It's a good mind-stretcher because it breaks the usual pattern and forces us to think anew. [Some people are great mind-stretchers but that's a subject for another day.] I was reminded of mind-stretchers while reading The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, the novelist whose Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became the classic film Blade Runner.
The Man in the High Castle explores a dark world in which Germany and Japan, after winning the Second World War, have carved up various nations, including the United States. Dick raises interesting questions, such as what would have happened if FDR had died before Harry Truman was vice president and a less capable replacement stepped into the White House. He does a good job of illustrating how so many major developments can be near-run things and how one person in a key position at a particular time can make an enormous difference.
What are other mind-stretchers? I'd recommend:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Doomsday by Connie Willis
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman