Leight Brackett’s The Coming of the Terrans is a slim volume, packaging five thematically related stories. Slim, yes, but not light weight. Brackett takes what could be a frothy, fun topic of men on ancient, dusty Mars and instead gives us insightful tales in her own unique Martian setting: a grim intersection of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom and Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.
This insight shouldn’t come as a surprise. Brackett has long demonstrated that she understands the inner workings of men. In Terrans, Brackett turns her attention to the tragic, yet inevitable results of the clash of civilizations; of the meeting of divergent levels of technological development; of the conflict of incompatible cultures; new ideas running into ancient wisdom. Colonization, assimilation, resistance, and subversion. She could have gone the easy way and written allegorically. She eschewed simple analogs of desert tribesmen versus British imperialists, or the US Cavalry patrolling the perimeter of an Indian reservation. Brackett was too wise for such a simplistic take and the choosing of sides. Instead she wrote these complex, nuanced stories that generally lack white hats and black hats. And all set in an internally consistent world, a dying planet that is home to multiple Martian races and the graveyard of many others; of weathered, incredibly ancient cities in the dusty basins of long vanished seas; of savage raiders, cosmopolitan traders, idealistic scientists, and unscrupulous adventurers.
I found Terrans worth my time. It might be worth yours.
Something else that might be worth your time, speaking in a roundabout fashion of Mars, is Under Strange Suns, my homage to ERB’s Barsoom.