It’s February and it is what most people here in the Midwestern United States would consider cold. So Ray Bradbury’s title “The Golden Apples of the Sun” jumped out at me from the table of contents of my Bradbury story collection and I’m glad it did. It’s one of the best Bradbury stories I’ve read and most of the ones I’ve read have been very good.
On the literary merit spectrum, science fiction tends to get the raw end of the deal. While I’m no literary expert, I have to wonder if the “powers that be” have ever read “The Golden Apples of the Sun”. It seems to have everything. A group of astronauts travel to the sun. Their goal is to get a Cup of the sun. This Cup beautifully becomes a Holy Grail of Humanity representing science, religion, philosophy and ultimately the meaning of life – all in one cup. I didn’t get a good feel for how big the cup would be; however, I can’t imagine being able to bring too much of the sun back to Earth so my guess is that it’s quite small.
Bradbury effectively contrasts hot and cold, north and south, and even life and death throughout the plot. I had a difficult time deciding which paragraph to quote because many of them were so powerful that if I quoted all of them, I would simply be posting the entire story. As Bradbury frequently expresses a fondness for childhood and summer in his stories, a characteristic of his work that I especially appreciate, I was not surprised to find this in a story about visiting the sun although this passage technically refers to spring:
Spring mornings as a boy he had leaned from his bedroom window into the snow-smelling air to see the sun sparkle the last icicle of winter. A dripping of white wine, the blood of cool but warming April fell from that clear crystal blade. Minute by minute, December’s weapon grew less dangerous. And then at last the icicle fell with the sound of a single chime to the graveled walk below.
I have this story in my collection The Sound of Thunder and Other Stories. If by chance you have never read any of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, start with this one. You’ll want to read more.