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richardbrockbank1

richardbrockbank1

Currently reading

The Oxford Anthology of English Poetry: Volume I: Spenser to Crabbe
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne, Anthony Bonner
Lord Jim
Joseph Conrad
Aesop's Fables
Aesop, Laura Gibbs
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle
Yosemite and the High Sierra
Ansel Adams, John Szarkowski, Andrea G. Stillman
Transcendent
Stephen Baxter
The Official Highway Code
Department for Transport, Driving Standards Agency
The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
Stephen Fry
The Nation's Favourite: Poems
Griff Rhys Jones
SPOILER ALERT!
The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury A terrific book. Bradbury seems to have written The Martian Chronicles extremely quickly yet with incredible lucidity, with a wonderful ear for dialogue and with a poetic swirling vortex of imagery taking in assorted everyday and exotic objects, people and animals, fire and chemical reactions and strange telepathic, shape-shifting beings, myriad forms of machinery and technology, and a spellbinding combination of natural beauty and impressionistic Martian cityscapes straight from his imagination. It's a testament to his genius that he churned out so much of this high-quality fiction — I can't wait to read more, or hear it narrated on BBC radio.

Bradbury's colonisers of Mars are ordinary Americans, not highly-trained astronauts and scientists, and they profane the ancient planet with their hot dog stands, beauty parlours, mines and quarries and drugstores. There are a few good people among them and many more who are innocently carried along by the current and who fall victim to their more corrupt brethren or the culture clash to end all culture clashes, between the humans and the impossibly graceful, philosophical, telepathic Martians who are dying from exposure to Earth diseases. The stories, a mixture of impressionistic sketches and longer form short stories of perhaps 20-30 pages, take a sombre turn as Earth comes ever closer to nuclear war and the home planet enters the colonisers' thoughts again, "anaesthetised" as they have been by the vast distance of space between the two planets. I won't spoil the ending but this is not a book you'd like to leave half finished. I definitely want to reread this.

Now for the critical side: if you are looking for hard science or something which might be a realistic idea of the future, you won't find it here. For one thing, the book is set mostly from around 1999 to the early years of our new (ish) century, and for another, Bradbury, writing in 1950/51 did not anticipate the PC revolution (and beyond into smartphones and tablets, Japan and so on). But the author wasn't trying to painstakingly create a believable reality: the believability comes from the way he puts humanity and human civilisation on the page — idiosyncratic and brilliant, and the science fiction part is as much to entertain the reader and support the story's prophetic warning than to convince us of how life will be (could have been). Also, due to the simplicity of the style I'd recommend this to younger readers, but anyone young at heart or who just likes a good story will love it, whether they be nine or ninety (or indeed 11 or 110, for that matter).