Despite being impressed by Ray Bradbury in the past, and the rave reviews I received from friends who loved this book, I really wasn’t expecting much from it. I’m more of a fantasy girl than a sci-fi, but this book put me in my place. It floored me with its stunning beauty. I never expected to be so taken with it. Easily, one of the best books I’ve read this year.
It is the story of the colonization of Mars by Earth Men, told in a series of short stories. There is no main protagonist who is followed by the plot. It’s biased against humankind, so an argument could be made that the settlers of Mars from Earth are the antagonists, and Mars herself the passive and tragic heroine. The destruction of Mars by mankind is not slow, as the destruction of our own planet has been, but rather happens in the space of a few decades. As Mars is destroyed, so too is Earth, and humanity suffers greatly for its self-inflicted loss of habitat.
Obviously, Ray Bradbury has something to say in this novel. Long before the craze of global warming and its threat to life on our planet, nuclear war was the looming fear for Earth’s people. This plays prominently in The Martian Chronicles, and one cannot help but be disgusted at the selfishness of humankind. The destruction of Earth is our fault, and the consequences should be endured. Unfortunately for the Martians, mankind has made travel to and colonization of their planet as simple as flying between continents. Due to the delicate nature of this fictionalized Martian climate, and to the inability of the Martian people to withstand human disease, the demise of Mars is swift and unavoidable.
There is so much that surprised me about this novel. Each short story contains something completely new and unexpected. As the events unfold, one is convinced of Mars’ beauty, and of humanity’s ugliness. There is no end to the almost magical and uncanny events that take place on Mars–time-travel, shape-shifting, and telepathy included. The civilization on Mars is thousands of years old, sophisticated, advanced, and peaceful. Very few humans take the time to understand the beliefs, customs, and philosophy of the Martians, and those that do are wiped out along with the Martian race. The philosophy that Bradbury projects onto the Martians is beautiful, and I found myself stunned at his incredible portrayal of what a peaceful world would look like, and his expression of what it would take to get there. His language, also, is extremely moving, and his reprimands of humanity come in a harsh but eloquent manner.
Truly, this book is a thing of wonder. I highly recommend it to everyone. It is a book of philosophy, essentially, written in narrative form and structured around a science-fictional world. But it by no means brow-beats the reader with sci-fi, and it gives one perspective on our lifestyle and attitude about our home planet. Definitely a must-read for anyone.