Okay, so this year I’m going to keep a record of my reading — for schoolwork, leisure, research; whatever. Since devoting myself to becoming a professional writer in early 2010, I’ve read a crap-load of incredible books. Books I wouldn’t have ever bothered with had I not received a much-needed nudge from King’s Just After Sunset and On Writing to begin to take myself seriously as a creative individual who wants to one day write for a living.
But I don’t really remember all of them, at least not well enough to spout off an inclusive list — so from now on, I’d like to know what I’ve read, what I’d like to read, and what my feelings about a given book were. Whenever I make a list of books I plan on reading, that never happens. I find new things, hear about new things, and move on; so I’m going to read what I want as I go along, with the single goal of reading a lot.
Also, I’ve gotten into a bad habit — thanks to something Neil Gaiman once said — of stopping halfway through books that aren’t holding my attention. The downside to this is, I finish fewer books; the upside is that I read more often, and don’t waste time on books that don’t tickle my fancy.
Since January’s almost over, it’s as good a time as any to talk a little bit about the books I’ve gotten through so far this year.
First, I started reading Hellhole by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert around the first of the month. By page 290, Chapter 38, I’ve lost interest in the plot. There are toomany characters that aren’t fleshed-out enough for me to give a damn. And the way the aliens are described, and their names — come on, guys. Get serious. I was a huge fan of the novel Dune: The Battle of Corrin, which I read in high school not long after discovering the elder Herbert’s original Dune masterpiece, and so I was expecting a lot more from this new trilogy. Anderson, for instance, is a tremendous writer. His work with Star Wars, D.C. Comics, etc., has set him apart as a veritable powerhouse in genre writing. But Hellhole feels rushed, flat, and unfeeling.
Then I picked up William Gibson’s Distrust That Particular Flavor, a collection of nonfiction essays about culture, technology, futurism, art, and interesting observations about the mundane. I read it in roughly two sittings, over the course of a day and a half, and…I’ll let my review at Digital Science Fiction save me the trouble of repeating myself.
I chased that shot of genius with a pair of guilty pleasures: Drew Karpyshyn’s Revan and James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis. The former was an enjoyable return to the Old Republic as fans of the original-Xbox Knights of the Old Republic games understand it, but it ends with a rather dark, somewhat vague denouement meant as an obvious setup for the recently-released Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG. Darth Plagueis, on the other hand, is a welcome dose of exemplary writing — the kind of thing you don’t expect from Star Wars, but you sometimes get when the cover has a name like Luceno, Matthew Stover, or Terry Brooks on it. I won’t spoil much, but one thing that piqued my interest about the novel is that the hardcover edition jacket has Darth Maul on the back of it, lightsaber activated and face twisted with fury. Also: Darth Sidious as we’ve never seen him in the films. Plagueis himself, well, by the end he’s underutilized, his apprentice having become the novel’s true protagonist and dominant viewpoint character, it seems; but he is one of the most intriguing characters in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and the prequel films would have benefited from his role in the machinations of the Sith.
As of now, I’m about thirty or forty pages into George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first volume in his acclaimed epic fantasy series. I don’t usually read fantasy, but I’ve caught myself saying multiple times over the past year or so that I’d like to get into the genre as a way to stretch my writerly muscles and find another literary love. So far, I’m finding that Martin was exactly the gateway drug I needed. The characters are well drawn, believable; and the worldbuilding is phenomenal. Like many other geeks, I’m completely enthralled at present by Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – and so now seemed like as good a time as any to test the fantasy waters. I’m glad I did.
In school, I’m presently reading or rereading: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (utterly incomprehensible to the modern reader, and largely devoid of effective comedy, but intriguing nonetheless if I take the time to read slowly and with care); Remaking the Modern by Farha Ghannam, an ethnography of present-day Cairo; and Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry authored by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I’m trying to keep an open mind, and read these with earnest, but it’s difficult. With schoolwork, there’s always a great science fiction book I could be reading instead — and I’m ready to get the hell out of school in general.