The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

★★★★★ (5/5)

 A selection of my favourite passages from the book

“It is good to renew one’s wonder,” said the philosopher. “Space travel has again made children of us all.”

ROCKET SUMMER

  • The rocket lay on the launching field, blowing out pink clouds of fire and oven heat. The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates, and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land …

YLLA

  • Marriage made people old and familiar, while still young.
  • All night she had hung above the floor, buoyed by the soft carpeting of mist that poured from the walls when she lay down to rest. All night she had slept on this silent river, like a boat upon a soundless tide. Now the fog burned away, the mist level lowered until she was deposited upon the shore of wakening.
  • When it was quite late he murmured something, went to a closet, and drew forth an evil weapon, a long yellowish tube ending in a bellows and a trigger. He turned, and upon his face was a mask, hammered from silver metal, expressionless, the mask that he always wore when he wished to hide his feelings, the mask which curved and hollowed so exquisitely to his thin cheeks and chin and brow.

THE EARTH MEN

  • If hallucinations can appear this ‘real’ to us, to anyone, if hallucinations are catching and almost believable, it’s no wonder they mistook us for psychotics. If that man can produce little blue fire women and that woman there melt into a pillar, how natural if normal Martians think we produce our rocket ship with our minds.”
  • The psychologist shut his eyes and scratched his nose. “This is the most incredible example of sensual hallucination and hypnotic suggestion I’ve ever encountered. I went through your ‘rocket,’ as you call it.” He tapped the hull. “I hear it. Auditory fantasy.” He drew a breath. “I smell it. Olfactory hallucination, induced by sensual telepathy.” He kissed the ship. “I taste it. Labial fantasy!”
  • “My insanity.” The captain was pale. “Yes, yes, what a lovely insanity. Metal, rubber, gravitizers, foods, clothing, fuel, weapons, ladders, nuts, bolts, spoons. Ten thousand separate items I checked on your vessel. Never have I seen such a complexity. There were even shadows under the bunks and under everything! Such concentration of will! And everything, no matter how or when tested, had a smell, a solidity, a taste, a sound! Let me embrace you!”

THE THIRD EXPEDITION

  • Well, what would the best weapon be that a Martian could use against Earth Men with atomic weapons? The answer was interesting. Telepathy, hypnosis, memory, and imagination.

AND THE MOON BE STILL AS BRIGHT

  • The air smelled clean and new. Spender sat for a long time just enjoying the way it was made. It had a lot of things in it he couldn’t identify: flowers, chemistries, dusts, winds.
  • They’re all here. All the things which had uses. All the mountains which had names. And we’ll never be able to use them without feeling uncomfortable. And somehow the mountains will never sound right to us; we’ll give them new names, but the old names are there, somewhere in time, and the mountains were shaped and seen under those names.
  • we’re kids in rompers, shouting with our play rockets and atoms, loud and alive. But one day Earth will be as Mars is today.
  • “Anything that’s strange is no good to the average American. If it doesn’t have Chicago plumbing, it’s nonsense.
  • “They knew how to live with nature and get along with nature. They didn’t try too hard to be all men and no animal. That’s the mistake we made when Darwin showed up.
  • If art was no more than a frustrated outflinging of desire, if religion was no more than self-delusion, what good was life? Faith had always given us answers to all things. But it all went down the drain with Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people.”
  • And the men of Mars realized that in order to survive they would have to forgo asking that one question any longer: Why live? Life was its own answer. Life was the propagation of more life and the living of as good a life is possible.
  • They blended religion and art and science because, at base, science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle.

THE SETTLERS

  • most men felt the great illness in them even before the rocket fired into space. And this disease was called The Loneliness, because when you saw your home town dwindle the size of your fist and then lemon-size and then pin-size and vanish in the fire-wake, you felt you had never been born, there was no town, you were nowhere, with space all around, nothing familiar, only other strange men.

THE GREEN MORNING

  • There were so many things a tree could do: add color, provide shade, drop fruit, or become a children’s playground, a whole sky universe to climb and hang from; an architecture of food and pleasure, that was a tree. But most of all the trees would distill an icy air for the lungs, and a gentle rustling for the ear when you lay nights in your snowy bed and were gentled to sleep by the sound.

THE LOCUSTS

  • And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness

NIGHT MEETING

  • They pointed at each other, with starlight burning in their limbs like daggers and icicles and fireflies, and then fell to judging their limbs again, each finding himself intact, hot, excited, stunned, awed, and the other, ah yes, that other over there, unreal, a ghostly prism flashing the accumulated light of distant worlds.

WAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AIR

  • And in that slow, steady channel of darkness that cut across the white glare of day were touches of alert white, the eyes, the ivory eyes staring ahead, glancing aside, as the river, the long and endless river, took itself from old channels into a new one.
  • None of it flung down, no, but deposited gently and with feeling, with decorum, upon the dusty edges of the road, as if a whole city had walked here with hands full, at which time a great bronze trumpet had sounded, the articles had been relinquished to the quiet dust, and one and all, the inhabitants of the earth had fled straight up into the blue heavens.

USHER II

  • “Does the whole structure cause an ‘iciness, a sickening of the heart, a dreariness of thought’? The House, the lake, the land, Mr. Stendahl?” “Mr. Bigelow, it’s worth every penny! My God, it’s beautiful!”
  • and with a screw tightened here, a bolt fastened there, a push, a pull, a yank, art and literature were soon like a great twine of taffy strung about, being twisted in braids and tied in knots and thrown in all directions, until there was no more resiliency and no more savor to it. Then the film cameras chopped short and the theaters turned dark. and the print presses trickled down from a great Niagara of reading matter to a mere innocuous dripping of ‘pure’ material. Oh, the word ‘escape’ was radical, too, I tell you!”

THE MARTIAN

  • All down the way the pursued and the pursuing, the dream and the dreamers, the quarry and the hounds. All down the way the sudden revealment, the flash of familiar eyes, the cry of an old, old name, the remembrances of other times, the crowd multiplying.

THE WATCHERS

  • To all intents and purposes, Earth now was dead; they had been away from it for three or four years. Space was an anesthetic; seventy million miles of space numbed you, put memory to sleep, depopulated Earth, erased the past, and allowed these people here to go on with their work. But now, tonight, the dead were risen, Earth was reinhabited, memory awoke, a million names were spoken.

THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS

  • The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.

THE MILLION-YEAR PICNIC

  • They looked with fervent anticipation, and the dead city lay dead for them alone, drowsing in a hot silence of summer made on Mars by a Martian weatherman.

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