The Martian Chronicles

The Martian ChroniclesThe Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury was originally written as separate short stories. After being submitted to his publisher, the publisher told Bradbury to connect the short stories into a cohesive collection about the planet Mars and its subsequent colonization of the planet.

Each year I teach “There Will Come Soft Rain” by Bradbury and until reading “The Martian Chronicles” I had no idea the two were related. Granted, the inclusion of “Soft Rain” in the “Chronicles” is abstract at best. In fact, it really could’ve been excluded without impacting anything. However, it added something to a reading of “Soft Rain” in the context of the entire “Chronicles” story arch.

The first piece in the “Chronicles” irritated me to know end. The characters felt flat and stereotyped. There was a tone that had the same effect of nails scratching a chalk board. I worried that I was going to hate the whole collection if they were anything like this one. Luckily it was an outlier and I actually loved the book as a whole. While there a few pieces that stood out to me, so many of them blend together that unless I had the book with me, I can’t distinguish one from another.

Two surprising topics that Bradbury tackles is American exceptionalism and racism. I wasn’t expecting Bradbury to address these subjects, which is why I was surprised. He tackles both adroitly if not in a very open and honest manner that makes it uncomfortable in a good way. Because of this and the entertainment factor of reading the collection as a whole, I would recommend this book. I don’t think it should be as overshadowed by “Fahrenheit 451” as much as it is. “The Chronicles” makes me want to read more of Bradbury’s canon.

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Fahrenheit 451

It’s a shame I’ve waited so long to read this powerful novel.  Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is one of those books that you see listed on the must read lists.  And for some reason I ignored it.  I finally decided that I needed to read it as several of my students had read it and recommended it to me.  Plus, I’ve been thinking about teaching it during my Post-WWII unit. Excuses aside, I’m glad I finally cracked the cover.

FahrenheitThe hard thing about Fahrenheit is that it starts in media res.  And there’s no resolution.  It’s quite the Postmodern experience.  Especially for someone who teaches students about the parts of a short story, it’s nice to see someone who is playing with genre because it’s something new and I have to work a little to get acclimated to the style.  But it’s also something that I didn’t like.  The plot starts and just picks up pace right to the end.  It feels like running a race.  Except you never reach the finish line.  You just stop.  And there’s only a vague vision of the finish.  But the race that we did run was pretty awesome.

It just happened that I was reading Fahrenheit while I was teaching Thoreau’s Walden (just the chapters, “Economy,” “Where I lived, What I lived for,” and “Reading.”  And Fahrenheit mentions Thoreau and his expostulations on reading.  Particularly, the point that it’s important to read for the sake of the questions that authors ask and that make we readers question our thoughts and beliefs on things.  And for that reason I’m certain I want to teach this work to my students.  To show them that there’s an echo in literature in which no author is an island.  But also because, as a teacher, it’s better to let the book do the teaching.