The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
"We earth men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things."
This brilliant collection of science fiction short stories combines elements of humour and tragedy to show us how much man must learn, as such a very dim view of human society is evoked in these pages. Before he enters the world of the Martian, he has a lot of developing to do.
Bradbury suggests that Martian culture has transcended its human counterpart; the Martians have accepted an almost animalistic ethos in which they live for the simple sake of existence. They do not question religion or science; they blend the two together in a display of cultural harmony. However, the brutish man is too limited to do this and as a result has lost all sense of himself. The image of the Martian way of life is captured in the serene beauty of their cities, which is juxtaposed against the humans incessant trespassing on foreign soil. He is the invader, the unwelcome guest.
For centuries man has dreamed about going to Mars. He has finally achieved this monumental feat, and when he arrived, he expected to be greeted as a hero: he expected to be greeted with open arms by the Martians. But, alas, the Martians have a very different opinion to the aliens that invaded their planet. They have a funny and very realistic response to the intruders. They raise their laser pistols and get ready to fire. The humans could not comprehend that perhaps the aliens may be different to themselves; they didn’t consider that their so-called expeditions could be received so negatively.
"It is good to renew one's wonder, said the philosopher. Space travel has again made children of us all."
Indeed, the children (man) did not stop to think about what he was doing: he simply rushed in and expected the best. He ignorantly presumed that he wouldn’t be received as a threat and an invader that needed to be fought off. Time and time again man repeats his mistakes, and, for me, this formed the main motif of this collection of short stories. Humanity never learns. The repeated expeditions into the unknown only ended in disaster, first for the humans and then eventually for the Martian people.
In these stories Bradbury questions human existence and the futility of its explorations. They each carry a powerful moral message. By drawing the parallel between human and Martian culture, Bradbury captures how flawed human aspirations are. Humans will never be fulfilled and complete. They are harboured by a perpetual longing to have more than what they need. The continuous visits to Mars symbolise this. Earth is not enough for man, he wants Mars too in his folly. Bradbury’s stories suggest that he needs to take a step back before he ruins something beautiful.
This is a great collection of science fiction stories that, together, speak louder than they do alone. Whilst each is individual, they are, of course, meant to be read as a collection. This provides a comment of the nature of man, and a highly entertaining reading experience. These are some of Ray Bradbury’s finest short stories, don’t miss them!
This The Martian Chronicles book review was written by Sean Barrs
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