2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Arthur C. Clarke
In keeping with my Month of Science Fiction theme, my Random Recommendations this month will be- you guessed it- science fiction-y. First up, then, is one of my all-time favorites, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Now, I must say here that I've read so much Arthur C. Clarke (novels and stories) that I can't even come up with a scifi story of my own without immediately thinking back to one of his brilliant tales. Of course, he's been a major influence on untold numbers of writers, and rightly so- not only are his stories witty, terrifying, fascinating, or just plain strange; they are also written so fluidly and beautifully that you forget you're reading at all.
If you've seen the Kubrick film, you'll know what I mean when I say that, just for fun, my husband and I started fast-forwarding through certain scenes, and those scenes still took like 15 minutes to unfold. The film is v-e-r-y s-l-l-l-l-o-o-o-o-w-w-w. But that's the point, after all- Kubrick and Clarke are telling us a story about human evolution and inviting us to experience the eons it took for us to move from hairy, grunting apes to astronauts exploring the galaxy.
The film was based on "The Sentinel," and out of the two came the novel, released just after the film. The novel is, of course, quite different from the very visual film, for Clarke must explain everything he wishes us to see and understand. For instance, I found the interactions between HAL and David Bowman even more spine-tingling in the novel than in the film.
If you have already read 2001 but nothing else, I order you to go read the wonderful, the clever, the very very heavy collection of his short stories. And I, in turn, will read the sequels- 2010, 2061, and 3001.