Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles

Ever since I read Something Wicked This Way Comes in October of last year, I’ve been wanting to read more books by Ray Bradbury. He is such a unique and sensual writer (sensual meaning describing the senses of a scene in ways I rarely see). And I finally managed to read this book. Now I just have to read Fahrenheit 451 and I’ll have read all of Ray Bradbury’s most famous works.

Anyway, this book was not what I expected and is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read.

Release: 1950.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads because there is no way I can sum up this book) “In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, America’s preeminent storyteller, imagines a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor— of crystal pillars and fossil seas—where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a vanished, devastated civilization. Earthmen conquer Mars and then are conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race. In this classic work of fiction, Bradbury exposes our ambitions, weaknesses, and ignorance in a strange and breathtaking world where man does not belong.”

Review

If I were to try to categorize this book, I would say it’s The Twilight Zone meets philosophy. It is a strange read, more of a collection of short stories which all have a similar setting (a.k.a., Mars, or at least Bradbury’s version of Mars). For the first few stories, I was inclined to dislike the book. There was little cohesion, lots of pointless death, and confusing characters, but as I continued reading the book, I found myself fascinated by the themes questioned. For stories predominately set on Mars, they certainly examine humanity’s weaknesses and questions of existence a lot. It is metaphysics to a t, but if you are looking for a cohesive plot, maybe skip this book.

The story follows humans traveling to Mars, from the first spaceship landing all the way to a settlement being founded on the planet and the deaths of most of the martians and the final destruction of earth. I was seriously confused by the connection of some of the stories. Early on, we see the martians having the ability to connect telepathically with other people. They don’t talk, only speak to one’s mind. They can cause others to see hallucinations. They can also morph into any person they like. At one point, two priests meet these fiery orbs which have literally transcended the weaknesses of humanity (sin, war, selfishness, death). The humans are constantly questioning the planet, sometimes leading them to their deaths.

As the stories continue, it turns more and more to examinations of how humanity is actually changing Mars. They build towns, renaming places which were already named by the martians. They eventually destroy earth and their sin (a common theme in the book) has twisted Mars as well. And yet in the end there is a message of hope, that a new future without wars might be started again on Mars.

If I were to sum up this book in one quote, it would be this:

“There’s a truth on every planet. All parts of the big truth. On a certain day they’ll all fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw.”

And that is what this story feels like: the pieces of a jigsaw carefully placed together to explain both the planets of Mars and Earth.

I am the type of reader who likes more cohesion to a story, and this one completely lacks any cohesion. However, I did enjoy parts: the beautiful descriptions, the examination of human nature, the evils of humanity. There is something extremely fascinating and horrifying about this book, and I can’t decide if I loved it or was just super disturbed by it.

Have you read this book? Or know anything about it? What is your view of books which are philosophy disguised as a narrative? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

  1. I read this ages ago. Today, my main memory is that it was hella weird. I remember loving it as a kid, too, but these days I’m more like meh. I think I’ve grown out of my Bradbury fascination, to be honest.

    I do remember his advice for writing short stories, though! It was something like, on Monday, write the first draft of the story. On Tuesday, write the second draft. On Wednesday, write the third draft. On Thursday, write the fourth draft. On Friday, write the fifth draft. On Saturday, write the final draft. On Sunday, rest. On Monday, start a new story. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My 5th grade English teacher, Ms. Minsky, read it to us over several weeks. I think it was every Friday, but whatever day it was, her dramatic reading of it was a real treat and the main reason why she is one of the two grade school teachers I remember vividly these many decades later.

    I did not understand half of what was read to me. It was a deep book for a 5th grader, especially with English being my second language. Despite that, the vivid, full-palette descriptions, the sensuality of his writing, was striking and couldn’t help but excite my young imagination. I read it again in high school and appreciated it even more, especially the haunting lyricism of the narrative. It’s certainly a novel I would revisit again.

    Fahrenheit 451 is not as lyrical, but it is every bit as good. It is also a very prescient work, not necessarily in the mundane details of the future (gadgets and policies) but believe it to be spot on culturally, even, dare I say, spiritually.

    Check out Bradbury’s ‘The Illustrated Man’ while you’re at it.

    I trust you’ll enjoy it too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 5th grade does seem a bit early to understand this book, so I’m glad you read it again in high school. I really want to read Fahrenheit 451. I have heard of The Illustrated Man, but I know nothing about it. I’ll have to put it on my TBR. Thank you for the recommendations!

      Liked by 1 person

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