, suddenly, I was reminded of the Bradbury I once held in such high esteem. I continued reading and there were some truly great stories (ie. The Martian) and some honestly not-so-good ones (ie. Usher II), a mixed bag in my opinion - but there's no arguing his prose mastery.
Despite the rocky start, I really enjoyed this book - and, yes, still regard Bradbury as one of the greats.
Last edited by LordBalthazar; November 18th, 2006 at 01:02 PM.
November 18th, 2006, 02:13 PM
Member of the Month™
Yes, I liked this one a lot too. It was simple, atmospheric and memorable. I also liked every other story and though I agree that some of the dialogue has dated badly it didn't spoil anything about the tales for me.
Originally Posted by LordBalthazar
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