Bradbury, author of frequently selected as required reading Fahrenheit 451, wrote some of the novel as short stories for publishing in science fiction magazines in the 1940s. For the novel form, the stories were loosely woven together with short vignettes that tied the first expedition to Mars with the colonization of the planet. This fact is slightly obvious as the sections published previously tend to be more interesting and more fleshed out.
In the novel, the fourth rocket and crew sent to explore Mars by the United States, which lands on Mars in 2001, finds the planet’s cities to be empty and the Martian’s demise trigger by an outbreak of chickenpox. The crew, who had figured the previous explorers never landed on the planet, quickly realize the role they have played in wiping out this civilization, and one crew member decides to go rouge. (This was my favorite part of the novel.) As the novel progresses, humans begin fleeing the atomic wars occurring on Earth, and start to colonize the planet.
My copy of the novel uses the original dates, although the 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 year so that it ends in May 2034. However, I think the shift in dates ruins the charm of the novel, and makes the message stand out for different reasons. The racism seen in the novel, and the commentary that accompanies it, would stand out for all the wrong reasons, and, I’m afraid, make Bradbury appear as a flaming racist. Plus I always think it’s interesting to read outdated science fiction/fantasy novels and see how people in the 1940s thought the 1990s/2000s would be like.
- Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Del Rey Ballantine, 2003. First published 1953. Print. 179 pgs. ISBN: 9780345342968. Source: Purchased.
- Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York: Bantam, 1979. First published 1946. Print. 182 pgs. ISBN: 0553278223. Source: PaperBackSwap.