Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Reading My Way Through 2011

Time for an update on reading matter I think... In the last book-related entry I hinted at having started a long series of fantasy books.

This was Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. This is the original American book cover which I've used here as the UK covers are unbelievably boring with a single graphic illustration - the same except for colour on all the books - and only a vertical sliver of the illustration on the rear cover which are mostly meaningless without seeing the whole thing.

Jordan set out to write a long series and did so, but unfortunately died before finishing the series. However Brandon Sanderson stepped in to write the final novel from Jordan's notes and found so much material he turned the final book into a trilogy, the final instalment of which (book 14 of 12...) is still to be published.

This is a gripping if slightly confusing story - the number of characters grows throughout the series and as it is a fantasy book they do have rather unusual sounding names that you have to keep track of and remember for the next time they appear. They are huge books too. Perhaps because he did like his descriptive text did our Robert... Sometimes I got so bored I'd skip read a couple of pages only then finding myself confused because I'd missed a bit that was actually relevant to the story.

There's a lot of repetition too. The number of times female characters sniff disdainfully must make this the snottiest collection of books in history... But in the end you can't take away from the fact that this is a brilliant story. Since May I've read my way through 10 of the books. That's 18 inches (46cm) of shelf space! So far it's been a re-reading effort for me - I read the first 11 books in 2007-8. Fran bought me book 12 for Christmas last year and I realised I would have to go through the others before even hoping to remember what each of the scores of characters was up to! Book 13 comes out in paperback early next year. For the final one I fear I might have to go through them all over again!

I couldn't read through this huge, huge (told you there was a lot of repetition) series without some relief at times and I came across my old Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend.

How can any grown man can read this and not squirm with embarrassed memories...? Adrian Mole is wonderful. It's like going through awkward adolescence all over again reading these books. I love the part where one of his schoolmates says a girl will do "it" for a bag of grapes and in Adrian's next diary entry he has been to the greengrocers to look at the price of grapes!

Every man carries some memory that would make him squirm if it came out but all of Adrian's are here in print for us to chortle over!

I needed a few short books to refresh myself for the hurdle back into the Wheel of Time and this was a re-read of a book that my Dad used to have. The Stainless Steel Rat is a comedy science fiction caper wherein criminal poacher turns gamekeeper, boy meets girl, girl does her best to kill boy, boy falls in love. As you do... Anyway, very short, very enjoyable and it spawned a few sequels. There were others of Harry Harrison's books that I'd like to read again too - the Deathworld series being notables, especially the first two.

So what the heck... I've had a taste of it and now I'm into Sci-Fi again! Robert Heinlein was always one of my favourites and this time I hadn't read this one before. A bunch of students get sent on a survival test through a portal to a distant planet and somehow miss being picked up after their allotted ten days. Reading science fiction 60 years on makes you think how hard it is to predict the future. If we had to predict what life will be like 60 years from now chances are we would get it totally wrong because in particular we miss thinking of one thing that will alter things drastically.

In most science fiction the thing they didn't think of that actually happened is miniturisation. Asimov had his giant computers stored in hyperspace, or they took up several blocks of a city. We now carry the sort of capability they envisaged in our pocket and the fact it can be used as a telephone is almost incidental. You could read Frederick Pohl's The Age of The Pussyfoot. Written in 1965 it nearly gets mobile phones and their additional functionality right!

I've been reading this series for over two years. Heart of Oak - book 28!!! - would have finished it, but no, he's published a new one this year. Not out in paperback yet though.

A visit to the second hand book stalls found me this one. Again my Dad and Grandad introduced me to Tarzan as a boy and I loved them. This again is an American cover, but it is actually the copy that I finished a couple of days ago. Someone must have bought it on holiday and brought it back here. Altogether: "Aaaaaa-i-aaaaa-i-aaaahhhhh!"

That's all for now - I knew I'd done a fair bit of travelling this year - hotel bedrooms are a good place to read. I've got through 33 books so far this year and there's some new series lined up, all of which are promising many sequels to come. Duh - which do I start with?

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