Thursday, March 04, 2010

More Science Fiction: Ray Bradbury and Katherine Fisher

Officially this is Science Fiction Week. In my world, probably not yours. I have three weeks off from work and thought it would be fun to sit inside with the heat blasting, drink pina coladas, and read books about other planets. I've read part of a mermaid novel, In Great Waters, and am also perusing Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles has the empire-questioning pessimism that somehow makes the "future" seem like the past. Not only is it good science fiction, but the experience of reading is like time travel to the 1950s and 60s. Bradbury writes about Americans landing on Mars and being trapped by illusion and disillusionment: a crew of Americans who land on Mars is dismissed as psychotic by Martians who are used to lunatics projecting visual and sensory hallucinations; others land on Mars and encounter their dead relatives walking about in what seem to be their midwestern hometowns; and a lone astronaut rebels against American colonization of Mars.

How did I discover Ray Bradbury? Did I simply find the books at the library? Reading was much more random as a child. No book reviews: you just slouched around the shelves and grabbed what looked interesting. I can remember being scared to death reading some of Bradbury's stories when I was alone in the house as a child. Perhaps the '60s films introduced me to his books: The Illustrated Man with Rod Steiger and Fahrenheit 451 with Julie Christie and Oskar Werner.

I am also reading a fast-paced, well-written YA novel, Incarceron, which came to my attention because it has been reviewed in the L.A. Times and the Washington Post. Incarceron is a sort of underworld/prison which was established, closed, and locked more than a century ago: the hero and heroine are Finn, a 17-year-old prisoner who believes he was born "outside," and Claudia, the daughter of the terrifying warder of Incarceron. Claudia's "outside" world is trapped in a time warp: a king decided it was easier to rule if his subjects were caught in a very formal 17th century world in which things are either "era" or not. Both Finn and Claudia want to escape.

Hmm. Amazing how many of these good all-ages YA books are being reviewed these days. Is it my imagination, or are they selling these to the young AND to adults these days? Change the characters to adults and this would simply be a good adult novel.

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