In this book, Ray Bradbury tells the story of humanity’s colonisation of Mars through a series of short stories. It was written in the ’50s and is set in a futuristic 21st century. It covers every aspect of life from religion to racism, and it very thought provoking at times. Here’s an overview of each story:
Rocket Summer rating: 7/10
This story explains what would happen if lots of rockets were simultaneously launched Marsward. It’s not the best story in the anthology, but it’s a nice opening.
Ylla rating: 7.5/10
This story is a bit of an anomaly as it’s the main one in the collection told from a Martian point of view. It’s slightly better than the first story and nicely paints a picture of Martian life before humans come. It also shows how, while they might be different from humans, they’re also very similar.
The Summer Night rating: 7/10
This is a shorter, and slightly odd story. The Martians in this book are telepathic, and they begin to pick up human thoughts as they approach their planet.
The Earth Men rating: 9.5/10
I think this is one of the best in the anthology; it uses a nice kind of dark comedy to tell a rather disturbing story. This tells us about the first humans to actually set foot on Mars, but they find it rather strange that nobody they talk to seems to think there presence is at all noteworthy. I won’t ruin what happens, but trust me, it’s good.
The Taxpayer rating: 8.5/10
This is quite a short one, and is actually set on Earth. A taxpayer feels he should be allowed on the next ship to Mars and heads to the launch station to plead his case. It also is the first story to really suggest the state of affairs on Earth at this time.
The Third Expedition rating: 8/10
This is a rather creepy one really. The Martians come across as really rather malicious, but this is a very good horror story nonetheless and a very unique idea for a story too. It all starts when the humans land on Mars and find that all their dead loved ones live there in a recreation of their old home town. It seems to them that Mars might be Heaven (literally).
-And the Moon be Still as Bright rating: 8/10
All of the stories are connected, but this and the next on seem to link even more so, it’s as if they’re a two-parter. A new set of humans land on Mars and one of them, named Spender, begins to question the right of humanity to live on Mars. A good story, one which gets even better in the next part.
The Settlers rating: 8.5/10
Spender is now actively trying to prevent people from landing on Mars. No humans have actually colonised yet and the ship he was on might be the first. What he does, which I shan’t tell you, is questionable, but his motives highly believable.
The Green Morning rating: 7/10
This story is a little strange, but still quite good. It’s very short and is basically just about the terraforming of Mars.
The Locusts rating: 7/10
This, and the last one, are basically stories to fill the gaps and explain significant events which happen. This is when the colonisation of Mars really starts, and while the story might not be that engaging, it still isn’t bad.
Night Meeting rating: 9.9/10
This story is really very good indeed. A man named Tomás Gomez meets a Martian in the middle of the night. It might not sound significantly interesting, but it features time travel and dreams in a highly interesting way. It’s ending especially, is very good. This is one of the best in the collection!
The Fire Balloons rating: 10/10
Some missionaries travel to Mars in order to save the Martians from damnation. When they arrive they’re told they should head to a city full of ‘heathens’ who are always fighting and drinking, but one of the priests decides they’ll try and talk to some mysterious creatures which look like fire balloons… I can’t even begin to describe how good this story is in this tiny little overview, but it might just be the best short story I’ve ever read…
The Shore rating: 7/10
Rather similar to “The Locusts”. It’s not an amazing story, but a nice little piece of ‘world building’ for the book as a whole.
Interim rating: 7/10
This is about a small town from America being recreated on Mars, and it shows Spender’s earlier predictions beginning to come true…
The Musicians rating: 7/10
A somewhat disturbing tale about children playing a game in Martian ruins.
Way in the Middle of the Air rating: 10/10
This is an excellent story! Another one set on Earth, some racist South Americans begin to become rather angry when they find out that the black population of their town has been secretly preparing their own rocket to Mars. It’s nice to see anti-racism coming from the 1950s, especially when it comes in a story as good as this!
The Naming of Names rating: 7/10
More and more of Spender’s unhappy predictions begin to come true in this very short little story…
The Old Ones rating: 7/10
The old ones in the title, are actually the old people of Earth who, here, begin to move to Mars. In a way, this leads nicely into the next story.
The Martian rating: 8.9/10
This one has similar ideas in it to The Third Expedition, but this was is slightly superior I think. An elderly couple who live on Mars find their long dead son there and live with him as if he had never died… Of course, this boy is not quite what he seems and it all leads on to a rather good story.
The Luggage Store rating: 7.5/10
This story features the return of a character from my favourite story, The Fire Balloons! But on the whole this one isn’t overtly amazing; it has with it a sense of dread… You just know something bad is going to happen on Earth very soon.
The Off Season rating: 9/10
The Martians have a more prominent role in this story for the first time in a while. A hot dog stand owner prepares for an increase in sales due to the fact that a large amount of people are due to arrive from Earth soon. A certain disaster means things don’t quite go to plan. Another excellent story.
The Watchers rating: 8/10
A very chilling story, especially when you consider a 1950s mind-frame. Again, I won’t ruin it, but I’ll just say it is very good (and follows on from the end of the last story).
The Silent Towns rating: 9/10
After the darkness of the last two stories we’re given this comedy story. A man named Walter Gripp meets a girl over the phone and decides he wants to meet her in real life, she isn’t quite how he imagined… The humour amongst the very melancholic tones of the other stories is something I really like.
The Long Years rating: 8.5/10
With this story we’re back to the darkness. Again, a family has been reunited with members who have died, but this time it’s different. Another rather good one, though I’m beginning to find it hard to explain the premise of each story without spoiling any over all events!
There Will Come Soft Rains rating: 9.7/10
A very gloomy story. An electronically run house continues to run long after it’s been abandoned, very good and also quite disturbing, it reflects on the legacy of humanity. One of the best in the collection.
The Million Year Picnic rating: 8/10
It’s not the best story in the collection (nor the worst), but a very good ending to the book. It’s still rather dark, but somewhat optimistic compared to the other stories.
Average Score: 7.9/10
As with the last anthology I reviewed, the average is somewhat lower than I would like to grade it. Seeing as there are a couple of 10/10 stories in this collection, 7.9 seems quite low to score the book on the whole. But anyway, this is one of the best science fiction novels I have read and I heavily suggest you try it.