The other day, I was contemplating what I might want to read after I finish the books on my immediate list (I’m reading Wool, now, along with The Mongoliad), and thought I might plow through Frank Herbert’s Dune once more. I was thinking, six books is quite a few (the number of books in Herbert’s original series), and I was unlikely to want to read them all. Then I realized: I only really liked the first three.
Seriously, even Children of Dune (book 3) gets a bit tedious. And then things get flippin’ weird in the later books. Like, tripping acid while doing mushrooms weird. So I thought maybe I’d just read the first three. Then I reconsidered again. I already know what happens in books two and three. So, why re-read them? I liked the first the best, and so I decided I’d probably just re-read that one.
So I pulled it out (figuratively, of course, since it’s on my Nook), and took a look. And then I realized: I don’t really want to re-read it. It’s a classic, and every SF fan ought to go through it at least once. Hell, they should read the first three books in that series at least once (and then stop). I first read Dune when I was 15, and it changed how I thought about SF. And yet I’ve read quite a bit since then, and the quality of Dune … well, it tarnishes.
Then I started thinking about other series, and why and how I go about re-reading them. Some have overarching plots that, over the course of a normal release schedule, sometimes get fuzzy around the edges. So I re-read them to refresh my memory. I did that recently with Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series (though I only read a few of them). But those are short books, easily re-read in a few sittings and breezily paced. I’ve done that with the Mercedes Thompson books, and The Hallows, and others. Heavier books (both in length and themes) tend to not get that treatment. Sometimes I’ll go on to Wikipedia and see if I can find a plot synopsis instead.
Lately I find myself not re-reading series of books at all. I used to. I’ve read the Honor Harrington books a few times through, for instance. And I might well do that again. Partly this is because I have too many books to read as is to be wasting time reading something I’ve already read. Sometimes, though, I’ve just wanted something predictably good. And I have a few sure-things to scratch that itch.
Reading sensibilities change over time, of course. But re-reading books is something I always thought I’d be doing. Hell, I had John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War pulled up the other day, just for a quick, fun, brilliant read. I haven’t touched it since (I picked up Wool instead). Shit, now that I’m thinking about it, I want to read OMW again. But when my eyes fall onto the page, will I want to finish it? We’ll see.
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