Bradbury Daily: “The Off Season”

Well, as far as Mars stories go, this one was a little bit better executed. The aliens did feel alien. The environment felt forced, though. Things like “purple foothills” don’t sound like science fiction so much as an attempt to make something mundane seem like something out of this world. And it doesn’t work. But at least there are legitimate Martians in this one, so that has to count for something.

The story is about a man who is building the first hot dog stand on Mars in preparation for the colonization from Earth. He’s very excited about his hot dog stand, From the conversations we can gather that the few remaining Martians are less than thrilled, but it seems as though they’ve been subjugated in much the same way the Native Americans were subjugated during the colonization of America. Saying more about the story would ruin it, and though I don’t feel that’s necessarily a bad thing, some people might prefer if I didn’t spoil it.

Beyond my issues with the way Bradbury chooses to differentiate his Mars from the regular land of Earth, I have further issues with this story itself. The man who owns the hot dog stand is the only one who feels like a character. You can understand his motivations and his actions. His wife is pretty wooden, and I really don’t understand her actions. She moves between supportive, fearful, and resentful, and only occasionally do her actions make sense. Other times, she doesn’t really serve much purpose. As for the aliens, I can’t really complain about them, I suppose, because they’re not supposed to act or think like humans. But still, it would have been nice to have some explanation for their actions. Because honestly it seems they’re only there to push the plot along and make sure that there’s some tragic irony in the ending.

On the whole, the story is pointless. It’s just one long build up to the ironic ending. It’s like a mediocre joke that has a long lead in to a weak punchline. I kept hoping there would be some explanation for everything, some dramatic resolution that brought together all the pieces of the story. Instead, I got a melodramatic finale that left me wondering why I bothered reading the story at all.

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