Genre: Science Fiction
Narrative Style: A series of interlinked short stories that show the human journey from arriving on Mars through settling there to leaving again.
Synopsis: Through a series of interlinked stories, Bradbury explores the human relationship with Mars. Beginning with invasions – and Martian attempts to thwart them – Bradbury’s stories look at colonialism, human nature, loneliness and war.
Reading Challenges: TBR Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.
Time on shelf: This has been on my kindle for about two years. The last Bradbury short story collection I read was a bit hit and miss so I avoided this one for a bit.
This was, for the most part, very enjoyable. I’m not a massive fan of short story collections as I usually find some don’t quite hit the mark but the narrative links running through the stories helped the whole thing to hang together.
It is always a bit weird reading science fiction from a long time ago. (So long ago, in fact, that the stories are set in the early 2000s. It is weird to think that Bradbury’s distant future has already faded into the past.) Even when Bradbury was imagining amazing future technology, he was hampered by the knowledge of his age and things sometimes felt a little quaint.
However, the main point of Bradbury’s fiction is not to write a perfect version of future technology but to look at the way human nature will be shaped by technological developments. So he looks at the way that humans would behave when they arrive on Mars – how they immediately turn it into another version of earth, trying to remove all Martian traces and not caring how much they ruin the planet (And the Moon Still Be as Bright). He looks at relationships between Martians and humans – although most of the Martians have been killed off by chicken pox. In the story The Fire Balloons, priests are sent on a missionary mission to Mars and Bradbury discusses the idea of what sin might mean on a foreign planet.
Some of my favourite stories were early in the collection and revolved around failed expeditions. In The Earth Men, the newly arrived spacemen are taken for mad men and placed in an insane asylum. Due to the Martians telepathy they can see others’ hallucinations and so all assume that the Earth men are merely mad. Telepathy also figures in The Third Expedition. When the crew arrives, everything resembles their hometowns along with long dead relatives and they come to believe that Mars is really heaven. However, nothing is what it seems as the Martians have used telepathy to lure them into a false sense of security.
The final two stories are both poignant. There Will Come Soft Rains shows the way an automated house will continue running even after nuclear war has destroyed civilisation. Finally, a family escapes the war on Earth back up to Mars. Hoping to repopulate the planet now that Earth is ruined, a number of people have hidden rockets until they could use them to escape. They burn all documents they have brought with them and relate to their identity on Earth including a map of Earth. In the end, having promised his sons the possibility of seeing Martians, he shows them their reflections in a river.
As with the best science fiction, the themes are still relevant to our modern society especially as the race to get to Mars is underway. The technology may seem a little hokey but the ideas are still important.