I recently finished Ray Bradbury's Sci-Fi novel The Martian Chronicles. While it might not be the worst book I have ever read, it is beyond a doubt in the bottom ten and is not even close to being worthy of the modifier 'classic' that seems to be attached to it.
Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is pure crap. The few interesting concepts, and there not enough to make it worth suffering through the garbage that is the rest of the novel, are not well presented or explored as much as they deserve.
I am not making these criticisms on the basics of the science in the novel. I very much understand the style of story telling fits in just fine with the age in which this was written. I can appreciate classic sci-fi written in that era and not be bothered by ideas of a Mars perfectly inhabitable by humans or the simplistic ideas of interplanetary travel. When you get a good writer like Heinlein, none of that matters as the rest of the aspects are enjoyable and work together to form a good story.
With the Martian Chronicles there are just so many poor concepts, characters, situations and motivations that it does not work on any level.
To start with, somehow we are told that the sociopathic Martian race, which posses some form of telepathy that can create physical structures by pure will power (But only for the insane), are supposed to have been a great race of artists and dreamers. That is what we are told. What we are shown is a race of beings who greatly fear the unknown and the unusual. They will attack indiscriminately anyone that is considered a threat to their way of life. This includes Martians killing other Martians for nothing more than having a prank played on them. When it is revealed that they had been accidentally taken to the brink of extinction by Chicken pox, I was relieved. It meant they no longer could become the great threat to every other sentient race in the universe that they clearly were. I was however surprised that they had not destroyed themselves long before this, as they seemed to lack the basic understanding of simple survival instincts that a society needs in order to function.
At one point we get a totally silly story where Earth born seeds will grow to full size over night in the Martian soil with Martian rain. The concept in itself is just ridiculous and childish. It is made all the more pointless by not playing a role in any of the rest of the stories. By simple logic this would mean that any time it rains on Mars, trees should pop up everywhere and basically destroy the local landscape. All buildings would be in great danger as seeds have a habit of blowing around and ending up everywhere. Yet even with these overnight forests that should provide more than enough building materials, that are easily replenishable with no actual cost, the humans still have to import lumber from Earth... Let that sink in. There is not one bit of logic to the settlers importing lumber from Earth, even if they could not grow forests overnight. Long before these stories were written mankind learned how to build dwellings out of materials other than wood, yet that seems to be all they want to build them out now that they are on Mars. Bradbury seems to introduce various concepts like the quick growing seeds that are then forgotten and ignored in the greater storyline, yet such concepts actually would greatly influence the society in so many untaken directions. Just throwing up mid 20th century society, with no changes made to it, on to Mars is NOT good story telling.
The book basically ends with Atomic War breaking out on Earth and most of the human settlers returning to Earth for some reason. No rational reason for this is ever given. If one looks at history, never has anyone ever decided that it made sense to take your family and led them into a war zone, yet most of the population of humans on Mars do this. There is no rational motivations given for this action. These are people who came to Mars to create new lives for themselves and their families and are now ready to give it all up and basically sacrifice their families (There is no doubt at all that they know it is an atomic war going on back on Earth) by foolishly returning to Earth. We are given a story where all the blacks in the Southern US went through a lot of trouble to get to Mars and escape the discrimination. There is no logic at all that has them returning to Earth so easily. I will buy that there would be individuals who still feel a loyalty towards their home countries (Although it felt as though only Americans had journeyed to Mars) willing to return to Earth and fight as soldiers, but none of them would uproot their families to drag them to their deaths. Mars should had remain fairly well populated.
The last few stories were senseless, lacking any real significance, although I believe Bradbury felt that he had given a sense of hope for the future in the last story. We are supposed to believe that just two families would be enough to get the human race going again as they finally go with some level of logic and move into the Martian cities, which we have been told many time were well built. For some reason even though humanity spent a lot of effort to clean these cities up, they never got around to using them.
There is no level on which I could recommend anyone read The Martian Chronicles. It is collection of really bad Sci-Fi that would be best forgotten. I do understand that one bad book does not a bad author make. However I have read Bradbury's other famous classic Fahrenheit 451. While it is nowhere near as awful as The Martian Chronicles, I found nothing exceptional to it. Bradbury is at best a mediocre writer who hit on a few interesting topics and is for whatever reason granted praise far beyond what is deserving for the low quality of his writing.