I've started a bit of an exploration of the classics of sci-fi and its great authors of the last century. I've always been a fan of Arthur C Clarke and H G Wells but my reading of sci-fi has mainly been limited to those two authors, some Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov and John Wyndham. Recently I decided I needed to broaden my reading and so have started Robert A Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. The cover to this book, which was written in the 1960s, blurts about how shocking and disturbing the story is and how it will change the way the reader looks at Western civilisation and culture. I've not experienced such a revelation as yet although the story is intriguing. It is set in the future (of course) and starts with the brief outline of a failed expedition to Mars. A later visit to the Red Planet finds the humanoid Valentine Michael Smith, who is in fact a Martian. So far, I've only got to the stages where he has been brought back to Earth and the government it seems have their own agenda, manipulating Smith for their own ends. It is as I say, intriguing and I am not quite sure at this stage where the story is going. Heinlein's writing though does put me in mind of Clarke and considering this novel was written in the early 60s it is strikingly prescient about the future.
Two other books that I have borrowed from the library today are Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Edritch by Philip K Dick. Two of Dick's works have been made into the films, Blade Runner and Minority Report. I am looking forward to reading these two as both authors I have not read before so it'll be interesting to discover their styles and ideas.
On a completel different note, I also borrowed The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers. Started reading the intro to this on the way home on the bus and it appears to promise a warts and all account of Nixon's tragic fall from office. Whenever I think of Nixon I am reminded of the film by Oliver Stone and the line from it spoken by Henry Kissinger about how Nixon came close and could have touched greatness, if only the people had loved him. I am badly paraphrasing here but those words always struck me as incredibly sad as are Nixon's own words to a portait of the late JFK towards the end of the film, when he says "When they look at you they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are." Nixon is a character that has long fascinated me and I am intrigued as to how he was so catastrophically undone by his personal demons. While Oliver Stone's film is a humane and perhaps generous account, I doubt that Anthony Summers book will have much sympathy for its subject.