The Martian Chronicles

The Martian Chronicles is a brilliant collection of short stories written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1946. The stories are episodic, telling a dystopian future of expeditions to Mars. With the first expedition, a Martian kills the Captain before he can make contact. Then the second expedition is considered to be a hallucination. The third expedition finds the Martians using their telepathy and ability to appear in different forms, with realistic hallucinations to thwart the explorers. But, the fourth expedition finds the population almost wiped out due to a plague of chicken pox brought on by the Earthlings.

Meanwhile and atomic war is looming on the horizon on Earth, so groups of people are immigrating to Mars. Soon, Mars is settled. The people of Earth build houses, towns, and even a hot-dog stand. Mars begins to resemble the Earth they left behind. Then the atomic war starts on Earth and the people living on Mars see the fires on Earth. The evacuation starts on Mars as everyone returns to Earth to help. Not everyone leaves. A few people stay on Mars and are desperately lonely.

The wars pick up on Earth. Damage to the planet makes it inhospitable quickly. Soon small families begin to travel back to Mars. They burn their rockets leaving them without a way to leave the planet this time. The exodus starts with a Mom, Dad, and three sons. They are the new Martians. Soon they will be joined by another family with daughters.

Book Summary

January 1999 – Rocket Summer

It’s January in Ohio when the rocket is launched. The heat from the rocket turns the world into summer with it’s heat. “Rocket Summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses.”

February 1999 – Ylla

Fifty-four million miles from Earth on planet Mars Mr. and Mrs. K lived in a house with crystal pillars near the fossil sea with wine trees all around. Mr. K is reading a metal book with raised hieroglyphs that spoke to him in a soft voice when he brushed his hands across it. Mrs. K was gathering golden fruit from the wine trees when she had a feeling something was about to happen. When she went inside to take a nap in her favorite chair that moved to conform to her shape, she dreamed about a tall man. He was a giant, six feet one inch tall. The man had blue eyes and black hair. Her husband thought it was a crazy dream when she told him about it. Especially when she told him the man came from the sky and his name was Nathaniel York. The man spoke to her in her dream. He said he and his friend, Bert were from Earth. Mrs. K asked her husband if he thought there might be life on the third planet, but he scoffed “The third planet is incapable of supporting life.”

That night she talks in her sleep about the rocket. She is singing songs. Her husband wakes her and she tells him that York had kissed her in the dream and said he would take her back to Earth with him. Even though she laughs and tells her husband it was just a silly dream, he becomes jealous. She tries to calm him, but he gets the location of the upcoming ship’s landing from her, Green Valley.

The next day, Mrs. K, Ylla, tries to visit her friend, but when she tells her husband and he realizes she will go past Green Valley, he makes up a visit from a family friend and makes her promise to stay home. As evening arrives, Mr. K, Yll, says he is tired of waiting for their friend to arrive. He takes his gun full of deadly bees, from his closet and tells his wife he will go hunting. He makes her promise to stay indoors. Suddenly she feels “a great warmth as of a great fire passing in the air. A whirling, rushing sound. A gleam in the sky, of metal.” Ylla starts to run to the Green Valley, then stops, calling herself a silly woman. She hears a couple of shots from the direction of Green Valley. Ylla hears footsteps coming up the drive, but feels down when she finds out it is her husband. He says that he remembered their friend was due to drop by the next day. She asks if he shot anything, but he says no. They sit down to dinner and she agrees with him that she will feel better tomorrow.

August 1999 – The Summer Night

At a concert on a warm summer night on Mars, a woman begins to sing. But, she finds herself singing an Earth tune. The words are from Lord Byron’s, “She Walks in Beauty”. Suddenly she claps her hands over her mouth. The audience want to know, “What words are those? What song is that? What language is that?”

In black alleys children sang nursery rhymes, everyone was humming unfamiliar tunes. “And in a thousand villas, in the middle of the night, women awoke screaming.” “Something terrible will happen in the morning.” As the cities of Mars settles down into a restless sleep, the only sound is the night watchman humming a strange song.

