Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: The Martian Chronicles

So this was all good except for the casual sexism and occasional threat of domestic violence.

So, there isn’t really a plot as it’s a collection of short stories about Martians, people going to Mars, people leaving Mars and a few people going back to Mars. Some of them were really quite creepy and others quite sad. There was a general theme of lots of people shooting each other for no apparent reason. For much of the book there’s reference to the coming war and atomics, so it’s very much a product of its time.

There’s a bit of a 1940s aesthetic throughout the whole thing, which means stay at home moms (even though we’ve got rockets to go to Mars) which not only extends to Earthlings but to Martians as well. Because sexism is also apparently a universal constant like gravity.

Hardly any of the main characters are women, they’re almost always part of someone else’s plot. So, it doesn’t really pass the test. Even more than that, was the semi-frequent expressions of violence against women!

The first story “Ylla” read like the poor woman was in some emotionally abusive relationship. Another story, a man relates a ‘hilarious’ story about how he slaps someone. It wasn’t very nice, basically. In another story, the last woman on Mars, is apparently too repulsive for the last man on Mars. So that kind of distracts from the whole thing. Everytime a woman has a bit of a crisis, the man basically wants to hit her. Charming.

I think I liked bits of it but not actually a whole lot of it. The casual violence (randomly killing people) and the sexism occurred quite often, so I was mostly quite annoyed. I think the scope of it was really neat thoug and how disjointed the narrative was. It was okay.

You can also sense the disillusionment with science and technology (probably because of the war).

They quit trying too hard to destroy everything, to humble everything. They blended religion an art and science because, at base, science is no more than an investigation of the miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle. They never let science crush the aesthetic and the beautiful. It’s all simply a matter of degree. An Earth Man think: “In that picture, colour does not exist, really. A scientist can prove that colour is only the way the cells are placed in a certain material to reflect light. Therefore, colour is not really an actual part of things I happen to see.” A Martian, far cleverer, would say: “This is a fine picture. It came from the and and the mind of a man inspired. Its idea and its colour are from life. This thing is good.” P. 51

Which is weird to encounter in science fiction but it’s a bit of a trope now. As it happened in Finches of Mars as well.

Anyway, I guess it gets a 2/5. I just really don’t like all the casual, unexplained and accepted violence. It’s weird.

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