The Golden Apples of the Sun

Ray Bradbury , The Golden Apples of the Sun (Subterranean Press, 2008)

It is well-established that Ray Bradbury is one of the finest writers currently working today, and that honor extends beyond the science fiction genre to distinguish him also in fiction, magical realism, fairy tales, and, really, the list goes on. Besides being one of the founding fathers of social science fiction, one could also suggest Bradbury to be a leading explorer in the interstitial arts, being a writer who has always done what creators did best: eschewed borders, ransacked the nooks of the brain, the crannies of the soul, and gave form to what came.

So, with our quality-reading barometers hovering at the level of “great,” let us appraise this particular collection of Bradbury’s short works, namely, The Golden Apples of the Sun, now returned to its original 1953 incarnation by the meticulous ministrations of Subterranean Press.

Originally published in 1953, this anthology included twenty-two of Bradbury’s stories published in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many of these stories were subsequently re-collected in several different volumes, most recently A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories. Subterranean Press, as part of their on-going project to lovingly restore some of Bradbury’s original collections, decided to restore this volume to its original format by not only publishing it once more with its original table of contents, but also with the original cover art (a strikingly simple composition by Joe Mugnani).

Ah, but what about these original contents? I can hear you thinking. Were they worth all this trouble? Are they compelling and absorbing?

The answer is yes and no. Indubitably, this collection contains some of Bradbury’s most inspired works, inimitable in concept and execution. “The Pedestrian,” set in the same universe as Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, is a chilling look at a world where going for a simple walk is anathema and worthy of psychological evaluation. “The Murderer,” written in the early ’50s, was surprisingly predictive of our modern day. “A Sound of Thunder” is a piece of science fiction that perfectly encapsulates the butterfly effect almost ten years before the term “butterfly effect” came into use. “The Fog Horn” is a hauntingly beautiful story that may change your feelings about the desolate calling of those horns. “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl” is an inspired depiction of the obsessive compulsive and murder.

However, this collection is definitely not a “best of” Ray Bradbury. Because of this, and the fact that they’re working with stories published over fifty years ago, a number of the stories are rather dated. In other cases, stories run too long on a premise too thin. “The Wilderness” embodies outmoded stereotypes of womanhood that make me twitch, while “The Big Black and White Game” depicts a thankfully bygone world of segregation. “Embroidery” is a piece about the end of the world that lingers as long as its event horizon. “I See You Never” and “En La Noche” are slightly tedious examples of trying to construct a story on a frame too frail to hold them.

Sandwiched in and among the terribly brilliant and the feebly thin, are several instances of slow wonder and the engrossing intricacies of the inner life. The title story, “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” manages to invoke both Yeats’ poetry, fire-stealing myths, and the ingenuity of mankind. “The Golden Kite, The Silver Wind” is a lovely fairy tale and exhortation for cooperation. “Powerhouse” is exactly that, but thrumming with wide-spread energy rather than exploding with pent-up power: a reflection on the divine and connections. “The Flying Machine” is a sobering, heartbreaking look at the weight of responsibility, while “Sun and Shadow” is unalloyed and humorous invective.

Although this is a faithful reincarnation of the 1953 edition, Subterranean Press has made sure to improve on the original: the anthology contains bonus materials that have never before been published elsewhere. In the bonus material section, one will find a screenplay written for his story, “The Fog Horn” and a stage-play version of “En La Noche.” “The Fog Horn” screenplay makes some intriguing changes to the beginning of the story and it is a pity it was never filmed. “En La Noche” reveals that a story too thin for the page may have made a more engaging stage production.

Overall, I must conclude that The Golden Apples of the Sun is an anthology for collectors of Ray Bradbury’s work (especially considering the price tag attached). Those casual readers wishing only for an introduction to the master’s work or for a good compilation of his stories would do better to pick up the much more economically priced A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories from their local bookstores.

This review was originally published at Green Man Review on June 1st, 2008.