"We earth men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things."The Martian Chronicles, a perfect example of what I'd call a 'quintessential Bradbury' - fragmentary, at times disjointed, occasionally crossing the line into the realm of surreal, full of his trademark nostalgia and sadness, this account of the failed American Dream approach to the exploration of the ultimate frontier never stops fascinating me and drawing me in with its inexplicable charm. (Side note: as a person of Russian descent, I reserve the right to run-on long-winded sentences in the best tradition of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky of which my literature-teacher mother clearly approves). It is such a multifaceted tale! It is a condemnation of the dear to the human heart way of 'exploration' and colonization - that is, coming to a place new to us and attempting to turn it into a carbon copy of 'home', of the place where we come from, of the place that gives us comfort - and all else be damned. It is an ode to the beauty of the strange and un-understood alienness. It is a criticism of the American Dream which was written in the heyday of this 'Dream'. It is a thinly veiled cautionary tale about the perils of science when misapplied. It is all of the above and none of the above, with everything masterfully interwoven to create a unique unforgettable reading experience.'Who wants to see the Future, who ever does? A man can face the Past, but to think - the pillars crumbled, you say? And the sea empty, and the canals dry, and the maidens dead, and the flowers withered?' The Martian was silent, but then he looked ahead. 'But there they are. I see them. Isn't that enough for me? They wait for me now, no matter what you say.'The story, for those who somehow are not familiar with it, is simple. In the far future of 1999, rocket ships from Earth start coming to Mars. The Martians - the enigmatic, serene, telepathic race - sense the disturbances. Eventually they die off, and the colonization in the American Dream style begins, until the nuclear war on Earth interferes. But the narrative is not quite this linear. It is made of separate, rather stand-alone short stories that often read as interludes, some straightforward, some surreal, but all of them quite haunting, memorable, and thought-provoking. Bradbury is (was, actually - I still can't believe he's dead) a master of writing peaceful, nostalgic sadness that feels upliftingly purifying. His writing is poetic and lyrical, often dreamlike, with almost a musical quality to it. He often straddles the line between cautionary and moralistic, but mostly succeeds at not crossing over to the unpleasantly preachy side. He is exceptionally good at writing amazing short fiction - since this is what this book essentially is, a collection of interlinked short stories. He manages to create a memorable, beautifully flowing, sophisticated story without a steadily progressing plot, without a main or even a major character, without even a consistent setting."Night are night for every year and every year, for no reason at all, the woman comes out and looks at the sky, her hands up, for a long moment, looking at the green burning of Earth, not knowing why she looks, and then she goes back and throws a stick on the fire, and the wind comes up and the dead sea goes on being dead." =================================Now, as an aside, I heard this book described as 'not really a science fiction book but a speculative fiction book' quite a few times, almost apologetically, as though science fiction is something to be ashamed of. I understand that this book is essentially a crossover phenomenon which appeals to sci-fi fans and 'general public' alike, and describing it as something else besides sci-fi can help generate a wider audience and a broader appeal. But hey, I realized that I don't want to be the person falling into this trap - the trap of dismissing sci-fi as something that is not literary enough, something of interior quality, something to be apologetic about. Bradbury, Le Guin, Miéville, Lem (insert your own favorite acclaimed sci-fi author here) are NOT great writers that...ahem...just happen to write sci-fi but maybe not quite really. They are excellent sci-fi writers, and that's how I recommend their books, even at the threat of losing potential audience. After all, Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles was not only one of the first books that I checked out of the 'adult' library, but also the book which cemented my love for science fiction, first fueled by Poul Anderson's Call Me Joe. The Martian Chronicles is an excellent book, the one that I will continue to re-read every few years or so. It deserves ALL the stars. "The Martians stared back up at them for a long, long silent time from the rippling water."