We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.
Title: The Martian Chronicles
Author: Ray Bradbury
Number of pages: 241 (paperback edition)
Good things about this book: It’s easy to read and it’s short and has lots of interesting elements.
Bad things about this book: All the stereotypes and obvious flaws because of them.
Do I recommend it? Yes, give it a shot.
Read the summary and add this book on Goodreads: here
I don’t think I really liked this book. Yes, it’s very well written, it has many elements beyond its time, nice ideas for a dystopian sci-fi story, but it has flaws I can’t seem to tolerate. I think the fact that it’s so old, with its use of such antiquate views of the world, made the whole reading experience barely tolerable for me. It’s a book about a second America, built by Americans with typical American methods and American point of views, on Mars. They literary built cities and called them New New York, etc. Really, a clone country on a different planet with zero regret for what happened to the Martians. Sounds familiar, right?
It’s a book written in 1950, and it shows. A lot of themes were typical of America during those years and the futuristic elements were different from the ones I’m used to with more modern books. There’s the oxygen situation that’s not really an issue and that’s not really explained, and the fantasy parts like the rain that makes seeds from Earth grow to their maximum capacity in just one night. There are lots of interesting elements that fit well into the sci-fi narration but some others that were quite improbable. I know how the sci-fi genre plays a lot on the imagination just like the fantasy genre, but usually the elements are so well integrated and explained in the story that they do seem plausible; it doesn’t matter how crazy a thing is, if you give me a good explanation I can believe in anything.
While I did enjoy some chapters, there were a lot that were so hard to read I was tempted to skip them completely. Take the chapter with Walter, the allegedly last man on Mars; it was one of the creepiest chapters I’ve ever read. I was furious and disgusted and I couldn’t wait for it to be over, but guess what? It was one of the longest. Also the chapter with the man with the hot dog stand; oh my, how much I didn’t like that one. People do stupid things when they’re afraid, I can understand that, but this was on a whole new level of stupidity. Again, furious. That state of mind was a constant during my reading of this book and I don’t think that’s really how I was supposed to feel.
A while ago I read “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin and I fell in love with the characters and with the story. That is also a sci-fi written a lot of years ago and it also had tons of stereotypes typical of the time. While the Le Guin book didn’t get ruined but that flaw, this one lost lots of appeal to me because of them. I think this is mainly because there really aren’t recurring characters. There are different stories, from different characters, that take place during a long period of time. Not being able to connect with a character resulted in me seeing all the flaws that, with at least one strong character, would’ve been bearable.
Long story short, The Martian Chronicles had all the potential to be a sci-fi book I would’ve loved but then, in my opinion, it didn’t live up to its fame. That’s a pity, though; I truly wanted to love it.