Reading Is Fun

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When I was a kid I used to churn through books, but for a long time in my teenage years I just couldn’t be arsed. It was at college when I caught the reading bug again as I had two hours of bus travel each day between Dundee and Perth that I needed some entertainment for. I remember picking up interesting and weird sounding (and looking) books from the sci-fi section of Perth Library, and eventually discovering the joys of Iain [M.] Banks. Around this time I also started getting interested in Philosophy. Unfortunately I happened upon Ayn Rand‘s The Virtue of Selfishness and got myself hooked. I even tried to convert to Randian Objectivism. Hey, being rational sounded, well, rational. Oh how I cringe now. There are rational philosophical arguments, and there are philosophical arguments that rely on reason so much they miss certain essentials of the human condition, like emotions. Anyway… Although I did eventually broaden my views and reading matter, I feel my interest in books waned; both because I bit off more than I could chew, plus my discovery of online gaming. Reading fell on the back burner again.

In the last few months I’ve started reading properly again, mainly to alleviate some of the boredom of my everyday life. I remember times when I was a small child, staying up till 3am, unable to put down a text because I was so deeply engrossed in the story, or even when I was at college or living in England and I simply had to finish or re-read a certain philosophical essay because the concepts contained within had made something just click in my head (or when I enjoyed trying to spot flaws in an authors argument, and tutting with indignancy when I did). I’d like to be able to recapture at least some of that feeling. I started off by going through two of my favourites once more; Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas (which was signed by the man with “To Milk” a couple of years ago) and Look to Windward. Then I worked my way through Iain Banks’ A Song of Stone. I’d only read one non-sci-fi Banks novel previously, Whit, of which I can remember nowt apart from a very general plot outline. Coming out of two of Banks’ Culture novels, I was expecting A Song of Stone to have a similarly complex plot but instead I was amazed by the seamless movement between the beautifully contemplative parts of the story where the main character, Abel, delves deep into both his personal history and musings on the current situation, and the fulfilling descriptions of the happenings and action going on around him throughout the story. The story, in a nutshell, is about an aristocratic couple trying to flee their ancestral castle which is on the frontline of a disorganised and war-torn country, only to be stopped by ‘the Lieutenant’ and her loyal squad of men who commandeer the fortress abode for their own usage. Worth a read if you’re looking for a new bed-time story.

Currently I’m working through both Phillip Kerr’s sci-fi thriller Gridiron (which won the Bad Sex award in 1995) and the books which accompany the first person shooter game Halo. Gridiron is proving to be a bit dull after my tastes have been wetted by Banks writings, both in style and in more subtle things like technological terminology. Kerr likes to use fancy phrases to ‘amaze’ (or should that be patronise?) the reader like “It’s a recordable multi-session CD-ROM .. It’s connected via an (sic) SCSI interface to the computer, with a date and an archive number. Each disc contains up to 700 megabytes.”, where Banks simply gets on with it by giving a simple but descriptive name for a technology then letting the reader fill in the gaps like any good sci-fi writer should. I’m also on the second of three Halo based books by Eric Nylund (in PDF format), and I’ve managed to read them on the wrong order. Not that it really matters though, as most people who would be interested in reading the series will most likely have played through Halo previously which fits right into the middle of the second book. I’ll report more on these after I finish the third book.

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