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Thoughts on “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronciles was recommended to me by a bookstore coworker several years ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since — a perfect candidate for the TBR Pile Challenge. I enjoyed Fahrenheit 451 when I listened to it a while back, so I was looking forward to wandering into Bradbury’s world again.

About the Book

"The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury (cover)The Martian Chronicles is structured as a collection of loosely related short stories. Their titles include a date, and they move chronologically, from January 1999 to October 2026. Together, they tell the story of how humans came to Mars, what they encountered when they landed, and what happened over the years that followed.

My Thoughts

I found The Martian Chronicles to be…interesting. Not in a “fascinating!!” sort of way, but with a bit of skepticism and reserve thrown in. “Interesting” preceded by a moment’s pause, the word you choose when you’re not entirely sure what other word would be more accurate.

There were certainly fascinating moments. Bradbury is an impressively creative writer, working in details that really make the story and coming up with little plot twists that create moments of surprise and even delight. My favorite story/chapter, one entitled “April 2000: The Third Expedition” that occurred early on in the book, had a particularly clever and chilling twist, as did my second favorite (“September 2005: The Martian”) a little later on.

I think it was the format that got to me. It felt much more like Bradbury had taken a bunch of Mars-related stories he’d written, figured out which order made the most sense, written a few short pieces to provide transitions, and then published it as a novel. That may, in fact, be what happened, as several of the longer stories included notes saying that they were originally published separately in the 1940s and 50s. There are a couple of characters that appear in two stories instead of just one, but the vast majority of characters, and even some of the world-related details, are isolated to their single, confined appearance.

At the very least, I wanted some kind of continuity when it came to Mars itself. But it seemed like sometimes there was water and sometimes there wasn’t; sometimes the Martians behaved in one particular way, and other times they were completely different. Was Bradbury trying to show that different parts of the planet were as diverse as Earth? I couldn’t tell. For me, it just made the collection feel disjointed, like the setting was tweaked between tales.

It’s an interesting book, as I said, and I’m glad I read it, but aside from a few of the stories, I don’t think it’ll stay with me, and I don’t plan to keep it on my shelf.

The Verdict: Mediocre

Bradbury is, as ever, a wonderfully creative author who surprises you and makes you think. I just wish The Martian Chronicles had been more novel than collection of stories.

Your Turn!

How do you feel about the interconnected-short-stories format? Does it work for you?

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  • Trish422

    I haven’t read this one, and while the topic really interests me, I am concerned by the disjointed nature of the stories. I’m not a short story fanatic to begin with, so I would definitely prefer a strong sense of continuity.

  • http://erinkurup.com/ erinkurup

    Trish422 It could have been SO cool. A couple of the stories are great. But like you, I’m not huge on short stories, especially if they’re not somehow related. The upside is that it’s pretty short :)

  • TriniCapini

    I love what you say about “interesting” because it really is a word to use when you really don’t know what else to say. I haven’t read this one but I do own a collection of Bradbury’s short stories. I wonder if any of these are included (it’s a bit anthology…in an e version). I do like short stories to be interconnected–otherwise it’s hard for me to connect with the collection. Wish I wasn’t that way!

  • http://bookchatter.net/ Ti Reed

    I am not a fan of connected short stories. I feel that if they are connected…then why not write it as a novel? Seems like a lazy way to present material. That sounds so horrible coming out of my mouth. 

    As for Bradbury, I am on a Bradbury kick right now. I finished Fahrenheit 451 for banned books week and now I am hosting a read along for Something Wicked This Way Comes and it’s also interesting but in this case, interesting = good.

  • http://theardentreader.wordpress.com theardentreader

    I felt exactly the same way when I picked up The Martian Chronicles back in 2010. Interesting but I wish it had been fleshed out into a full novel. My copy was also published in 1997 so they pushed all the dates up from 2001 to 2031, which I thought was an odd choice.

  • http://erinkurup.com/ erinkurup

    TriniCapini I think I’d have liked these ones better if they’d been in a collection instead of somewhat smushed into a novel. I’m not so much a short story fan (except for Simon Van Booy’s stuff!), but I’m even less a short-story-collection-trying-to-be-a-novel fan, apparently!

  • http://erinkurup.com/ erinkurup

    Ti Reed Ha, no, not horrible! I kind of feel the same way. I haven’t read a lot of connected short stories, but they tend to feel…thin somehow to me. Like you said, I’d rather have a proper novel.
    I read Fahrenheit 451 a few years back — way better than The Martian Chronicles! And I think I read Something Wicked when I was in high school, maybe, but I remember nothing about it. Too bad I missed the readalong :)

  • http://erinkurup.com/ erinkurup

    theardentreader Oh, that is very bizarre about the date change. And totally unnecessary…that’s like retitling 1984 as 2084 or something. What??