Saturday, 25 March 2006


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.


uri said...

I’ll ignore your disparaging comments regarding our beloved librarian (wasn’t she named Tirza?), and share a Caves of Steel anecdote.

The first time I read it (1982?), when I got to R. Sammy, I was sure the R was short for Rabbi, and it was only at the end of the first chapter that it was actually explained.

I like to re-read books (I just read Niven’s A Gift from Earth, A World of Ptaavs and my personal favorite – Protector), but for some reason I’ve only read Speaker for the Dead once. I’ve enjoyed it, and still think of it as a very good book, but I just don’t feel like going back (and I’ve read Ender’s game four or five times – six if you consider Ender’s Shadow).

Moshe Reuveni said...

Rabbi? No wonder you're going religious on me.
Anyway, is Ender's Shadow any good? Take your time, it would take me a few years to read Xenocide and its sequel.

Avi said...

I don't understand how you can stop on Speaker of the dead and not go on and read Xenocide and Children of the Mind, I couldn't wait to finish the other 2, also Ender's shadow and its sequels are very good.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Because by the time I'll finish reading them I'll lose all the hair.