Recently I had a fascinating reading experience. It took place on Mars.
Six months ago I reread The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. The stories in this collection describe entire towns migrating to Mars, Martian natives meeting Earth people and labeling them insane, Martian canals filled with water, a house that lives on long after its inhabitants have died.
As you may have guessed, the stories aren’t really science fiction; they’re full-blown fantasy, ejected from the overheated imagination of Ray Bradbury. In fact, they’re not about Mars at all; they’re about the inside of Bradbury’s head. Luckily for us, it was the head of a genius, so reading The Martian Chronicles is a thrilling experience.
Six months later, just last week, I finished Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Ostensibly on the same subject as Bradbury’s story collection, this novel is its diametric opposite.
Robinson places us on a very real Mars with the first colonists from Earth and follows them, step by carefully researched step, over a forty-year period. The science is accurate; the psychology is believable; the mundane and dramatic events are credible and, one might even say, inevitable. It’s another thrilling experience.
Red Mars won the Nebula Award. The Martian Chronicles was cited in Bradbury’s Pulitzer Prize. Reading these books offered a compelling journey with two great writers and a demonstration of how differently two minds can work.