August 1999 – The Earth Men

Early in the morning Captain Williams and his men land on Mars. They knock on a door where they wake a woman who speaks English. He tells her they are from Earth. When he calls her a Martian, she corrects him by saying they are on the planet, Tyrr. Captain Williams soon discovers that the woman is not speaking English, she is communicating with telepathy. Then she says Good Day and slams the door in his face. He knocks on the door again, trying to get her to understand the importance of their visit. But, she continues to scold him and says he probably wants to speak to her husband, but he can’t because he is busy.

As she becomes ruder and stands offish, he becomes more insistent. Finally, she agrees to get her husband, she leaves the astronauts in the kitchen to wait. They hear yelling upstairs between the man and woman, then quiet. After an hour, the Earthlings go looking for their reluctant hostess. They find that she forgot about them and is watering flowers. She gives them a note to take to her neighbor, Mr. Aaa. She says that is the man they want to see, anyway. He will tell them what they want to know.

When they arrive at Mr. Aaa’s farm, he is livid that his neighbor sent them to him as if his work was not as important. As the Earth men try to get him to understand the miracle of their arrival, he rants about the rudeness of his neighbor and thinks to challenge him to a duel. Before he leaves, Mr. Aaa informs them that it’s not his job to take care of them, they need to see Mr. Iii.

By this time Captain Williams and his three men are exhausted. They finally find a child in town to show them where to find Mr. Iii. The little girl is also not impressed by the astronauts. Mr. Iii asks them what they want. The Captain says they want some attention, little congratulations on flying a rocket ship that far. He explains that he and his men are tired and hungry. They would like a place to sleep at least. Mr. Iii has paperwork for them to sign. When the Captain asks if his men should sign, too, Mr. Iii starts to laugh. When he checks over the paperwork, he mentions euthanasia but skips past it when the Captain questions it. Mr. Iii gives them a key. No, not the key to the city, a key to a room they can bunk in. He tells them to lock the door, and Mr. Xxx will see them in the morning. The Captain sheepishly asks Mr. Iii for a little acknowledgment of their achievement. He sarcastically shakes his hand and says Congratulations.

The four men shuffle down to the room. When they enter, they see a large group of Martians. They are greeted by Mr. Uuu. When they introduce themselves the crowd goes wild. Cheering and clapping. Mr. Uuu asks the astronauts to tell about themselves and the crowd is enraptured. Unfortunately, the astronauts soon discover they are in an insane asylum when they listen to the other inmates tell them that some of them are also from Earth and some from Jupiter or Saturn. That’s why no one reacted to them. This would be a regular psychotic condition.As

As Captain Williams and his men watch their fellow inmates, they notice them performing feats of magic. But, the Captain explains that the magic is hallucinations. Since they all communicate telepathically, they can also pass the hallucinations that way, too. Captain Williams tries to explain to Mr. Xxx that they are not insane, they really are from Earth. But, Mr. Xxx tells him that he only thinks the Captain is insane, his three men are secondary hallucinations. Captain Williams tries to convince Mr. Xxx he and his men are real by taking him to their rocket. But, Mr. Xxx thinks it is a very advanced hallucination. Then Mr. Xxx shoots the Captain in the heart. He is amazed the other three men are still there. Mr. Xxx is very impressed with the level of the hallucination. Then he kills the other astronauts. When they still don’t disappear and he thinks he is insane and Mr. Xxx kills himself. At sunset the townspeople find the rocket and the salvage man takes it for scrap.

March 2000 – The Taxpayer

Mr. Pritchard was a taxpayer, therefore he felt he had a right to go on the rocket ship leaving for Mars. He wants to get off Earth. He expects there to be an atomic war in two years. They try to convince the man he doesn’t want to go to Mars because it’s dangerous. The last two expeditions failed. He argues that maybe Captain York and Captain Williams were just so happy they didn’t want to come back to Earth. As the police drove the taxpayer away in a van, he watched the rocket take off without him.

