Thursday, June 7, 2012

#568: "There Will Come Soft Rains"

Wow, Ray Bradbury died. He was 91. Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (1950) was the 1st science-fiction book I remember reading, turned-on 2 it by my old writer friend Barry Anderson, when both of us were in 6th grade way back in early 1971.
Barry was a sucker 4 Bradbury's "Usher II," a sorta rewrite of Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" -- 1 of 2-dozen short stories collected 2 make-up MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Barry was a big horror fan.
I was more drawn to Bradbury's great, chilling, haunting handling of mood -- the Martian boats whistling across the barren, dead seas in "The Off Season," the wind roaring over the dead hills & mountains in "The Long Years," the eerie re-creation of small-town 1920's middle-America in "The Third Expedition," the mysterious, haunting return of "The Martian," the dead Martian cities destroyed by Man in "And the Moon Be Still as Bright," the truck driver & the Martian who seem 2 meet -- but maybe not! -- in "Night Meeting." The bleak ending of "The Million Year Picnic." And so much more....
Bradbury was a master at conjuring-up haunting detail in empty, deserted, eerie settings. His Mars seemed like a kind of chessboard -- lots of delicate, fragile old Martian cities, now falling 2 ruins; mysterious, fragile old Martian survivors, lurking around the fringes of human settlements, maybe only a handful of them left alive by the time the Earth colonists start arriving in earnest on a now-empty planet.
But tho the book is full of moody eeriness, there's a lot more going on there. There's even comedy -- like the silly off-the-wall ending 2 "Off Season," and an entire story that's 1 big romantic farce about the last man & woman on Mars, "The Silent Towns."
There was some bitterness in there, 2. Bradbury was pretty direct about how people could mess up such a gorgeous, haunting, pristine setting -- like the drunken astronauts who make 2 much noise & dump beer bottles in2 the Martian canals in "And the Moon Be Still as Bright," & the fate that befalls some of them later in that story.
But Bradbury was also clear that the only REAL aliens R your fellow humans. Like the old doctor who re-creates his own family in "The Long Years" -- & the reason WHY he does it. Or the old couple who hope their dead son has returned in "The Martian." Or Walter Gripp, who just wanted to enjoy the peace & quiet of an empty world in "The Silent Towns."
I've read summa Bradbury's other works. FAHRENHEIT 451 has its unforgettable scenes, & the short story "The Fog Horn" is nearly as great for mood & eerieness as the CHRONICLES. I tried 2 read DANDELION WINE a couple times -- a 1920s teenage summer treated like its own world -- but couldn't get much past the 1st 50 pgs. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES made a better movie than a book. There's also a short piece called "Dark Ferris" that scared the CRAP outta me when I was a kid -- but the last time I re-read it, it seemed like no big deal.
But MARTIAN CHRONICLES is unforgettable. Even if the 1st chapter or 2 R kinda dull & confusing. 1nce you get in2 the heart of the book, you can't break loose -- it'll stay with you 4ever. If you haven't ever read it, pick it up. It's only 180 pages, you can finish it in a couple hours.
It's 2 bad Ray never wrote a sequel....

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