Rereading: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES by Ray Bradbury

I don’t think I’ve read this entire book since I was a teenager, though I’ve revisited a few favorite stories since. When I first read it, it seemed solidly in the science fiction genre, now I would call it fantasy with sf elements. But my overall impression in this reading was often that these stories reminded me of Twilight Zone episodes. They’re about people and their faults (and sometimes their strengths) even if some of the people are golden-eyed telepathic Martians. I’ve also always thought of the book as a novel, but now I realize it’s short stories with connecting sections added, what’s called in book writing a “fix-up novel.” Looking through the complete works of Bradbury listed at the back (to 1973), I was surprised to see how few actual novels Ray wrote. Even Fahrenheit 451 began as a short story and was expanded into a short novel. Only Something Wicked This Way Comes is a novel, all the other Bradbury books are short story collections.

There are stories here I remember so well I knew the entire plot and some of the text as soon as I saw the story title, like “There Will Come Soft Rains,” and “Usher II.” There were others that I remembered as I went along, and a few I didn’t remember at all, including two that were added to this collection and not in the first edition. All the stories are beautifully written, have wise and sometimes sad things to say about humanity, and are impossible to read without feeling them deeply. It’s masterful work, and many have just that little twist of the unexpected that takes them out of life on Earth as we know it to a place that can only be Bradbury’s Mars — nothing like the real Mars even as it was known then, but a strange and haunting, but also familiar place. Recommended.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

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