April 2000 – The Third Expedition

Sixteen men land on the surface of Mars after a grueling trip. Captain John Black landed the rocket on the green lawn of a Victorian house. There are geraniums on the porch and they see a music stand through the front window titled, “Beautiful Ohio”. They see white houses and brick houses. A church steeple is in the distance. After they discover the air is thin but breathable. As the astronauts try to puzzle out why Mars looks so much like Earth, they come to the conclusion that the men from the first and second expedition may be still alive and helping the Martians, even though they had thought Captain York’s exploded the day he reached Mars, and Captain Williams and his crew’s ship exploded after two days of their arrival.

Captain Black disagrees since they landed on the other side of the planet. He is still reluctant to leave the safety of the ship. He asks the men when they were born, and they answer in the 1950’s. Captain Black tells them he is old enough to be their fathers. “I’m just eighty years old. Born in 1920 in Illinois, and through the grace of God and a science that, in the last fifty years, knows how to make some old men young again, here I am on Mars, not any more tired than the rest of you, but infinitely more suspicious”. He tells them to radio Earth of their arrival and they will send more information tomorrow.

Then he plans a small expedition. He and two other men will look around while the rest of them remain on board. The men can’t decide if Mars developed equally with Earth, or if space travel started much earlier secretly. Soon they are convincing themselves that a prior group of Earthlings came to Mars and they built this Earth town to make them less homesick.

Suddenly one of the men breaks off running shouting happily, “Grandma! Grandpa!” The old couple is thrilled to see their grandson and welcome the other men inside. When questioned how long they had been in the town, the grandmother replies, “Ever since we died”. When asked if this was Heaven, they replied “Nonsense, no.”. They explain that it is the world like Earth where they were put on Earth.

Captain Black hears a crowd. When he investigates, he sees his crew leaving the rocket and greeting townspeople. They are seeing dead relatives and friends, while a brass band plays. The Captain threatens to court martial for disobeying orders. Then the Captain sees his brother. They race to the house, where the Captain sees his parents waiting.

After a lovely afternoon with his dead relatives, Captain Black and his brother go to bed. As the Captain is drifting off, he asks about Marilyn and is assured he will see her tomorrow. As Captain Black lays in bed thinking, he starts to wonder if this is all a hallucination. He tries to get up and find his men when he hears his sleeping brother speak up. The Captain never made it to the door.

The next day sixteen coffins were taken from the houses. The band played a mournful dirge, the mayor gave a speech and they walked the coffins to the churchyard to be buried. Captain Black’s family and so did the Grandparents as their faces shifted back to their real Martian faces. It was “unexpected and sudden deaths of sixteen fine men during the night”. Afterward the all went back to town and took the day off.

June 2001 – And the Moon Be Still as Bright.

A year later when the fourth expedition arrives they discover the entire Martian population died from chicken pox brought to them by a prior expedition. Captain Wilder allows his crew to celebrate, but one of them, Spender, the archaeologist in the crew. He is disgusted by their disrespect. So, Spender leaves the rest if the crew to explore.

When he returns, he claims to be a Martian and tries to recruit more of the crew to join him. Spender becomes possessed and kills five of the crew members. Feeling ill, Spender runs into the hills. Wilder finds him and asks why he killed the men. Spender says that he wants to stop humans from settling on Mars. When he refuses to back down, Wilder shoots him.

Wilder feels guilty for shooting him and then takes it on himself to protect Mars. When he comes across a crewman using the Marian ruins for target practice, he hits him, knocking his teeth out.

August 2001 – The Settlers

Hoping to find work, humans begin to settle on Mars. The first settlers are lonely, but the numbers begin to grow.

December 2001 – The Green Morning

Benjamin Driscoll wants to improve the oxygen on Mars. He rides around on a motorcycle planting seeds. One day he looks back to discover green plants beginning to grow. He was so surprised at their rapid growth, that he fainted. When he regained consciousness, he found “five thousand new trees had climbed up into the yellow sun”.

February 2002 – The Locusts

As the population continued to rise, dozens of towns spring up all over Mars. They are like little Americas.

