Readings In the Latter Half of the Year

Sam W

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I’ve got a couple of books that have piqued my interest recently, and other things I’m revisiting as well.

The Book of the New Sun

I’ve ordered this from thriftbooks and am eagerly awaiting it. I’ve heard about it plenty before, but didn’t really know enough about it to have it interest me very much. All I knew was Man with Sword in Far Future Desert. I knew Man with Dagger in Far Future Desert from Dune, what more was there?

I think what grabbed me on this book was the publisher synopsis, which used the world phantasmagorical. I’m a sucker for surreal writing, and that hooked me. I also watched an interview with Gene Wolfe on Youtube, and he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. (The interview was okay, it was mostly defence of science fiction and fantasy from common criticisms… not something new to me nor do I need to hear.)

I’ve heard about the vocabulary, the prose, the Christ–like story, which is all well and good, but I hope to be grabbed by the science fantasy–type magic in the books. Not that I want to see cool technology, but I want to see people’s relationship with technology far in the future. I also want to see their relationship in order to have a more removed view from that relationship. My view of relationships with technology in real life is so tied to my percpetion of the people I see using it. Can I sit back and really analyze when I don’t have preconceptions of the people?

More of the Black Company

I read the first book over a couple of months last year. It was a hard narrative to parse; I had to restart it after a few weeks because I didn’t know what the hell what going on. I enjoyed it, but the difficulty of the narrative made it harder to appreciate.

I think a reread is in order for it. But I want to go into the reread to really appreciate the narrative it’s trying to convey. It’s got a stream of consciousness narrative; what does this convey differently? What about the political machinations are important?

‘Vietnam War Fiction on Peyote’ makes the book hit different. The Vietnam War was a harrowing experience for those involved, by any first–person account. What about this is conveyed in The Black Company?

Other Unfinished Books/Branching Out

I’ve been lagging on a few others: Perdido Street Station, Between Two Fires, and A Game of Thrones. These might be solid DNF’s for me… definitely the latter two. They have not much beyond plot; no complexity other than the turmoil of action that is presented.

I had an epiphany today about how I can branch out in reading. I’ve been steadfastly reading science fiction and fantasy for about 15 to 20 years. I’ve tried other stuff, and enjoyed some of it, but nothing that has really drawn attention away from my favored genres.

I realized that when I read other genres and books, I expect an easily–parseable and conventional plot. Rising action, climax, and wrap up loose ends. Most other works are more nuanced than this, though. Really, they do not work to advance plot: the plot is a way to structure the ideas being presented.

It also seems that you can get many different things across literature. Some people come for the action, some come for the drama, some are there for the feel of poetic prose. I’ve heard before that any writer should read widely, and even if I don’t plan on writing any time soon, I would love to read and appreciate these deep and great works of literature that have stuck around decades and centuries.

Being stuck in a genre is a Skinner box: you can press the button for the same dopamine hit, but after a while it fades. This leads to escalation until frustration. A way forward is to vary your media diet: instead of seeking out the media you know you like, supplement it with good books outside of your usual diet.