Ray Bradbury: The Day It Rained Forever

December 10, 2014

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OK, I think I’m over Ray Bradbury now, and give The Martian Chronicles my vote as his best and the only one that is really worth the effort and likely to survive as a read in the future.

This collection was disappointing and felt very dated; too many of the stories had those twee and mawkishly sentimental portraits of smalltown US life that are charming enough when met once or twice, but do pall when they reappear time after time. At the end of the book, my overall feeling was, ‘Yawn. What was the point?’. And yet, I can’t deny that Bradbury uses the language beautifully – skilful and evocative descriptions, conjuring up that sense of nostalgia for a mythical, lost and unspoiled past: you can really feel yourself there…

The Cold War overshadows most of these stories, though that’s not the reason I find them rather dated. Atomic warfare lurks in the background, moves to the foreground, actually explodes and trashes the planet, yet it’s presented in an offhand and barely understood manner; that’s what’s really dated, the faux-naivete. Our world isn’t like that, and the pretence no longer washes.

There are two stories out of the two dozen or so that stood out:Dark They Were, And Golden-Eyed has the immigrants from Earth to Mars gradually physically transformed into Martians, members of the indigenous race that has (apparently) died out; they perceive this, try to resist, and ultimately don’t really want to. And The Rock Cried Out is much darker, a tale of revolution in some Latin American nation, where the tables are turned on American tourists and the couple get their comeuppance as they gradually see the world from the point of view of the colonised and oppressed. It’s made more acute by the sympathetic nature, the understanding and the niceness of the couple, to which the locals do not respond…

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