August 2002 – Night Meeting

Tomas Gomez stops at a gas station on his way to the blue hills. He asks the old man if he likes Mars and the old man replies that he loves it because things are always changing. Next, he stops at a diner and meets a giant, jade-green praying mantis. As they talk they realize they can’t touch each other. The Martian says he is headed to a giant festival in town, but to Gomez the town looks deserted. As the men part, Tomas thinks it was a dream and the Martian thinks it was a strange vision.

October 2002 – The Shore

First, the men had come to Mars, then the women. Soon wave upon wave of settlers arrived. They start to build homes. The second wave is from the cities and all the settlers are from America.

February 2003 – Interim

The Americans brought wood from Oregon to build houses and sang hymns in the new churches. It was like a town from Iowa had been transplanted to Mars.

April 2003 – The Musicians

The children explore the ruins and desecrate the Martian corpses. Even with disciplinary actions, the children kept doing it because they knew the game would soon be over, the Firemen were removing the corpses quickly.

June 2003 – Way In the Middle of the Air

This section is back on Earth. A large group of black people from the American South are building their own ship and immigrating to Mars. One of the white men tries to stop them because he says the man owes him $50. The other settlers pay off the debt and the man leaves with them. Teece, the white man, is very angry. He can’t bully the black people anymore. As he is driving away, he sees some bundles left behind by the settlers. In trying to run over the bundles, he has an accident.

2004 – 05 – The Naming of Names

Towns on Mars are named after men from the first few expeditions. “then the sophisticates come in from Earth”. They began to plan people’s lives and set up rules and laws.

April 2005 – Usher II

This story takes the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and applies them to Mars. William Stendahl builds a House of Usher, as in the Poe story as revenge against the Moral Climate, a part of the government that has made tales of fantasy illegal. He has created robots and mechanical bats, apes, and vampires to act out the tales of terror. Garrett comes to investigate and is killed by a robotic ape. Then Stendahl invites other politicians responsible for the censorship and kills them in creative ways following other stories. Stendahl has a robot replace each person as they die. Last the real Garrett shows up (the other was a robot) and Stendahl walls him up as in “The Cask of Amontillado”. As Stendahl is escaping on a helicopter, the house slowly disappears in a bog, as in “The Fall of the House of Usher”.

August 2005 – The Old Ones

The last group to immigrate to Mars are the retirees.

September 2005 – The Martian

LaFarge and his wife Anna have retired to Mars. They are settled but missing their son, Tom who is dead, until he shows up on their doorstep. LaFarge doesn’t believe it’s Tom, but Anna is convinced and insists on taking him into town. Their Tom, who is a Martian, changes into the lost girl of another couple, then he keeps changing to fit the wishes of everyone he meets. When a policeman sees him as a criminal, the Martian runs. Finally, he collapses and dies, while his faces melt through the many changes it made. The LaFarges go home to their mournful lives.

November 2005 – The Luggage Store

A priest and a luggage salesman are talking about the threats of atomic war on Earth. The luggage salesman expects a run on his product when the war begins because people will want to go back to Earth. As they look up at the stars, the Father buys a new valise.

November 2005 – The Off Season

Sam Parkhill, who was on the fourth expedition with Captain Wilder and Spender has opened up a hot-dog stand on Mars. He is very proud of it and expecting a lot of business. When his wife, Elma asks about his old captain, Sam says that since he went a little batty on Mars, they promoted him and he is on an extended flight to Jupiter and Pluto. His wife is cynical about all the business Sam expects to have. A Martian comes to speak with Sam, who tells the Martian to go or he will give him the “Disease”. The Martian says he has already had it and is one of the few survivors. Sam won’t listen to the Martian and shoots him.

His wife sees a fleet of Martian ships coming, so Sam escapes in a stolen sand ship. The Martians finally catch him, but they only want to give him a message. They tell him that tonight is the night. They give him the deeds to one hundred thousand miles of territory. Then they tell him to make lots of hot-dogs. Sam starts to prepare for the coming immigrants, only to notice the Earth on fire. His wife cynically tells him to get ready for customers. There should be more around in about a million years. Looks like it’s going to be an off season.

