Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury's The Martian ChroniclesSummary: The Earthmen came by the handful, then the hundreds, then the millions. They swept aside the majestic, dying Martian civilization to build their homes, shopping malls, and cities. Mars began as a place of boundless hopes and dreams, a planet to replace an Earth sinking into waste and war. It became a canvas for mankind’s follies and darkest desires. Ultimately, the Earthmen who came to conquer the red-gold planet awoke to discover themselves conquered by Mars. Lulled by its ancient enchantments, the Earthmen learned, at terrible cost, to overcome their own humanity.

Rendered in gorgeous, full-color art by Dennis Calero, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles: The Authorized Adaptation graphically translates fourteen of Bradbury’s famous interconnected science-fiction stories, turning an unforgettable vision of man and Mars into an unforgettable work of art.

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Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury and Dennis Calero 6.75

‘The Martian Chronicles’ is a collection of short stories that Ray Bradbury wrote for various publications during the late 1940s, then collected and bridged together into a whole. It was originally published by Doubleday in 1950 to much critical acclaim, thereby launching Bradbury’s career.

I’ve actually never read the book before, nor (truth be told) any of Bradbury’s other works, but I’d become intrigued by ‘The Martian Chronicles’ when I discovered that a TV mini-series starring Rock Hudson was produced in 1979. For years, I’ve been wanting to see it, even though it’s not stellar.

!

In any event, I recently discovered this graphic novel adaptation of the book by artist Dennis Calero. It’s not only an authorized adaptation, but Ray Bradbury himself penned an introduction explaining his oeuvre’s origin. I decided that it’d be an excellent way to get acquainted with it.

Of course, I didn’t know that this was a bunch of short stories, some short (in graphic novel form, one-pagers!), others longer, all offered chronologically and recounting various tales pertaining to humanity’s eventual exploration of the Red Planet, towards the end of the 20th century.

My favourite must be “The Earth Men”, which follows the second expedition on Mars, looking for the first one, which hasn’t been heard from in months. In their attempt to reach out to the natives, the small contingent of explorers go from farm to farm only to be dismissed time and time again.

When someone finally takes them seriously, it’s because the Martians think that the Captain is actually just hallucinating and that his hallucinations have taken on a life of their own – hence why they can see his “colleagues” and his “rocket”. And there’s only one answer to stop this…

…the twisted humour of which I won’t reveal.

What I liked most is that this scenario flies in the face of what you’d expect from any first contact with an alien race: amazement and admiration. Instead, these people seem blaséd, as though they’d seen this before or it was no big deal. It was both funny and thought-provoking to me.

I also enjoyed “…And the Moon Be Still as Bright”, in which a crew arrives from Earth only to discover that the Martians have all been decimated by the chicken pox – which Earthlings brought. This could certainly happen (though it made me wonder why humans were unscathed by a Martian equivalent).

Anyway, distraught over the annihilation of a race that he feels is more sophisticated, crew member Spender disappears and immerses himself in their culture – only reappearing to assassinate his former crew members, to prevent them from disrespecting and destroying what is left of this civilization.

I really appreciated the depth of his respect for the Martians, a respect which his Captain also shared. And it made sense to me that the journey and perhaps the isolation could have had some terrible effect on his sanity. In any event, despite his actions, I was impressed with his intentions.

The rest of the book was a mixed bag, with some stories being a bit farcical and others being completely redundant – though most of them tie together nicely. What’s unfortunate is that, for some reason, Calero decided to adapt only 14 of the 28 original stories – and there have been much more since!

As well, I found that his adaptation wasn’t particularly good: The art is hardly the best I’ve ever seen, the speech bubbles are poorly placed (to such a degree that I consistently read them in the wrong order!) and there were even typos, which are undoubtedly not in the source material.

Ouch.

However, it has intrigued me enough that I may consider reading Bradbury’s full chronicles someday. Though the adaptation is weak in certain areas, much of the material is superb, giving us an unlikely but nonetheless fascinating look at humanity’s colonization of this solar system’s second-smallest planet.

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