What a strange book this was. What a difficult task to review it. Its structure resembles more a collection of short stories rather than a novel, which makes it way too easy to get stuck on the parts and miss the whole, but there is a red thread through it, thin as it may be.
The Martian Chronicles was written in 1945, around the time World War II was coming to an explosive end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The year is 1999. As more and more people flee our planet to start a new life on Mars, to escape such things as slavery and bureaucracy, Mars puts up resistance. Strange things start happening. But that doesn't stop mankind from colonising the red planet.
The red thread that I mentioned above, the common denominator of all the episodes described in this book, is the uneasy feeling that nothing is how it is supposed to be. My first encounter with Bradbury was the excellent, superbly creepy Something wicked this way comes. I read it as a teenager, and, even though I no longer remember the details of the book, I remember very well how unnerving it was, how deeply disturbing. While The Martian Chronicles isn't quite the waking nightmare that book was, it has a dark, foreboding character that never lets you forget who wrote it.
I found it hard to get past the episodic nature of the book. All characters were bound by the same history, were facing the same threat, were heading towards the same future and inhabited the same planet. Yet, with only a handful of pages dedicated to each of them, there was no room for character development. I felt detached, almost indifferent to the fate of these pioneers.
Yet, the poetry. The poetry! Bradbury writes beautifully, his descriptions casting spells on the reader. His storytelling is as vivid as his imagination, his world -although at first dated when seen through our modern eyes- believable. His message is as important and relevant today as it was in 1945. All in all, The Martian Chronicles is not one of my favourite books but it did make me want to read more Bradbury.