Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction
(5 / 5)
This is required reading for me this semester for the science fiction literature class that I am taking. Yes, I read it early. I got a little too excited for it because this book contains my favourite short story of all time, There Will Come Soft Rains, named after a Sara Teasdale poem.
The Martian Chronicles is classic science fiction, which means that no matter how good it is, it is somewhat problematic. The bulk of this book was written during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Gatekeepers like John Campbell made sure that science fiction was written for straight white boys for straight white boys. While Bradbury wasn’t as bad as most writers of that time, there are still hints of sexism and racism. However, it doesn’t detract from the book. It is more of an iconic humor. More on that in a moment.
Bradbury took a series of short stories focusing on the colonization of Mars, nuclear war, and the destruction of the human race, and wove them together as one story. It works well. I did a write up on the short story The Wilderness after I read it because this story is important to my reading history. It is the story that turned me onto Bradbury. It is also the first thing I remember reading in elementary school. Later I would read There Will Come Soft Rains and the tribute to Edgar Allen Poe, Usher II in school. I don’t recall when I read them but I read them. Yes, that Poe tribute is also in this book. The story touches on book burnings and what constitutes morality.
Now about that sexism and racism…Maybe it’s not so much racism as it is xenophobia or nationalism. Hard to say because they all intersect somewhere on a Venn diagram. Since the stories take place after WWII during the Cold War, I would like to think it is more nationalism. At the same time, the United States was still living under Jim Crow laws. In one of the first stories, it is blatantly stated that it was only the Americans who settled on Mars. Everyone else was engaged in fighting each other, including Australia. It has to be assumed that everyone in the book is white except the aliens. Women were very much portrayed as the stereotypical housewives.
It amazes me that Bradbury could imagine a world with rockets and space travel and the colonization of another planet and even robots, but he could not envision a world where everyone was more or less equal. He’s not offensive about it in anyway, but he is very much a product of his time. In this same vein he could imagine all these things but could not imagine anything taking the place of the now antiquated answering machine or that the cost of living would change from what it was in the 1950’s. These are not things that I thought about the first time I read the book (or the individual stories), but now that I do, I find it all ironically funny.
On the flip side, this book is very much a commentary on colonization and the tools of colonization. How disease and violence and religious conversion have all played a part, and how the human race refuses to change in those respects. I could go into an entire thing on the sociology of this but I will spare everyone.
For the most part, the book holds up fine to time but it does give me that Fallout (video game) vibe these days. I am still a Ray Bradbury fan and my 5 star rating may be a bit biased because of my love of There Will Come Soft Rains and Usher II.