Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Okay so I must admit, I was hesitant to read another Clarke novel after I read 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then I learned that Clarke wrote that in conjunction with Stanley Kubrick as they were making the film version. A proto-multimedia event, so to speak. I guess that was all the rage in the '60s. Anyways, that made me feel a little better about attempting another of Clarke's book and I decided to go with a rather short one as well.
So Childhood's End is basically the story of the Earth and its development from the time that an alien race arrives and basically takes control of the planet to the point where the aliens leave because their mission was complete. Topics include alien invasion, colonial psychology, space exploration, human evolution, and last human psychology.
Through reading this novel I have come to regard Clarke as a master short story teller. He clearly had hundreds of ideas for short stories because he uses about 7 or 8 in this 200 page book. This trait was apparent in 2001 also but not to the same extent. Here there is no central storyline, just several separate stories that do not necessarily influence each other in any way. Only the overarching background of the "colonized Earth" ties all of the stories together. Clarke also seems to be a master at anti-climacticness. Every time it felt like the plot was reaching a huge, life-altering turning point, building excitement and tension...it suddenly just petered out and nothing actually happened or the change wasn't important or something else. Seriously, how does Clarke do that so consistently? It takes talent...I guess.