A little over a week ago I finished reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. This book was initially not a complete novel, but rather a assortment of short stories which happened to center around the human invasion of Mars. The first story written was "The Million-Year Picnic" set in October of 2026; in the novel this is the last story to be read. My impression of this last story is vivid. In both films and books, obtained for recreational purposes, I am particularly fond of disjointed and abstract plots which seem to be aimless and unconnected. The catch is, though there need be no definite conclusion, there must be an ending echo: something which gives a hint of purpose and connection to the vague shadows of meaning found before. Bradbury accomplishes this wonderfully. (See p. 181-2.)
For my own enjoyment and personal reading I loved this book. The final lines echoed back to a previous story, "Night Meeting" set in August 2002. There a human encounters what appears to be a Martian. Their hands pass through each other and they are unable to determine who is of the present, who is real, and who is not. (See p. 85.) This combined with the ending of the book made me wonder if the Martians were humans evolved a thousand times until Earth began anew after the atomic war and time repeated itself. This is perhaps a stretch though.
Due to the nature of its writing The Martian Chronicles was difficult to analyze. It is also said that Bradbury writes first and finds meaning later. Nothing is planned. Drawing connections in the text was more difficult than, for example, when I read War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Nonetheless, here are some general themes I observed while reading and would like to explore more with my next reading.
While I highly enjoyed reading Bradbury's book and particularly appreciated the mode of writing, it is not a book I enjoy pondering on with a time limit. Finding meaning and reason in Bradbury's book seems obvious on first glance but frustration comes quickly when you realize that there are a million other meanings to be found but not fully understood if you take the time to look slowly. I doubt that I will ever understand the intent behind "There Will Come Soft Rains", what Bradbury believed to be the best writing found in The Martian Chronicles, no matter how fun it may be to try, failing is hard to accept.