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