Elitist Classic: The Martian Chronicles
Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury! He turned 90 on August 22nd (just this past weekend), and what better way than to celebrate one of his classics? A prolific writer of novels, short stories, essays, and other works, Bradbury originally published THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (Amazon) in 1950. It’s a short story collection about the human colonization of Mars–but it’s not your traditional collection.
Originally published in magazines as shorts, Bradbury gathered the stories in one book by stringing them along chronologically using brief vignettes to tie them together. At first it will seem disjointed and odd, but Bradbury’s crisp prose and sense of humor is engaging, and good enough reason to continue reading until the story finally grabs you. If you’ve read A PRINCESS OF MARS (Amazon), then you’ll have a few laughs when you recognize Bradbury’s nods in Burroughs’ direction.
Bradbury claims that THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES isn’t science fiction, instead calling it fantasy because it depicts events that would never happen. If I were to label it, I’d be tempted to call it horror because of its psychological elements, fantasy for the ludicrous situations, and science fiction for the warnings about the future that this genre often portends. Even then, if you read beyond the surface you’ll see Bradbury’s post-war social commentary, and fortunately his satire still feels relevant today.
There are a few different versions, including reprints that change the first Mars landing from 1999 to thirty years after (the dates really are irrelevant, except in relation to each other) and some additional stories written after the first printing. No edition is better than the other, so it’s up to you whether you prefer to read the original or a ‘complete’ version. THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES should be easy to find at even small libraries.
- Recommended Age: 12+ for content, although most kids won't get the social commentary and humor until their late teens
- Language: Some, but it's minor
- Violence: Very little, and when there is violence it's not graphic
- Sex: None