Bradbury Daily: “The Silent Towns”

A dark comedy on a post-apocalypse colonized Mars feels a bit trite to a jaded modern reader like myself. But I suppose when it was written it must have been quite new.

I don’t terribly like this story, honestly. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. Certain things don’t feel fully formed; we’re given a few scant details like everyone on the Mars colonies just up and going back to Earth, and something about there being a great deal of war on Earth. But if that’s the case, why go back? Wouldn’t at least the women and children stay in the colonies, if the men were going to fight? There are more questions than answers, and that bothered me, even though these things weren’t important to the story at all.

The main thrust of the story follows Walter Gripp and his loneliness in the abandoned Martian town he resides in.

Which reminds me that the names of places on this colonized Mars really bugged me as being cliche. “Mars Avenue,” “New Boston,” “New Texas City.” I’d like to think that if humans ever did colonize another planet, we’d be more creative than to just remake our old homes. Boston’s been done, why do we need a new one?

To say more about the plot would spoil it, and there are a few good moments of humor, though they’re definitely on the darker side. The writing itself, aside from the naming issue, is, of course, quite good. Again, though, as with yesterday, this story doesn’t feel like it’s set on another planet. Everything sounds the same as on Earth, which is a bit disappointing. Bradbury showed in “There Will Come Soft Rain” that he has an incredible imagination when he sets his eye toward the future. I wish he’d done that with these stories about Mars.

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