Friday, January 20, 2012

Bradbury Friday: The Martian Chronicles

We are going to take a little side trip from the Bradbury 13 stories. Here is why. The story I was going to do today is called "Night-Call Collect." I had written on my notes that it was from the book I Sing the Body Electric! and based on a story by another name in The Martian Chronicles. While I was at the library looking for books, I did not find I Sing the Body Electric! But I did find The Martian Chronicles. So I pulled that book. I noted the story "The Silent Towns" was in this book, and thinking it was "Night-Call Collect," I brought it home.

Monday this week, I pulled out The Martian Chronicles.  I read the introduction, written by Ray Bradbury, and was intrigued at the prospect of the book as a whole. Mr. Bradbury had not intended to write an entire novel of Martian stories. He merely had written, over a few years, what he called "Martian pense'es, Shakespearian 'asides,' wandering thoughts, long night visions, predawn half-dreams. I laid out my pense'es in no special order or plan and entombed them with two dozen other tales. ... Walter Bradbury (no relation) suggested that I might have woven an unseen tapestry. 'All those Martian tales,' he suggested, 'can't you needle-and-thread them, stich them up into The Martian Chronicles?'" So he did.

Well, this idea that here was a book of collected stories, which could stand alone, are woven together to complete a whole story compelled me to read the book in its entirety. So, I did. I began on Monday. "The Silent Towns" is near the end of the book. I figured I'd reach it on Thursday and be ready for my post today. Well, I did. But "The Silent Towns" is not "Night-Call Collect." The story starts somewhat the same, but the outcome, the phone calls, all that makes "Night-Call Collect" what it is, well, it isn't there in "The Silent Towns." Basically, if we are calling it 'based' on "The Silent Towns," well, it's loosly based.

So then I debated about whether I should hurry to the library today and find out if they have a copy of I Sing the Body Electric! or do a story from the other book that I have. But that one is also a "book-of-stories-pretending-to-be-a-novel" that I wanted to read from start to finish, too. So, I decided that I'll just tell you what I thought about The Martian Chronicles today, and next week, we'll get back to our regularly scheduled program.

The Martian Chronicles is a very interesting book. Some stories are chilling, some are thinkers, and some make you take a good hard look at how we live our lives. It is set from the year 2030 through the year 2057. It's funny to me to think how little our world looks like Ray Bradbury thought it would in the 2000's. Automated houses, rockets leaving Earth all the time, people striving to find another planet to live on, censorship, tyranny, wars. Bradbury had the books burned, starting in 1999 through 2006. We're past that time frame, and thankfully, censorship isn't so strong that books are no longer allowed, even in a private home. And yet look at some of the technology that we have, which was something of science fiction in 1948.

In 2030, Earth sends a 2 man expedition to Mars. Scout the place. See if it's livable. They never hear back from those men. Six months later, the next rocket has 4 men. When Earth doesn't hear from them after they touch down on Mars, they prepare a new rocket. 8 months later, the third expedition arrives, containing 17 men. But there is still no word. The next rocket arrives more than a year later, this time with 20 men. This has to be it. The mission must make it! Well, Captian Wilder and his men find a dead planet. Cities full of old Martian homes, some long dead, others with bodies. Only dead a few weeks. What killed them Martians? The medical examiner has discovered Chicken Pox has wiped out these thriving Martian cities. So, the other men did get here! Brought a foreign disease, and wiped out the natives.

The rest of the stories range from people on Earth, planning to move to Mars to get away from war, and people on Mars, living their lives, and perhaps wondering if they'll have to return to help with the war. As always, there are twists and turns. Each story could stand on its own, but they are woven together, reference one another, and form a novel. The ending is strange, somewhat tragic. But each story holds a little bit of magic. There is something about a really great story. And this book if full of them.


Anonymous said...

I think this post was a very good "save" of reading what you thought would be there but was not.

Interesting that the book was a bunch of his short stories that were stitched together to form a book.

I think Ray Bradbury had a little bit of Future Vision. I remember getting up at 4:30 am to watch the count down of the first space shots in the early 1960's, and which would became a regular venture into space until we walked on the moon in the summer of 1969.
He started Writing back in the late 1940's when rockets were only used to bomb places far away. Some times I have to stop and remember, that Radio was the first television, and televison was not always in color.

I look forward to next week, when we can once again, take a tour through time and space, go into a far future, or follow into a strange past.

Elizabeth said...

Dang. I knew Bradbury's books were going to be interesting. I've been entertaining the idea of reading them for a while and now I'm sure I have to. I guess I'll give up sleep, because there are so many things to do in a day, I can't do them all.

Love your book reviews. I'm going to have to get with the program, though, aren't I.

xo -E

Carrie said...

I've read the Martian Chronicles. At least, I think I did. It was one of those old, worn paperbacks on the bookshelf in our basement when I was growing up. I'll have to pick it up again and take a look to see if I really DO remember reading it. Also going to check out some of the Bradbury 13. I do love good science fiction. Thanks for sharing!