When I was 12, my dad gave me The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. We had read a short story of his in my sixth grade language arts class (Remember when English used to be called language arts?), which I had thoroughly enjoyed, but I didn't pursue any of his other works thereafter, having never considered myself much of a "science fiction" person. However, when my father told me that The Martian Chronicles was not just science fiction, but, rather, a beautiful example of American literature, I thought I might as well take a whack at it.
I then proceeded to read that book three times in a row.
It was beautiful, just as my father said. Simply beautiful. There are no other words for the feeling this collection of Bradbury's stories creates. As the title suggests, The Martian Chronicles is in fact a chronicle; in other words, it is a collection of short stories that, while seemingly unrelated in subject matter, flow perfectly together, like stars in the night sky or a velvety river on a warm summer evening. Each story is magnificent in its own right; they're all so different yet there is a common thread, one of mystery, beauty and the precious and fleeting nature of time, that connects them all.
All the "chapters" in this book are enthralling, and Bradbury draws you into his world with his fluid phrases and vivid descriptions. However, one story always comes to mind first when I think of The Martian Chronicles: "The Green Morning." In this story, people from Earth are trying to make Mars have a liveable atmosphere. Due to the acute lack of greenery, there is a shortage of oxygen, clearly producing problems when it comes to habitation of the planet. One man, however, persists in his quest to make Mars a habitable planet, and he keeps trying to plant trees in the harsh Mars soil. But it is all to no avail. However, one morning, the man awakes to find a miracle. His planting experiments have finally worked, and he sees before him a sea of trees. Oak trees, maple trees, magnolia trees, chestnut trees... They cover the surface of the planet as far as his eyes can see. But what makes this miracle all the more spectacular is the way in which Bradbury writes it. Through his words, you can see the bright green leaves shining in the morning light, you can feel the breeze blowing softly off the branches, you can feel your lungs filling with lucious, rich oxygen... This story has stuck with me over all these years, and "The Green Morning" is only one of many such fantastic stories.
The Martian Chronicles was, and still remains, one of my top five favorite books. I know each and every story like the back of my hand, and if you take a chance on a little "science fiction," I'm sure you will feel the same way about this beautiful chronicle.