Friday, June 28, 2013

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Martian Chronicles

Happy Friday, everyone! With my boys out of school, I've been thinking about summer reading this month. I was the kind of kid who had my nose in a book all summer long. I didn't play sports, I didn't go on fabulous vacations. And in my junior high days, we didn't have the electronic distractions that kids have now. So, I read. (Yeah, I watched bad TV too, but mostly I read.) Feeling nostalgic for those days, I've chosen Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles as my coffehouse entry for today.

Bradbury called it "a book of stories pretending to be a novel." This blurb from Wikipedia explains the format better than I can: "The Martian Chronicles follows a "future history" structure. The stories, complete in themselves, come together as episodes in a larger sequential narrative framework. The overall structure is in three parts, punctuated by two catastrophes: the near-extinction of the Martians and the parallel near-extinction of the human race."

I think I read and reread this book every summer from junior high until after college. Written in the forties and fifties, when 1999 was a distant sparkle in the future, it was dated even when I picked it up for the first time. Martians? Please. But I found the stories to be so compelling, so poignant, so understatedly sinister at times that the hokey science was easy to ignore. At their most basic, the stories examine the good and the bad of what it means to be 'human.' But the book is also a commentary on what makes a better society, what Americans (even back then) were doing wrong, and the lessons we dumb future-people might learn from the Martians. (Sadly, I suspect we haven't.) This is the book that turned me into a Ray Bradbury fan for life, and I am enjoying rereading it now more than ever.

And now, I'm off to get my coffee and read some enlightening cephalopod book reviews!



13 comments:

Mark Means said...

One book I've never read, but have been meaning to....for years.

I may just have to fire up the old Kindle and download it :)

Graciewilde said...

I, too, have never read it although I've read many references to it. I am so not a science fiction fan but I have rad a few of Ray Bradbury's books . You make me want to give it a try! Thanks!

The Armchair Squid said...

I read this book for the first time just a couple of years ago. I prefer Fahrenheit 451, I think, but Martian Chronicles is also very good.

The whole sci-fi genre has come so far in the years since, as has our scientific knowledge in general. Books like this one can seem awfully naive. There's a lot of real-world sensibility in Martian Chronicles, though, that helps to keep it relevant.

Sharon Himsl said...

For some reason I missed this amazing book. Need to download to my nook.

Mary Mary said...

I sheepishly must admit I've read nothing of Ray Bradbury's. I know, I know! I'm glad that you have a book you can go back to over and over again and still find it fascinating. I'm quite the opposite. I almost never read a book twice.

Okay, now I have to go and read this book!

Tony Laplume said...

Will probably be the Bradbury I read when I get around to reading more Bradbury.

Laoch of Chicago said...

I think there is a lot of poetry in this book, although I read it was about 10 years old and was very disappointed then that the stories did not fit together better.

Jenny said...

I'm pressed for time but want to thank all of you for your comments. Ray Bradbury wrote so very many stories that I'd like to think there's one out there for everyone.

jaybird said...

There is a book I haven't read in years, an oldie but goodie though, for sure! :)

Suze said...

I loved your intelligent, thoughtful review. Plus, it had spark. Most resonating line: 'I think I read and reread this book every summer from junior high until after college.'

It reminds me of my experience with Catcher in the Rye, which I reread four years running. Mark of magic.

Susan Kane said...

Ray Bradbury is a favorite in our house. Years ago (30?) there was a TV movie special about this book. Rock Hudson was the leader, and the brave pioneers struggled with lots of issues.

Can't say it was good, but I still remember it after all these years.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I like Bradbury but I haven't read this one. Adding it to my list.

MOCK! said...

Another shamefaced sci-fi fan who has never read Bradbury! The Armchair Squid and I share a mutual fan who suggested one of his time travel stories recently...seems like it is time to give him a go!