Preface: I own the Bantam Books paperback edition, printing number 68 in 1988. It includes the story where the blacks (African-Americans) get fed up with the south and head to Mars. Some editions have this story edited out. The removal of the story was for political correctness and to not offend some racial groups.
I first read The Martin Chronicles in the 1980’s. I continue to come back from time to time to dip (to use a Bradbury phrase) into the wonderful writing and story telling of Ray Bradbury. He set the standard high when he wrote The Martian Chronicles. The book has one of the most important set of observations about our human issues ever written in either science fiction or science fantasy form.
Like many of Mr. Bradbury’s works, The Martian Chronicles is short story collection He turned them into a novel by writing a few transition stories to fit with ones he had already written. He wrote these short stories in the late 1940s. That was a time when we knew almost nothing about Mars. He uses Mars as the backdrop for a more serious look at issues and questions including hate, war, lack of forethought, and greed. Mr. Bradbury visualizes an amazing future. He sees what can be when humankind operates at our best. He appeals to our better selves to build a better future.
The book covers a period from 1999 through 2026. It begins with the first manned expedition to Mars from Earth. The American astronauts find Martians on the first journey to Mars. The complications of the first four expeditions come from the interactions between humans and Martians. The complications are unexpected and fascinating.
In the book, much of the human colonization of Mars brings those who want to recreate Earth against those who appreciate what is special about Mars. Therefore, exploitation versus conservation is one theme in the book. There are magnificent stories in here against racism, censorship of books, and war.
Near the book’s end are three stories about a variety of meanings of loneliness. They are wonderful. The first looks at men and women seeking each other out when there is no other company. The second considers the loss of a family and how to cope with that. The third looks remorsefully at the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.
The last story in The Martian Chronicles, “The Million-Year Picnic,” makes me very melancholy. From that story, you will be able to answer “Who are the Martians?”
Do not let the fact that Bradbury mainly writes science fiction and fantasy keep you from reading this master story-teller. Read Bradbury for his great story telling, dialogue, and writing.