Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

I've loved Ray Bradbury for a long time--since at least fifth grade, when my English class got taken to the upper school library, and we were told to pick out a book of short stories to read. I chose The Stories of Ray Bradbury, which was my first exposure to, I'd guess, all of these--if I'd read any Bradbury before this collection, it was probably Fahrenheit 451, which I've loved for a long time. And yes, this collection was a strange short story collection choice for a fifth grader, and it's weird for a fifth grader to have read Fahrenheit 451, much less loved it. But I've always been a weird reader. So there you have it. Bradbury's story "A Sound of Thunder" terrified me, and still does, really. I've taught "A Sound of Thunder," "Harrison Bergeron," "All Summer in a Day" and other stories by Bradbury--he wrote so many, after all. He's widely anthologized--included in just about every literature textbook you look at!

But somehow, I never read The Martian Chronicles. So I picked up a lovely old copy last year at a thrift store, and it's been sitting on my "to read" shelf ever since--my copy is a mass market paperback originally printed in 1951 (the book was first published in May 1950), reprinted over and over through the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Maybe they kept reprinting it--but I have the 48th printing, published in 1978, so that's all I know about that.

It takes place from January 1999, when the first expedition goes to Mars from Earth, until October 2026.

I'd read parts of it before--pieces had been published as stand-alone stories. But the whole thing is magnificent. Nearly thirty years of Earth natives colonizing another planet (and written before the moon landing, before any exploration of space by Earth natives). So many different visions of what the Mars settlements will look like (conveniently, Mars' air is thin but breathable by Earth people). And the settlements look like so many different things over the years. A fascinating, amazing book. I continue to love Bradbury so much.

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