As I finished reading Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, I was wondering whether the Volante people who forked their money to get me the Borders book vouchers would be annoyed with the fact many of the books I ended up getting were books that I've already read.
The thought must have come about because Speaker is a book I was reading for the first time, yet it's considered a classic, and it's also quite a good book; so why waste time and money on familiar pastures when there's so much more around?
Well, I did like Speaker; it's a highly irregular science fiction novel in that it is mostly about people and what is going on in the depths of their souls rather than about killing evil aliens - the way science fiction is normally portrayed. I have my reservations about it: the speaker claims to say the "truth" about the dead while I believe that truth is in the eye of the beholder. You can get the jest of my complaints by that example; just petty stuff. Nothing that should stop me from exploring new books.
If there's anyone to blame for making me look back, book wise, it's Mr Roger Zelazny. I consider his Amber books (I'm talking about the first five; the latter five I simply don't consider) to be the best "book" I've ever read. I read them three times: First in 6th grade or so, then during 11th grade or so, and the last time was the [northern hemisphere] summer of 2001.
Thing is, each time I read the books they felt different. The first time around it was an adventure story with sword fighting and magic; the second time around it was a more mature story about a character evolving; but the third time it was a highly philosophical discussion which I thoroughly enjoyed and which gave it the title I gave it. Point is, each time I read it I saw different things in it and actually got to enjoy it more, as opposed to the more expected feeling of "been there done that".
When I was in 4th grade and I borrowed my very first science fiction book, War of the Worlds, from the school library, the librarian - Tirtsa - told me this book is not for me. She said science fiction is for adults and that I won't understand it. Being the rebel that I am I still borrowed it, and I didn't know what the fuck she was talking about - it was a great adventure story.
But in retrospect she was right - I was not able to fully understand it, just as I was not able to see the great philosophical debates taking place in Amber the first time I read those. Question is, does it really matter? I'm sure that if I was a wiser man than I am now, I would have been able to derive even greater satisfaction from the books I'm reading. But does this mean I should just give up reading because I cannot fully fathom the books that I read?
Well, I say: Fuck Tirtsa! (Given her age and the fact this was 25 years ago, she's probably dead by now)
Reading War of the Worlds has opened a great new world for me; I never looked back. No one should be deprived of that! But still, it's nice to go back to old favorites and see how much I have changed through the years, because what you get out of books shows more about you than it does on the books themselves.
Bring on Asimov's Meaarot HaPlada - Caves of Steel!
I've already read the first two pages of Caves of Steel, and I noticed how much there is to notice in there that I probably didn't notice before. Things like a cop complaining that a robot has replaced a human co-worker (brings back industrial relations thoughts), or things like a robot keeping on nagging a person with reminders because he wasn't told what to do after he issues the reminders.