“It is good to renew one’s wonder, said the philosopher. Space travel has again made children of us all.”
This line about sums up the plot of physical events happening in Ray Bradbury’s poetic series of loosely-connected vignettes, The Martian Chronicles. The narrative focused on a world where humans are moving to Mars, and what that may entail—us interacting with the foreign planet, Martians, leaving things behind, carrying things with us. The plot is straightforward and simple, unlike many sci-fi depictions of Mars colonization.
It was within the emotions folded again and again upon each page that made The Martian Chronicles so profoundly intimate. The vignettes were like a sequence of vivid images, all a part of one strange and beautiful dream. Bradbury’s masterful use of prose and language really helped the dream, like a song, drift on by. I found myself seeing Martians and crystal pillars inside my head, following the easy flow of Bradbury’s words. The pictures conjured up emotions that were at once very old but very close to me.
When discussing The Martian Chronicles, the narrative summary and title can make you think of it as action-packed or adventurous in man’s exploration of Mars—it seems like it’s talking about big ideas. While it does possess these elements, The Martian Chronicles discusses something much closer to our hearts, ideas much more internal than actually big—it deals with themes of impermanence; of the fleeting nature of life; and a deep, profound loneliness.
In “The Martian,” a lone Martian man wanders into a town where he found out his shape-shifting nature projected him as a lost loved one to all the humans in town. Initially he used this to his advantage, acquiring a place to stay and food to eat. However, eventually he was torn apart by everyone’s desire for the people they’ve lost.
Another story, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” portrays one of the loneliest characters in science fiction history—a futuristic house whose artificial intelligence is keeping it fully running and automated, with cleaning mice and self-care robots, awaiting a family (whose silhouettes were still on the wall) who would never again require the house’s care. And eventually, the robotic house would succumb to its own sort of mortality.
These stories, along with many others in The Martian Chronicles evoke emotions that, as readers we can explore and ponder about all we want. When I finished reading the novel—which is actually more of a short story anthology than a novel IMO—I found myself renewed with a multitude of emotions. Bradbury presented me with a playground of which I toyed around with my feelings through The Martian Chronicles, like a massive thought experiment, pondering about space travel and meeting aliens and losing loved ones and all that fun stuff. His words, on top of all that, helped everything flow like a dream.
This isn’t a sober or morbid read, mind you, if you’re getting that impression through my words. Not one bit. I just tend to be a little nostalgic, and sometimes nostalgia can be perceived as sad, but really it’s not always the case.
Anyways, I found myself feeling hopeful, after reading The Martian Chronicles, as well as possessing a new appreciation for humanity and the world we live in. Through one of the most beautiful passages I’ve ever read in my life, Bradbury made the reader stop and ponder again about Time, in a different, more tangible manner…
“There was a smell of Time in the air tonight. He smiled and turned the fancy in his mind. There was a thought. What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, 100 billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing. That was how Time smelled and looked and sounded. And tonight—Tomas shoved a hand into the wind outside the truck—tonight you could almost taste Time.”
Through the same style of prose, like a river of words gently floating down a stream of fanciful images, Bradbury uses the mask of a Mars colonization story to tell us more about ourselves and the things we have within this world.
The Martian Chronicles felt like Bradbury’s way of fixing his science-fiction/fantasy lens upon the human condition. There was so much of ourselves and our own world, all the people we knew and cared about, within these strange characters who were packing up their bags and leaving, it was difficult not to feel something. This piece of work is a celebration of our humanity, simultaneously acknowledging our cracks and broken pieces, along with our pretty parts and laughs. The story is then neatly wrapped up in a lyrical dream.
🌌 🌌 🌌 🌌 🌌
“Your insanity is beautifully complete!”