New York Times Book Review, December 16, 2007, p. 16
Across the Universe
By DAVE ITZKOFF
Have the worlds of science fiction and presidential politics ever been more closely aligned than they were in 2007? This was the year when Rudolph Giuliani told a young questioner on the campaign trail that “we’ll be prepared” if the United States is attacked by aliens from another planet; when Dennis Kucinich blithely confessed during a Democratic debate that he’d seen a U.F.O.; and when Mitt Romney revealed in an interview that L. Ron Hubbard’s “Battlefield Earth” was one of his favorite novels.
But really, is it all that remarkable that Romney would identify with the story of a virtuous hero who saves Earth from a foreign invasion force? Or that several candidates have embraced science fiction when so many of them could benefit from its lessons? As the primary season approaches, we offer a few sci-fi suggestions to some of the Democratic and Republican contenders — and to a few major players on the periphery who could use the remedial reading.
Former mayor of New York
Should tell reporters he’s read “Childhood’s End,” by Arthur C. Clarke: An advanced intelligence arrives from above, creating a utopia by integrating all of humanity into a single mind that thinks and acts as one.
Might also consider reading “The War of the Worlds,” by H. G. Wells: During a cataclysmically destructive event, an observant bystander happens to be in the right place at the right time and thereafter never stops talking about it.
Senator from Illinois
Should tell reporters he’s read “Behold the Man,” by Michael Moorcock: Obsessed with Messianic ideas, a man with issues about his lineage travels back in time to discover he is actually the Messiah.
Might also consider reading “The Bicentennial Man,” by Isaac Asimov: An especially lifelike robot is faced with an existential dilemma — give up his mechanical immortality and be accepted as human, or be shunned by mankind for all time.
Former governor of Arkansas
Should tell reporters he’s read “By His Bootstraps,” by Robert A. Heinlein: A hard-working man learns he will one day ascend to a position of great power if he can just trick history into repeating itself.
Might also consider reading “A Sound of Thunder,” by Ray Bradbury: A clumsy milquetoast with a shaky grasp of science goes hunting for dinosaurs and ruins the future for everybody.
Former senator from North Carolina
Should tell reporters he’s read “The Dispossessed,” by Ursula K. Le Guin: Traveling between two worlds, a well-meaning intellectual learns that bureaucracy and conformity are the inevitable consequences of a society that rejects private ownership.
Might also consider reading “Sometimes They Come Back,” by Stephen King: The survivor of a vicious assault in which he saw his brother taken down is set upon by the reincarnations of the thugs who originally attacked him.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
Senator from New York
Should tell reporters she’s read “Dune,” by Frank Herbert: Left adrift to wander in a desert wasteland, the scion of a deposed dynasty retakes the family’s lost throne in thrilling and violent fashion.
Might also consider reading Herbert’s “Children of Dune”: A calculating despot undergoes the ultimate act of political triangulation by transforming himself into a part-human, part-worm creature and going on to rule for what feels like 3,500 years.
Senator from Arizona
Should tell reporters he’s read “Starship Troopers,” by Robert A. Heinlein: An impressionable young man is drafted into an intergalactic military campaign and finds that war solves all problems.
Might also consider reading “The Forever War,” by Joe Haldeman: An impressionable young man is drafted into an intergalactic military campaign and finds that war doesn’t solve anything.
Congressman from Ohio
Should tell reporters he’s read “Dragon’s Egg,” by Robert L. Forward: In an unexplored corner of the galaxy, a neutron star, inhabited by tiny, tightly concentrated creatures that seem to exist in only two dimensions, develops and prospers.
Might also consider reading “The Running Man,” by Richard Bachman: A desperate participant in a brutal TV contest appears to be the only person who doesn’t realize there’s no way he can win it.
Former senator from Tennessee
Should tell reporters he’s read “Oryx and Crake,” by Margaret Atwood: After rousing from a lengthy slumber, a mysterious hermit emerges from his cave to pass on his religious and moral teachings to his circle of subhuman followers.
Might also consider reading “Non-Stop,” by Brian W. Aldiss: Having been away from their native soil for countless years, a starship passenger and his fellow travelers lose their ability to live among a civilized society and regress to a feral state.
Congressman from Texas
Should tell reporters he’s read “The Invisible Man,” by H. G. Wells: Thanks to his singular affliction, an oddly dressed, unstable man is able to make life difficult for his many rivals.
Might also consider reading “White Light,” by Rudy Rucker: A nonconformist stumbles on crucial truths about how the universe might really work; his colleagues dismiss his findings as the result of too much drinking and pot smoking.
Mayor of New York
Should tell reporters he’s read “The World Inside,” by Robert Silverberg: As it turns out, a grossly overpopulated city that corrals its citizens into massive skyscrapers, encourages random sexual encounters and has no justice system to speak of can still function pretty well.
Might also consider reading “The Sirens of Titan,” by Kurt Vonnegut: The richest man in America travels to the farthest reaches of outer space, where his wealth cannot shield him from the human race’s ultimate insignificance in the universe.
Former vice president of the United States
Should tell reporters he’s read “The Andromeda Strain,” by Michael Crichton: Working in quiet isolation, a team of scientists manages to avert catastrophe through the systematic application of reason.
Might also consider reading “Foundation,” by Isaac Asimov: A supergenius with a knack for predicting the future determines that things on Earth are about to get very bad very soon. In return for his service, he is arrested.
GEORGE W. BUSH
President of the United States
Should tell reporters he’s read “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card: A gifted child from a privileged family defeats a race of inhuman warriors without ever having to leave the comfort of his war-simulator machine.
Might also consider reading “A Scanner Darkly,” by Philip K. Dick: A troubled law enforcer invites a series of increasingly desperate, damaged characters into his home and lives to regret the decision.