Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

The ship came down from space. It came from the stars and the black velocities, and the shining movements, and the silent gulfs of space. It was a new ship; it had fire in its body and men in its metal cells, and it moved with a clean silence, fiery and warm. In it were seventeen men, including a captain. The crowd at the Ohio field had shouted and waved their hands up into the sunlight, and the rocket had bloomed out great flowers of heat and color and run away into space on the third voyage to Mars!
Now it was decelerating with metal efficiency in the upper Martian atmospheres. It was still a thing of beauty and strength. It had moved in the midnight waters of space like a pale sea leviathan; it had passed the ancient moon and thrown itself onward into one nothingness following another. The men within it had been battered, thrown about, sickened, made well again, each in his turn. One man had died, but now the remaining sixteen, with their eyes clear in their heads and their faces pressed to the thick glass ports, watched Mars swing up under them. (43-44)

It’s against the advice of most writing guides to begin an essay/review with a quotation (a block quotation in particular), but Ray Bradbury’s voice sells itself. I can think of no other writer who better communicates a sense of wonder and joy. Full disclosure: I put off reading The Martian Chronicles until I’d read all other Bradbury stories I could find. I worried it would be another one of those awful sci-fi books to take itself too seriously and rely on ridiculous inventions and technobabble to move the plot—that brand of sci-fi doesn’t age well. While the book is centered around voyages to Mars, the technology takes a backseat to the basic thrill of exploration. I should have had more faith in Bradbury and read it sooner. read more