The Martian Chronicles is somewhere between a collection of short stories, and an episodic novel. The book consists of a series of short stories, arranged in chronological order, starting in 1999, of Earthlings attempting to get to Mars and the Martian attempts to stop them, of colonizing Mars and effectively making it a second Earth, and finally, of trying to get back to Earth when war threatens. The stories are mostly unconnected, with the odd mention of previous characters, similar traits in the native Martians, and the backdrop of Earth destroying itself.
There is quite a range of topics covered in this book. Although mildly offended by the claim that the last woman alive would head straight to a beauty salon, the mini story was quite amusing as the last man alive tried to escape her. It wasn’t all frivolous however, this book considers a lot of issues around the human condition. It questions what it means to have a soul, and looks at the deepest desires of the heart. The arrogance of the Earthlings and their destruction of the original beauty of Mars says a lot about colonialism and ethnocentricity.
I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of meaning in this. This is probably quite a good book for those not used to the genre as there’s not a lot of emphasis on the different type of life on Mars, the men from Earth can live there easily without any real adaptation. It’s a reflection of 1950s America and is thought provoking without feeling too heavy. There are stereotypes, and it’s not without its flaws, but it’s definitely worth a read as a troubling view of humanity, and the irony of the creation of the exact type of life on Mars that the men from Earth were fleeing from.