Bradbury Daily: “The Earth Men”

I suppose this one feels slightly more like a story set on Mars than the previous ones. But it more closely resembles a sort of dark riff on Alice in Wonderland. There’s enough to make the aliens and such feel a little bit… well, alien, but mostly it still feels like all the characters are regular people, not just the humans. There’s not quite enough cultural differentiation or biological differentiation to really feel like proper science fiction.

I wonder if Bradbury’s philosophy was that, if there is life on other worlds, it’s remarkably similar to our own existence. It would certainly explain why so far there’s nothing terribly alien about his aliens.

The story itself is about four astronauts who have come to Mars and can’t find anyone who shares their excitement at having traveled all this way from Earth, a trip that’s never been made before except for the one presumed failed mission before theirs. Rather than be interested in the fact that these men are aliens from another world, the Martians are mostly just annoyed at being bothered, and send the men to see various different people.

There’s a decent amount of humor in the story, as one might expect when presented with the premise above. But it’s also a bit frustrating. As a human of Earth I can sympathize to an extent with these men. After all, if I were to go to another planet, I’d hope that the natives would notice me an alien and ask me questions and the like.

Unless they were hostile in which case I’d hope they didn’t notice me so that I could avoid painful death. But that’s not relevant in this story.

The twist didn’t work well, at least not for me. The idea behind it was very clever. But the implementation of it fell a bit flat. It felt as though a comedic story was suddenly being forced down a darker path. The sudden shift in focus and the surprisingly dark ending felt forced and a bit unnatural. Perhaps the story was an experiment on Bradbury’s part, a foray into a different kind of storytelling.

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