Monday, July 12, 2010

That One Book

So, I've been thinking.
I know, I know.  Typically something bizarre, reckless, or likely both follows that four word phrase, but this time it's not nearly so deleterious. 
I've been thinking about books.  Specifically, science fiction books that you've read that might have changed not just your view of the literary genre but your view of the world if not the universe.  That last point might sound a bit grandiose, but it does happen for people.  There are three books that immediately come to my mind:

1) Perry Rhodan.  Yes, I know it's a series of books, but I cannot ignore the joy this German, pulp sci-fi gem brought me.  I discovered the second book in the series at age 12 in my middle school library.  At the time, I had no idea that anyone had taken the "high adventure" approach that Star Wars did and rendered into a literary form.  I was young, I didn't know.

2) Dune by Frank Herbert.  I first attempted to read this novel in high school and the process was fraught with frustration.  Herbert didn't just create his own world with its own culture and subcultures, he created a language to go along with it.  This left my 16 year old self continuously thumbing to the glossary to find out what the hell he meant by a gom jabbar. (sp?)  That caused numerous breaks in the action for me and ultimately I put it down.  Later, my older and wiser self came to appreciate the skill and the inspired creative genius it took to create Dune.  And as someone who studies language, I actually find the glossary kind of fun now.

3) Neuromancer by William Gibson.  This seems a pat entry to anyone's list of this kind, but the book truly did revolutionize science fiction.  It was the first SF novel I ever read that did not speak of a future of gleaming rocket ships and Roddenberry-like optimism for mankind.  No, Neuromancer was a future "on the edge of terminal dissolution," a technological society that was just this close to coming apart.  And it all seemed so completely possible.  I often feel like we're living in the world of Gibson's "Sprawl" today, just without all the advanced technology.  Not only all of that, but his prose style is second to none.  Even if you don't much care for science fiction, you should at least admire Gibson's wordsmithing abilities.  I have my own anal retentive schedule of books I want to read in the months ahead, but part of me really wants to move Gibson's Pattern Recognition to the top of the queue and read it as soon as I'm done with Above Top Secret.

Whenever that is.

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