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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reading Status

After I got done with the long-winded Star Dragon, I took a brief break, then looked back at my books folder. As I always do, I selected a random number and got The Janus Syndrome.

I stopped reading it twelve pages through (and I struggled to even get to twelve pages before giving up), because it sucked. It kept throwing terms at you and expected you to grok everything right away. Someone got too serious with their world-building, so here I am, reading a foreign language, and no one's translating for me. There's a difference between thinking and guessing. I'm reading, not solving a puzzle.

The next one I got was Rashomon, which was fine. Then I got Behemoth by Peter Watts, and wasn't looking forward to it, because Starfish (which I read) was filled with drudgerous science and not a lot of story. I did a quick check and found that it's the third in a trilogy, and since I hadn't read the first yet, I dropped it. I have a thing about reading things out of sequence, which is probably why I will never be able to get to the Discworld novels .

Then I hit Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath, and realized that I'm already in love with it. I figured that out by the unexpected twist three pages in (no spoilers for you!). I was in like with it when the first page was a drink recipe. Can't go wrong with that.

And that got me to thinking, why is it some books I just can't pay attention to, and some I get enraptured with. Is it them, or is it me? Granted I hadn't heard of The Janus Syndrome (which was written in 1981, and looks like Shaft in Space, according to the cover), and wasn't worried about missing it. But Peter Watts is "kind of a big deal" in sci-fi these days.

So if I'm trying to be a writer, should I be forcing myself to read these books, so I can "learn" from both the good and bad? As I writer, should I be invincible to all bad writing? Should I soldier through it, or am I missing out on something? My justification is that life is too short for bad books. It's not like I'm not opening these, and I can learn what they're doing wrong from a handful of pages in. Why should I torture myself?

Am I not giving them enough of a try? I know one bit of fatherly advice (not from mine) came that his kids had to read through 50 pages before deciding to stop reading a book. But I'm an adult. I can make my own decisions. When writers read, do they read to learn, do they analyze the pages they read, like a director thinks about how he would have done the shot differently. To keep up with the current industry. Or do they just read to keep their word-smithing sharp? Other than that, it's just fun?
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