November 2005 – The Watchers

All over Mars people are watching Earth burn. By midnight the fire was out. People began to worry about their families back on Earth. Soon messages were relayed through Morse code. “Australia continent atomized in premature explosion of an atomic stockpile. Los Angeles, London Bombed. War. Come home. Come home. Come home. Come home.”

At 3 A.M. The luggage salesman began a brisk business.

December 2005 – The Silent Towns

The houses and towns were empty. Mars was almost completely evacuated except for one man. Walter Gripp lives in the mountains, alone. Sometimes he entertains himself in the silent town, but he is lonely. One day he hears a phone ringing, but can’t reach it in time. He decides to go through every name in the phone book to find out who called.

Finally, Walter reaches Genevieve Selsor in the biggest beauty parlor in New Texas City. But the line goes dead. Walter drives the fastest car he can find to her, but, she has already left. He races back to his town and finds her waiting. Walter discovers the last woman on Mars is not to his liking. She is overweight, clingy, and forceful. When she pulls out the wedding dress, Walter runs for the hills. He never answers the phone when it rings.

April 2026 – The Long Years

This story finds Hathaway, from the fourth expedition, living on Mars with his wife and three children. Every day he visits a grave site with four gravestones, and whispers he is sorry, but he was lonely.

One day he sees a rocket. It is his old Captain Wilder. He has returned from Jupiter and Pluto. He is looking for survivors. He asked Gripp, but the man decided to stay. Hathaway is thrilled to see him and invites him and his crew to dinner with his family. Wilder is curious when he sees how young Hathaway’s family is. One of his men discover the gravestones and sees it is Hathaway’s family. The family he has now are robots. Hathaway has a heart attack and dies. Wilder leaves after saying goodbye to the robots.

August 2026 – There Will Come Soft Rains

A voice comes from the wall in a suburban house in Allendale, California. It sends the wake-up call while announcing the important bulletins of the day to a house with no people. Birthdays, anniversaries, bills due. While this is happening the kitchen prepares breakfast the sprinklers come on to water the lawn. They also wash the outside walls a bit, landing on the shadows of the family where they were imprinted at the time of the blast. A dog wanders into the house covered with sores and dies. Little robot mice scurry it away, cleaning up the mess.

That evening the house recites the lady of the house’s favorite poem, “There Will Come Soft Rains”. The poems say that once a man is destroyed by war, nature will rebuild and not notice the loss. During the night a tree falls on the house causing a fire. The house tried to save itself, but the only thing left in the morning was one wall announcing the date over and over.

October 2026 – The Million-Year Picnic

A family arrives on Mars with enough supplies to last a long time. Dad, Mom and three sons. Dad explains that they will be living on Mars now, and destroys their rocket. He explains another family will be arriving the next day. The Dad lets his sons pick out the city they will live in. He asks his sons if they want to see Martians. Then he takes them to a canal and tells them to look at their own reflections.

Character Analysis

Mrs. Ylla K – a dissatisfied Martian housewife who is waiting for the arrival of Captain York from Earth without realizing that is what she is waiting for.

Mr. Yll K – he is jealous of the Earthling his wife is dreaming will come for her. He is domineering and keeps a tight hold on his wife. He shoots and kills Captain York when his rocket lands.

Nathaniel York – captain of the first expedition.

Captain Williams – the captain of the second expedition, and more cautious. He and his three crewmen are placed in an insane asylum. Then they are killed by a Martian psychiatrist who is trying to prove they are illusions.

Captain John Black – the captain of the third expedition. He and his crew are tricked by the Martians into believing they are their loved ones who died, then resurrected on Mars using illusions. While their guards are down, the crew is killed.

Captain Wilder – the captain of the fourth expedition. When they arrive on Mars they find that a plague of chicken pox brought by previous expeditions has killed almost all the Martians. Wilder tries to be respectful to the dead but still let his men relax after a long journey. His anger at the mistreatment of the artifacts causes him to have a burst of anger after being forced to kill one of his crewmen, Jeff Spender, for ‘going native’ and killing other crewmen for showing disrespect. After his episode, Wilder is promoted and sent to explore Jupiter and Pluto.

