Number 9 on my list of the ten books left off the 100 best of the 20th century:
The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
Overlooking The Martian Chronicles is a mistake. It might not have the epic detail of Dune or be chock full of robots like the Foundation Trilogy, but what Mr. Bradberyís book has that these and few other sci-fi books have is a poetic heart. A sense of introspection. A willingness to blur the line between our humanity and all life formís inherent alienness.
Let me explain what I mean by this.
Humans decide to colonize Mars. But over the years, when they arenít looking, they become colonized by the planet as well. The ones who escape Earth and the nuclear war that destroys civilization on our home world become, ironically more human only after they become Martians and learn what it means to be not just human, but alive.
If ever their was a reason to maintain our manned space program, itís illustrated superbly in The Martian Chronicles, if only so that one day, we might be able to achieve that distance, that perspective that will help us gain the wisdom necessary to become better humans.