Somewhere Renowned for Its Canals and Color Red

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury – I’ve had a copy of this book lying around for a while, and yes, I decided to finally read it after Bradbury died. Typical, huh? Rather than a consistent narrative, the book is largely a collection of short stories, some of which had been published previously. Between these are brief transitional chapters. While the focus and style can shift drastically between one chapter and the next, there’s an ongoing theme about the exploration, colonization, and subsequent abandonment of Mars. It’s creative and sometimes sad, as it deals with the inadvertent destruction of Martian civilization and nuclear war on Earth, among other tragic events. I do have to wonder why “They Will Come Soft Rains,” the tale of a mechanical house that keeps on running long after its inhabitants have died, is included. Not because they’re anything wrong with it, but because it takes place on California and seems to have nothing to do with Mars. Oh, well. I still enjoyed it. One story that was particularly interesting for me was “Usher II,” which addressed Bradbury’s favorite topic of censorship in a way that was both comic and rather disturbing. A man living on Mars uses a haunted house based on Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher to get revenge on the people who have censored literature on Earth. Like Bradbury himself, William Stendahl is obviously familiar with the Oz books. When complaining about the destruction of fantasy, he says, “And they spread the ashes of the Phantom Rickshaw with the rubble of the Land of Oz; they filleted the bones of Glinda the Good and Ozma and shattered Polychrome in a spectroscope and served Jack Pumpkinhead with meringue at the Biologists’ Ball!” Later, it’s revealed that the robots in his house include Tik-Tok and Ruggedo. These aren’t exactly obscure characters, since they’re major players in the books, but you have to be familiar with more than the movie to know who they are.

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