Jeff Spender – an archaeologist with the fourth expedition. He is in awe of Mars and explores it on his own. When he comes back to their campsite, he says he is now a Martian and tries to get other crewmen to join him. Then he decides that in order to preserve Mars he must kill the crew. After killing four of the men, he runs into the hills. Captain Wilder hunts him down and after a long discussion on the futility of protecting Mars from the government and corporations, Wilder shoots him.

Sam Parkhill – a member of the fourth expedition. He is a bully and violent. He is reprimanded for shooting out the windows in the Martian ruins. As more settlers arrive, including his wife, he quits the military and opens a hot dog stand. But before he can sell any hot dogs, Mars begins evacuation.

Hathaway – also a member of the fourth expedition. He is a doctor and a geologist. When Mars is evacuated, he and his family stay. Many years later Captain Wilder returns to take him to Earth, only to discover Hathaway’s family had died years earlier and he made robot replicas of them. He dies before he can be rescued. His robot family continues without him.

Benjamin Driscoll – has trouble with the oxygen on Mars and plants trees to clean up the air.

William Stendahl – he builds an automated house to celebrate the fantasy stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Hawthorne, Lovecraft and Lewis Carroll. These authors have been banned and he wants revenge. When the investigators from the Moral Climates arrive he kills them using the methods outlined in the classic horror stories and replaces them with robot replicas.

Walter Gripp – misses the evacuation and finds he is the last man on Mars. When he finally finds the last woman on Mars, he can’t get away from her fast enough. He runs for the hills.

Ray Bradbury Biography 

Born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois, Ray Douglas Bradbury developed a love of stories very young. His family relocated to Los Angeles, California when he was fourteen, and his future was set. He was in love with Hollywood and spent many afternoons trying to meet celebrities. His first paying job was as a writer for an episode of the “Burns and Allen” show when he was fourteen.

He began writing when he was just eleven years old. He wrote on any kind of paper he could find, including butcher paper. As a prolific writer, Bradbury wrote every day from the time he learned how to hold a pencil. He spent as much time as possible in the library and contributed his education to the libraries. “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for ten years.” He went on to tell The Paris Review, “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do – and they don’t.”

Bradbury was an avid reader and a strong supporter of libraries. He participated in a lot of programs to raise money and prevent the closure of libraries, especially in California. Although he was a firm supporter of computers, he didn’t want to have his books added to e-books. Finally agreeing when his publisher, Simon & Schuster agreed to make the book, Fahrenheit 451 available to libraries free. It is still the only book that the publisher provides to libraries free in e-book form.

Until the age of eighteen, Bradbury wrote horror stories, trying to imitate the form of Edgar Allan Poe. He was such a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, that he wrote a sequel to Burroughs’ novel, The Warlord of Mars, at age twelve. He also was a good illustrator and made his own comic panels of Tarzan. Citing H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as his favorite science fiction writers and biggest influences, he said that he identified with Jules Verne, “He believes the human being is in a strange situation in a very strange world, and he believes that we can triumph by behaving morally.”

In 1947, Bradbury married the only woman he ever dated, Marguerite McClure, or Maggie, and they were married until her death in 2003. They had four daughters. He never had a driver’s license and either rode his bicycle or relied on public transportation. He lived at home until he was twenty-seven when he was married.

He had varied friendships, from writers to directors to actors, etc. He and Gene Roddenberry were close friends for thirty years after Gene asked him to write for Star Trek. He turned him down, but, they remained friends. He was also close friends with the creator of the Addams Family. Writing a series of stories that were closely related to the TV show.

In 1999 he suffered a stroke, and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, but continued to write. He wrote an essay for The New Yorker. It was about his inspiration for writing and was published one week prior to his death. Ray Bradbury passed away after a prolonged illness in 2012, at the age of 91. He was eulogized in writing by a wide variety of people including President Obama. Author, Stephen King, wrote on his website, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called “A Sound of Thunder”. The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all the resonance and strange beauty.” On his tombstone, he asked to have printed, “The Author of Fahrenheit 451.”