The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In January, 1999, the first manned rocket to Mars is launched from Ohio. So begins Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, a book composed of fourteen stories and twelve sketches that are thematically connected and chronologically arranged. All but the last three stories take place between 1999 and 2005, during which time Mars is quickly settled and then, even more quickly, abandoned. People want to relocate on Mars primarily to escape tightening government controls and impending atomic war, but the Martians use their telepathic abilities to deceive and destroy the crews of the first three exploratory expeditions.

The fourth expedition succeeds because the Martians have been decimated by a plague of chicken pox inadvertently carried to Mars on a previous rocket. A crewman named Spender fears that people will come to Mars only for crass commercial and military purposes, not respecting and ultimately destroying what remains of a high Martian culture. Spender’s fears appear justified after Benjamin Driscoll (“The Green Morning”) discovers a quick way to make the Martian atmosphere more breathable. Human “locusts” now arrive in stages Bradbury likens to the development of the American West. In June of 2003, African Americans come in their own rockets (“Way in the Middle of the Air”).

“Night Meeting,” balancing quietly at the book’s center, records the first friendly meeting between a human (Tomás Gomez) and a Martian...

(The entire section is 522 words.)