So, I have this problem.
I love reading, I really love reading. I’ve got huge stacks of books left to read and I’ve read huge stacks of book. The one problem is that bigger than either of these stack, is the stacks of books I’ve started but not finished.
I’m terrible at it.
I’ve started two books in the last week. One of them I only got two pages in before deciding I wanted to read something else first. (It’s the second in a series, I decided I wanted a break before continuing).
So instead I read something else. A book I bought on a whim last year because I thought the central idea sounded amazing.
Now here’s the problem.
I am enjoying this book thoroughly. But I’m pretty sure it’s not turning out to be the book I originally intended on reading.
It couldn’t be…that book doesn’t exist.
But let me explain further.
The book I just finished reading is the first book in the Riverworld Saga ‘To Your Scattered Bodies Go’. I enjoyed it, despite it lapsing into sexist and old fashioned views quite regularly, it’s definitely a little dated now, though part of that is because the main character is a Victorian Explorer.
Now, the basic premise of this series is incredible. Everybody in the history of Earth has been resurrected. Absolutely everybody. By some mysterious force. On a strange and vaguely Paradisical world. With no idea what’s going on.
Just think about that for a while….think of all the possible stories you can have in a world where everybody in history, from the cruellest dictator to the humblest peasant. From the most modern to the prehistoric. Every person ever.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in that setting.
The book picks a good path and makes for an entertaining yarn. But as the book continues, the options and possibility narrow. A narrative path is chosen and the adventures you imagined become, well…part of what you imagined but no longer part of the world that you’re reading.
I enjoyed the book, but I enjoyed my imagination more.
I guess this ain’t that bad, but it is frustrating.
Now, the book I’ve just started reading is called ‘Dying Inside‘ by Robert Silverberg. So far it’s actually been great, and quite unexpected it it’s route. But I still can’t help but think that the central idea is so fascinating, that I’m missing out on a million other stories that I want to read.
The central premise is that an aging telepath, as he grows old, is losing his power to read minds.
Really simple, but give space to have the whole raft of fears and worries about growing old and fading in a totally new way. It’s even got that Epilogue to The Tempest thing going on for it.
The emotional depth of the book, even just a few chapters in is incredible. It’s winding mid life crisis, with being a bit of a moody bastard, with the touching beauty (and horror) of being able to experience another person’s mind, with losing that, and hating it even more than you hated the power itself.
It’s powerful reading.
But it’s not the story my mind was imagining.
But then, that’s actually the joy of books really isn’t it. Seeing how someone elses mind works. It really is a joy; surprises come from that.
Now, us writers (ha) we know what that’s like from the inside, we’ve been surprised by ourselves, but its still not the same.
You can get so angry at an author when the characters don’t do what makes sense to you. But you remember, the characters aren’t you. The author isn’t you. You’re finding out things that don’t come from you.
Seeing into another persons mind.
Books are great.
I’ve kind of rushed this because I have to go to work, but still, what do you think?