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Monday, August 04, 2008

I Never Learned to Read!!!

Think I might have a problem with reading. I don't where it came from, but I'm having trouble finishing anything. Not because I don't have the time, but because I make a conscious decision to stop reading it. Even the ones I finish are difficult.

Here's the evidence. When I finished the Rifters Trilogy (Peter Watts), I realized how much story I really didn't get. It was too high level for me, too full of science, too full of technobabble and moving too fast for me. I completed it with basic comprehension, but when I look back, I didn't enjoy reading it. I could have if there was less science and more story. I don't mind research, but I subscribe to Stephen King's philosophy on this. Back story is called that for a reason, it should be pushed to the back. It should not interfere with the story.

At home, I tried reading The Historian, which is supposed to be the Da Vinci Code with vampires, in a nutshell. It's my mother-in-law's favorite book, she couldn't stop talking about it. I get my hands on it, and it's not nearly as exciting as she made it out to be. The whole book is about someone doing research. Actually it's a story about a guy doing research within a story about a guy doing research within ANOTHER story about a guy doing research. It's not a murder mystery, secret society, action-chase like the Da Vinci code is. Plus it was just ridiculous. One of the main characters is trying to be intimidated by the vampire clan to stop doing research, so they kill his cat in his apartment. Well, if they could break into the apartment to kill the cat, why didn't they kill the human? I stopped reading this because it was ridiculous, boring, and I really didn't want to read it.

I felt the same way about "Out of Egypt" - Anne Rice's Jesus novel, also recommended by my mother-in-law. I thought it was going to be like "Jesus: Behind the Music", but it turned out to be just another bunch of research. Plus what should have been the beginning was the end. Jesus is a 10 year old who everyone kind of disregards, or regards warily, because they all know he's the son of god, except himself. He doesn't find out he's special until the end. That should have been the beginning, when Jesus finds out he has powers, and what he's going to do about it, how's he going to control it? But at least that one I finished, mostly because I skimmed it. I read only dialogue and spent most of a lazy afternoon reading the majority of it.

Next at home book was Kim Harrison's The Outlaw Demon Wails. This was a free book, given to my mom at a Roller Derby match. It looked like it would be cool, and it read like Janet Evanovich meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was even a hardcover. The problem was it was the fifth book in the series. And to make things worse, it seemed like all the main character was doing was revisiting relationships with everyone in the previous books, like a reunion episode. Problem was the author never explained what had happened in the past, or what the new stuff I should know in this universe was. It started out promising, a demon attacks the witch-girl detective who has a male pixie for a partner. But then you have to know what happened before to understand any of it. It would be like watching Heroes in the middle of episode 13. You don't know what's going on, you don't know the why and how, so why should you care.

Then comes Accelerando. I thought it was going to be an awesome cyberpunk adventure, like Snow Crash or Neuromancer. It was Hugo-nominated after all. But turns out it was just like Peter Watts. In a way, worse, since it was a reprint of short stories that were originally printed in Asimov's, not an actual novel. That may have turned out to be its saving grace, I didn't need to retain most of what was said in the previous story to get it. But, like Peter Watts's trilogy, it was full of techspeak, science, future/cultural speculation, singularities, and stuff that Ph.D's appreciate. Too much information, not enough story. I got 7/9ths through it when I finally decided I'm not having fun anymore reading it. I was reading it quickly just to say I read it, which is something you should never do. But 7/9ths of the way through and I couldn't finish it?

Lastly comes The House at Pooh Corner. Yes, I did finish this one, but I have to say, I had a hard time getting through it. I don't know whether it's because I'm older and my sense of wonder and ability to accept that which is not correct is gone, or what. But there were lots of times I was reading it and I thought, "This is incomprehensible. If I was an editor, I wouldn't publish this." But that's why I'm not an editor.

So since I finished the Harry Potter books in February, I think I've started and stopped more books than I've completed, which is bad. In writing, you must always finish, both reading and writing. I'm in the middle of reading Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines right now, and this is a book I wanted to read. I read the first chapter as a sample and I liked it. But I find I'm having trouble concentrating on the longer work. I lose track of which character is who. If I hadn't read the first chapter, I might not know who the main character is. I find myself drifting off like I have ADD, and then I find I'm at a significant part of the chapter, having not known what the hell happened before it. I don't know which character is the dwarf, which one's the prince, and which one's the wizard.

If the characters aren't distinct, that makes it hard, but I know it's not the author, it's me. I just can't concentrated on reading these days, I can't focus enough. It's not that there's too much going on, but I'm more interested in everything else in my life. And it probably doesn't help that the only time I have to read is at night, in bed, when my wife is watching TV. But this isn't looking good for someone who wants to be an author. I hope I don't have ADD. The last thing I need right now is another hindrance in my life, something that takes up more of my time. Maybe it's just temporary, or maybe I need to focus on reading more.
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