Friday, May 9, 2014

Books, Disappointing and Not

Recently I picked up a book series that I remembered fondly from my early days as a science fiction and fantasy fan. I remember a friend in 7th grade lending me this series book by book as she finished it and I devoured them, reading on the bus and during lunch and after my homework was done. I hadn't seen them in years, so I was excited to find them available on kindle format and purchased the entire series at once.

The reason I'm not naming book or author names is that I was sadly disappointed. Rereading the first book now, as an adult, the material is poorly written. Most of the characters are flat; they don't come together as full people and they make stupid choices just to make life easier on the main character, who doesn't have to work very hard for a happy ending. To put it bluntly, the book was very dull. I kept reading, hoping that I would get through the dull parts to the good parts I vaguely remembered, but the story didn't improve. I won't be reading the 2nd or 3rd books and will probably return them. Which, by the way, you can do with Kindle purchases within seven days of purchase, in case you didn't know.

I recognize that in many ways the difference in the reading experience is a difference in me. I am, thankfully, a more sophisticated and complex thinker than I was in seventh grade. I know more about people and about life and I'm also much more aware of how much I don't know. I'm more tolerant of paradox, of ideas held in tension, of complicated and contingent answers. I think these changes in myself are for the better, since they've made me kinder, more compassionate and more flexible. It is sad, though, to have an old fond memory replaced by this new contempt.

It makes me appreciate the books that endure all the more. For example, I've recently picked up the Galactic Milieu series by Julian May (9 books in all, spanning three separate sub-series) once again. This series is something I've read many times over the years, starting in college, each time enjoying it more as I picked up on more details and reflected further on what the author is saying about people and about life. The writer weaves together religion, space travel, aliens, psychic powers, and time travel with an astute but compassionate view of people. This series, at least, I suspect I'll continue to enjoy for a long time.