Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories about an alien world. Originally published in 1950, these stories tell tales from 1999 until 2057 about the people who have chosen to explore, inhabit, and eventually overtake the Red Planet. They are ripe with symbolism, humanity, and philosophy and are considered classics of science fiction and 20th century literature. I have to admit I only came to the novel collection of these tales a couple of months ago after Bradbury's passing, and I was struck by how striking, lyrical, and expressive they were.

Bradbury won multiple honors over his life, including the prestigious National Medal for Arts and being named Science Fiction Poetry Association Grandmaster, and he was no stranger to having his works adapted into comic books as early as 1953. This authorized adaptation was done by Dennis Calero, a Harvey Award nominated artist who has worked on various comic series including X-Factor for Marvel, Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes for DC, and adaptations of Kolchak: The Nightstalker for Moonstone. He also collaborated on the webcomic series Little Green God of Agony with famed horror writer Stephen King.

The stories here begin with a vignette from the point of view from the Martians, who have no awareness that there is even life on the third planet from the sun.

From there, we see a number of expeditions as the Earth people try to learn about the Red Planet and its inhabitants. These expeditions meet with varying degrees of success.

From there, the stories are about the consequences that accompany the enterprise of traveling to Mars for the Martians and the Earth people, with some excellent commentary on colonialism, commercialism, and humanity in general.

I won't say that I am completely blow away by the artwork, but it is professional and competent, adapting the short stories into a visual medium in ways that convey the narratives, use sequential art to good effect, and still preserve the flavor of wonder and awe of Bradbury's writing. I feel this book is a good vehicle for building an appreciation of these classic tales of science fiction exploration.

Reviews I have read about this book have ranged wide, from positive to lukewarm to largely negative. Ryan Crawford was somewhat disappointed that this book did not adapt every chapter of the original (it only covers 14 of the 28 stories in the novel), but he sees some bright spots in Calero's work, especially his work on "The Musicians." The Forgotten Geek was largely disappointed in this adaptation, summing up, "Nice try, but unnecessary." The book also has a number of positive reviews from various readers at Goodreads.

Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is published by Hill &Wang.

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