When I was younger, I read a story in a old book, that I think was about tourists who travelled to an ancient city on Mars. I think one of them may have been an astronaut, but I'm positive that not all of them were. Anyway, when they reach the city, they get separated, and at least one of them is killed by the city. Eventually one of them realizes the danger (I think it was the astronaut) and the survivors are barely able to escape. I think it was by Ray Bradbury, but I don't know any concrete details, and I don't remember the name.

EDIT: It definitely isn't "The City", by Ray Bradbury, I'm positive that not everyone on the expedition was a astronaut. I think that each tourist had a certain occupation. I think that one tourist was a hunter, another was a poet, but I don't remember anything else.

  • Sorry, you're right. I just have time to check stack exchange. It's amazing you figured it out. I spent a while checking on the internet and I couldn't find anything. Sep 19, 2017 at 14:57
  • I'd given up on your question, I was browsing my shelves looking for something else, and so I picked up The Playboy Book of Science Fiction, and the lead story is "The Lost City of Mars".
    – user14111
    Sep 19, 2017 at 23:01
  • Wow! That's so cool. Sep 20, 2017 at 0:36

3 Answers 3


"The Lost City of Mars", a novelette by Ray Bradbury, first published in Playboy, January 1967, reprinted under various covers.

. . . I think was about tourists who travelled to an ancient city on Mars. I think one of them may have been an astronaut, but I'm positive that not all of them were. . . . I think that one tourist was a hunter, another was a poet, but I don't remember anything else.

Aaronson ran his finger down the printed guest list.

"An actor, a beautiful woman who happens to be an actress, a hunter, a poet, a poet's wife, a rocket captain, a former technician. All aboard!"

On the afterdeck of the huge craft, Aaronson spread forth his maps.

"Ladies, gentlemen," he said. "This is more than a four-day drinking bout, party, excursion. This is a search!"

He waited for their faces to light properly, and for them to glance from his eyes to the charts, and then said:

"We are seeking the fabled Lost City of Mars, once called Dia-Sao, the City of Doom. Something terrible about it. The inhabitants fled as from a plague. The City left empty. Still empty now, centuries later."

"We," said Captain Wilder, have charted, mapped and cross-indexed every acre of land on Mars in the last fifteen years. You can't mislay a city the size of the one you speak of."

"True," said Aaronson, "you've mapped it from the sky, from the land. But you have not charted it via water, for the canals have been empty until now! So we shall take the new waters that fill this last canal and go where the boats once went in the olden days, and see the very last new things that need to be seen on Mars." The rich man continued: "And somewhere on our traveling, as sure as the breath in our mouths, we shall find the most beautiful, the most fantastic, the most awful city in the history of this old world. And walk in that city and—who knows?—find the reason why the Martians ran screaming away from it, as the legend says, thousands of years ago."

Eventually one of them realizes the danger (I think it was the astronaut) and the survivors are barely able to escape.

Parkhill shouted below. And Wilder was flying up, up along the wall, looking this way and that.

Everywhere, the sky was closing in. The petals were coming down, coming down. There was only a last small patch of stone sky to his right. He blasted for that. And kicking, made it through, flying, as the final flange of steel clipped into place and the City was closed to itself.

He hung for a moment, suspended, and then flew with the woman down along the outer wall to the dock, where Aaronson stood by the yacht staring at the huge shut gates.

"Parkhill," whispered Wilder, looking at the City, the walls, the gates. "You fool. You damned fool."

They waited a moment longer and listened to the City, humming, alive, kept to itself, its great mouth filled with a few bits of warmth, a few lost people somewhere hid away in there. The gates would stay shut now, forever. The City had what it needed to go on a long while.


Parts of your description are vaguely reminiscent of "The City" (aka "Purpose"), a short story by Ray Bradbury, originally published in Startling Stories, July 1950 (available at the Internet Archive), which was the answer to the old questions Humanity stumbles across ancient booby trap and Short story about astronauts visiting a planet for the first time that smells and tastes them and Book or short story about an empty city with deadly traps.

What matches: It's an old story by Ray Bradbury about a deadly ancient city. One member of the party, the captain, is separated from the others; he is the first one killed, and his fate is described in detail:

A final test. The city, having listened, watched, tasted, felt, weighed, and balanced, must perform a final test.

A trap flung wide in the street. The captain, unseen to the others, running, vanished.

Hung by his feet, a razor drawn across his throat, another down his chest, his carcass instantly emptied of its entrails, exposed upon a table under the street, in a hidden cell, the captain died. Great crystal microscopes stared at the red twines of muscle; bodiless fingers probed the still pulsing heart. The flaps of his sliced skin were pinned to the table while hands shifted parts of his body like a quick and curious player of chess, using the red pawns and the red pieces.

What doesn't match: Everything else.

1. The city was not on Mars, it was on an extra-solar planet:

The city waited with its windows and its black obsidian walls and its sky towers and its unpennanted turrets, with its untrod streets and its untouched doorknobs, with not a scrap of paper or a fingerprint upon it. The city waited while the planet arced in space, following its orbit about a blue-white sun, and the seasons passed from ice to fire and back to ice and then to green fields and yellow summer meadows.

It was on a summer afternoon in the middle of the twenty-thousandth year that the city ceased waiting.

In the sky a rocket appeared.

2. The exploring party is nine astronauts, no tourists:

The rocket soared over, turned, came back, and landed in the shale meadow fifty yards from the obsidian wall.

There were booted footsteps in the thin grass and calling voices from men within the rocket to men without.


"All right, men. Careful! Into the city. Jensen, you and Hutchinson patrol ahead. Keep a sharp eye."

3. There are no survivors. The dead bodies of the nine astronauts head back to Earth, controlled by alien machines:

The incisions on their necks were invisible, as were their hidden brass hearts and silver organs and the fine golden wire of their nerves. Their was a faint electric hum from their heads.

"On the double!"

Nine men hurried the golden bombs of disease culture into the rocket.

"These are to be dropped on Earth."

"Right, sir!"

The rocket valve slammed.
The rocket jumped into the sky.

As the thunder faded, the city lay upon the summer meadow. Its glass eyes were dulled over. The Ear relaxed, the great nostril vents stopped, the streets no longer weighed or balanced, and the hidden machinery paused in its bath of oil.

In the sky the rocket dwindled.

Slowly, pleasurably, the city enjoyed the luxury of dying.

  • I've actually read this Bradbury story before, but sadly I'm positive that this isn't it. It's similar though. I guess Bradbury liked to write stories about astronauts, dead aliens, and abandoned cities. Sep 15, 2017 at 13:46

It's "The Lost City of Mars" in "I Sing the Body Electric". I'm not positive after finishing it whether any of them do get out at the end.

  • 1
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    Jun 6, 2020 at 19:46

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