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The Martian Chronicles Mass Market Paperback – April 17, 2012
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From "Rocket Summer" to "The Million-Year Picnic," Ray Bradbury's stories of the colonization of Mars form an eerie mesh of past and future. Written in the 1940s, the chronicles drip with nostalgic atmosphere--shady porches with tinkling pitchers of lemonade, grandfather clocks, chintz-covered sofas. But longing for this comfortable past proves dangerous in every way to Bradbury's characters--the golden-eyed Martians as well as the humans. Starting in the far-flung future of 1999, expedition after expedition leaves Earth to investigate Mars. The Martians guard their mysteries well, but they are decimated by the diseases that arrive with the rockets. Colonists appear, most with ideas no more lofty than starting a hot-dog stand, and with no respect for the culture they've displaced.
Bradbury's quiet exploration of a future that looks so much like the past is sprinkled with lighter material. In "The Silent Towns," the last man on Mars hears the phone ring and ends up on a comical blind date. But in most of these stories, Bradbury holds up a mirror to humanity that reflects a shameful treatment of "the other," yielding, time after time, a harvest of loneliness and isolation. Yet the collection ends with hope for renewal, as a colonist family turns away from the demise of the Earth towards a new future on Mars. Bradbury is a master fantasist and The Martian Chronicles are an unforgettable work of art. --Blaise Selby --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
“A modern classic” —The Washington Post
“A giant…One of the country’s most popular and prolific authors.” —Los Angeles Times
“One of the greats of twentieth century American fantasy.” —Newsday
“There is no simpler, yet deeper, stylist than Bradbury. Out of the plainest of words he creates images and moods that readers seem to carry with them forever.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A wonderful storyteller….Nearly everything he has written is sheer poetry.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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Top Customer Reviews
Ray Bradbury wrote these short stories in the late 1940s at a time when we knew almost nothing about Mars. Some scientists even thought there were probably canals and the remnants of a dead or dying Martian civilization on Mars. Written as science fiction originally by Mr. Bradbury, our growing knowledge of Mars makes these assumptions science fantasy today. But don't let that shift rob these stories of their power over you.
But Mars was just the setting for a more serious set of questions. Mr. Bradbury was concerned that the world was too full of hate, war, short-sightedness, and greed to amount to much. He despaired as to whether humans would survive the discovery of the atomic bomb. From this raw material of human excess, he stitched together a powerful vision of our choices -- to operate at our best . . . or our worst. He appeals to our better selves in a vivid way that will be unforgettable to you, if you are like me.
The development of the book has an interesting history. Mr. Bradbury was in his late twenties, and had written quite a few short stories. While visiting New York, he showed his short stories to publishers who liked them. The publishers advised him that there was a market for novels, but not much of one for books of short stories. Then one night it hit him, he had the raw material for a novel about Mars if he simply wrote a few transition stories to fit with ones he had already written. He sat up late that night writing the book proposal, and sold it the next day. That concept became The Martian Chronicles.
Mr. Bradbury had recently read Winesburg, Ohio and was impressed by that book with the potential to use a series of stories as a way to tell a community's history. It seemed natural to use that structure for his Martian book.
The book covers a time period from 1999 through 2026, starting with the first manned expedition to Mars from Earth. The American astronauts do find Martians. The complications of the first four expeditions come from the interactions between humans and Martians, and are unexpected and intriguing. The stories explore the implications of a race being telepathic in very revealing ways.
Much of the human colonization of Mars in the book pits those who want to recreate Earth against those who appreciate what is special about Mars. So exploitation versus conservation is one theme in the book. As a backdrop for the stories, you will read about all of the themes of the Westward migration in the United States from the eradication of the native peoples and culture, to excess exploitation of natural resources, to the desire to be free of "civilized" society.
There are wonderful stories in here against racisim, censorship of books (which became the basis of Mr. Bradbury's later book, "Farenheit 451"), and war.
Towards the end of the book is a lovely sequence of three stories about the various meanings of loneliness. I particularly recommend them. The first looks at men and women seeking each other out when there is no other company. The second considers the loss of a family and how to cope with that. The third looks ruefully at the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.
The last story in The Martian Chronicles, "The Million-Year Picnic," causes me to shiver and moves me almost to tears every time I think about it. From that story, you will be able to answer the famous question in the book, "Who are the Martians?"
By the way, the book is much better than the movie. If you think you know the story from the movie, I suggest you read the book. If you have a choice of one or the other, I definitely suggest the book.
By the way, years later Mr. Bradbury reviewed this book and commented that the world had turned out much better than he had hoped. He said that would have written a different kind of book on the same subject in the 1970s, but he still had great respect for what the young man he was in his twenties who had written The Martian Chronicles.
The manned exploration of Mars is probably our greatest and most important challenge as a species. Yet, we pay little attention to the question now. I suggest that you use your reading of The Martian Chronicles to help reignite a discussion with those you know of what our goals and methods should be concerning Mars.
Reach for the stars . . . to create the fullest human potential and accomplishments -- morally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
UPDATE: January, 2017
I have let this warning stand for 4 years, but it is no longer accurate. There are (apart from used books) three versions of The Martian Chronicles on this Amazon page: the Kindle, the hardcover and the trade paperback. I have looked at the table of contents of each.
The Kindle version is a censored version with altered dates, Way in the Middle of the Air missing and The Fire Balloons added. Apparently this kindle version is no longer available, I cannot verify that, but I hope it is true.
The hardcover version also is a censored version with altered dates, Way in the Middle of the Air missing and The Fire Balloons added.
The mass-market paperback, however, I am delighted to say is a better edition, with the original dates restored, and the original chapters that the 1958 version, and all subsequent versions up to 1998, had. Thank you, Simon and Shuster, for responding to reader outrage and restoring what never should have been altered. And thanks to the book-buying and reading public for demanding that a book widely touted by its sellers as "a classic" be, in fact, a classic.
By the way, there is nothing wrong with Bradbury's story "The Fire Balloons", it's just not part of The Martian Chronicles, it's part of The Illustrated Man, look for it there.
Mr. Bradbury wrote a story where all of the black people get fed up with the south, and the way they are treated, load up the rocket and leave all of the bigots behind. Incredibly some paper pushing editor must have thought this story would offend our sensitivities, and took it upon him or herself to remove it from the chronicles.
Strange that the work of Mr. Bradbury, a champion of free speech, is being edited.
Do not get this version! (I got hosed, but vowed to save my fellow readers from the same fate)!