Jack Zaleski, Published June 23 2012
Zaleski: Not a stranger in strange land of sci-fi
I read the story and then took up Bradbury’s other works, including “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles.”
After Bradbury, I discovered the novels and short stories of Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and, of course, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe.
Looking for summer reading? For sci-fi/fantasy fans, the deans of the genre are hard to beat. Try these:
- Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn.” It’s a love story of sorts. And for a longer read, “Fahrenheit 451.” It’s as chilling today as it was in 1953. Oskar Werner and Julie Christie starred in a 1966 movie adaptation. It’s really good.
- “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Heinlein. In addition to being a darn good yarn about a man from Mars (dated here and there), it’s also a sermon/lecture/rant about society’s foibles, religious hypocrisy, corrupted innocence and sexual taboos. Heinlein is in top form.
- “Childhood’s End” by Clarke. While famous for his “Space Odyssey” novels and movies, I think “Childhood’s End” is Clarke’s best. Its theme of all-powerful benevolent aliens who take on god-like status and change the evolutionary track of humankind packs an emotional punch not often found in vintage science fiction.
While Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov (never liked him much) rank as 20th-century giants of their genre, I’d add one more who never achieved the status or won the acclaim of the big four: Clifford D. Simak.
Most of Simak’s work is not well-known, but his masterpiece (by my reckoning) is “City,” a 1952 novel that incorporates several short stories he wrote from 1944 to ’51. The eight tales (he added a ninth in a 1980 edition) chronicle several thousand years of Earth history as seen primarily through the eyes of Jenkins, a robot of uncommon longevity and insight. The tales comprise a legend as understood by highly evolved dogs, who speculate about a mythical creature known as Man. Fascinating premise. Good read.
So, there you go. I’ve recommended a couple of the above books before; they are worth endorsing again. In fact, I’m rereading Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” It gets better every time.
Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.