What A High School Book Review Should Look Like

By Lily Iatridis  December 1, 2015

_BLOG Martian Chronicles For this week's student showcase, we're sharing another textual analysis by one our Essay Rock Star students, a homeschooled 11th grader from California. The textual analysis is the third out of four in the Essay Rock Star full semester program.

What's impressive about this essay is the depth of understanding and analysis of the text. It serves as a strong example of the level of writing we seek from kids in their last year or two of high school.

Earth 2.0

by Nick S.

Will we become Martians? In 1950, Ray Bradbury wrote a science fiction book in which humans colonize Mars. But is the colonization of Mars really fiction? NASA’s Journey to Mars is a current program which entails researching technologies in preparation for the end goal of colonizing Mars. Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is as relevant today as it was in 1950 during the Atomic Age. He created a classic.

The Martian Chronicles, written by Ray Bradbury, is a collection of intriguing short stories detailing the exploration and subsequent colonization of Mars by humanity during the years 2030-2057. Most of the stories take place on Mars with a couple of the stories taking place back on Earth. The humans in the story set up an American civilization on Mars in a way that defeats the whole purpose of a fresh start on Mars. Bradbury published this book in 1950 during the Atomic Age and wanted to make a statement as to what he feared technology and innovation eventually leads to, especially if humans simply repeat the past.

One way Ray Bradbury creates a tale which has become even more relevant today than it was when he wrote it is with his use of stories linked sequentially, set in the not too distant future. The stories are related chronologically which makes the book feel like a recounting of the history of Mars. Furthermore, the events told in the stories take place between eighty to one hundred years after the book was published. By setting it within this time period – within the next fifteen to forty years for us, Ray Bradbury imposes a sense of urgency upon the reader. The choices we as mankind make now will affect our future no later than one hundred years from now.

Another element in The Martian Chronicles that Bradbury uses is the method in which the humans colonize Mars. There are clear parallels between the human colonization of Mars and the European colonization of North America. When the Europeans first began to settle North America, they had encounters, sometimes deadly, with the indigenous people. As more settlers arrived, the Native Americans became sick with diseases brought by the Europeans which decimated the indigenous population. In The Martian Chronicles, before humanity began to colonize Mars, the planet was inhabited by Martians. Some Martians were curious, some were fearful, and some were aggressive towards the newly arrived humans. The first few exploration groups to arrive on Mars were all killed either by hostile Martians or Martians who believed that the humans were actually insane Martians. When the fourth expedition arrives, they discover that practically all the Martians had been decimated by chicken pox brought accidentally by the previous expedition. The first settlers of Mars create small, rural communities free of the turmoil of Earth. Eventually, though, people bring the same government with all the rules and regulations of Earth, specifically those of the United States of America. After a few months, war breaks out on Earth and almost everyone returns, only to be killed by atomic bombs. By mirroring the colonization of North America, Bradbury makes a point about what happens when humanity does not take into account the natural environment and lets prejudice prevail.

Due to The Martian Chronicles being a collection of short stories, the tone changes throughout the book. The various tones seem to reflect the human fascination and concern with space exploration. Sometimes the tone is eerie as in “The Third Expedition” where the group lands on Mars in what appears to be a town on Earth during the 1950s, filled with deceased relatives and friends of the crew.


“His hands were shaking under the covers. His body was cold. Suddenly it was not a theory. Suddenly he was afraid. He lifted himself in bed and listened. The night was very quiet. The music had stopped. The wind had died. His brother lay sleeping beside him.”

Other stories focus on the frustration of some of the colonists with each other such as in the story “Usher II”. In “Usher II”, in defiance of the rules and limitations to creativity (namely, the banishment of literature) enforced by the government, a man builds a replica of the House of Usher from Edgar Allen Poe’s short story. He then murders the politicians who come to destroy the house.

Bradbury finishes his book with a story of hope. In “The Million Year Picnic”, a family with three boys escaped Earth before it was decimated by atomic bombs. The family meets up with another family that escaped with their four girls. Together they plan to wisely rebuild Mars and the human race as the new Martians.

“I’ve always wanted to see a Martian,” said Michael. “Where are they, Dad? You promised.”

“There they are,” said Dad, and he shifted Michael on his shoulder and pointed straight down. The Martians were there. Timothy began to shiver. The Martians were there – in the canal - reflected in the water. Timothy and Michael and Robert and Mom and Dad.”

The tone oscillates among eeriness, frustration, and hopefulness throughout the book. Bradbury reflected the mood of the people in 1950 as humans were working on atomic energy and beginning space exploration. With The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury captures the fears, expectations, and excitement that we have today as we are investigating and preparing for the colonization of Mars.

The tone of The Martian Chronicles is often eerie and frustrating yet ends hopeful. While I was reading The Martian Chronicles I could picture the Martians as Native Americans. I could visualize the setting of the American West. All throughout history, when one civilization conquers another it imposes its rules, social norms, and civilization onto the newly conquered civilization and territory. Although Bradbury did not present a solution to prevent similar events from happening, he did stress the importance of not repeating history and not prohibiting creativity. With NASA’s plans for researching and colonizing Mars, The Martian Chronicles has become more relevant than ever before. Will we repeat the mistakes from the colonization of North America - decimate the native population and change the natural environment – or will we heed Bradbury’s warning and learn from history? Will we do anything differently than the humans in The Martian Chronicles when we investigate and colonize Mars in the near future? Humans need to think about what kind of civilization will be implemented on Mars.

References

Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York, New York: HarperCollins
Publishers, 2011.

“Journey to Mars.” (October 8, 2015): NASA. October 8, 2015.
https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-releases-plan-outlining-next-steps-in-the-journey-to-mars.


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