To Read Or Not To Read, That Is The Question

I read a lot. Or let’s put it this way: averaged out over the years, I have read a lot. It kicked in pretty hard when I was in third grade. That year I read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. The next year I read the complete “Lord Of The Rings”. And I’ve never looked back since. By the time I was in junior high and all through high school, I was devouring books. Sometimes one every couple of days.

Things slowed down a bit in college. At least in terms of pleasure reading. But of course I had to do so much reading just for my classes that it more than made up for it. Unfortunately when I entered into the mythical realm of “real life” in January of 1996 and had to get a job, things slipped to nearly a crawl. Every six months or year or so, I would get the urge and for a month, maybe two, I would read many books. But in between those frenzied periods. I wouldn’t read anything.

That isn’t to say literally “nothing”. Just no books. I remember all the efforts that educators placed on reading before I went off to college. They would often say things like “Read everyday. Read anything. Even if it’s a newspaper.” In those years since 1996. I’ve done more than my share of reading everyday–mostly in the form of the internet. Often news, much of it computer-related, but always something. Read everyday.

And I would still have my “fits”. Those periods when something would spark and I’d voraciously consume another round of pressed sheets of bound cellulous. One sticks in my mind. October 2000. I was staying in a hotel in New Hampshire attending my friends’ wedding, and visiting my family in Boston.

Late one night I was flipping through the channels and I wound up on a broadcast of “Interview With A Vampire”. I stayed up late watching the whole movie, even though I’d seen in many times before. And that was all it took. When I got back to Los Angeles, I promptly went and re-read all the Lestat novels and tracked down all the ones that had come out since my last reading. I think I even got in a few bonus H.P. Lovecraft books before my literary zeal wore itself out.

Things changed for me in September 2002. That was when Cameron and I set up the deal we have with Fox Studios. Suddenly I found myself driving an hour across town from Burbank to Century City every morning and another hour on the evening return. I quickly found myself wishing for something to fill up the time. I don’t mind driving. In fact I quite enjoy it. I just felt that I could be doing something even more constructive with the 10 (sometimes 14) hours I spent in the car every week.

In my dream world we would have voice activated computers installed in every car that would be tied into our own personal “data-space”. All my files–documents, pictures, MP3s, movies, everything–would be in this “space”. It would be accessible from any computer anywhere. I would be able to work with those files even from my car. But my dream world doesn’t exist and I digress from my story about reading.

In September 2002 with 10 hours to fill every single week, I signed up for an account at and started to enjoy the world of books on tape. Or in the case of Audible, books on MP3.

There has always been a part of me that feels that listening to a book is somehow cheating. You’re taking the easy way out. It’s like Cliff Notes or something. You’re not reallly putting the effort into the event and aren’t getting the true enjoyment out of a good book if you aren’t reading it. Well I quickly got past my internal objections by telling myself that I’ve read so many physically real books over the years, that I’ve earned the right to listen to 10 hours worth of literature every week. I’m glad I did.

Since that time I’ve “read” (translated: listened to) a lot books. It’s great. When I’m really into one I can’t want to get back into the car so that I can continue the story. Over at my page at Amazon, I’ve created a few lists to keep track of the books I’ve read. Most of the recent ones I’ve actually held in my hands since I’ve had the time, what with not working much recently. But many of the early ones I “read” via my iPod in the car. In fact right now, I’m listening to “The Callahan Chronicals” by Spider Robinson during my commute and actually reading a collection of the first four Lankhmar books by Fritz Leiber when I’m at home.

And today I discovered this place when it was announced on MacSlash that they now offer AAC files for download. Telltale Weekly: The Spoken Alexandria Project is an effort to put audiobook versions of 50 public domain texts online a year. They’re very inexpensive now, and will be offered for free after 5 years under a Creative Commons license. It looks like a great site.

Damn Damn Damn

I just finished reading “Crossroads of Twilight” by Robert Jordan, the tenth book in his Wheel of Time series. Damn! This series is really good, and there aren’t anymore books to read yet. I’m having a hard time figuring out how large it will be by the time he’s finally done. At this point it would seem that it could easily reach 20 books. Massive.

Well there is one more book, “New Spring”, which came out in hardcover in January. That one is a prequel novel though. I still want to read it, but it takes place 20 years or so before “The Eye Of The World”. There was a lot of frustration from readers over Jordan’s release of this latest book, and I can understand. He’s left nearly every major character in a cliff hanger at the end of “Crossroads” and then he goes and releases a novel that doesn’t continue the story.

I’ll just have to be patient, but it’s difficult. It will very likely be a year before Robert Jordan releases another book. And it could be much longer.

A Crown Of Swords

I finished up book 7 of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, “A Crown of Swords”, and started on book 8.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: this series is amazing. If you are a fan of fantasy your should read these books.

My only disappointment is that from what I’ve read of reviews from other people, the series isn’t done yet. There are 10 books in the Wheel of Time. I’m clipping along at a nice pace and I figure that I should have them all done by about the beginning of June. I’ll have read them all one right after another. It will be disappointing to then have to wait I don’t know how many years for the next book to come out.

The Pattern Weaves

I just finished reading “The Dragon Reborn”, the third book of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I have to say that these books are amazing! I’ve read the first three one right after another and I think I’m going to go out tomorrow and buy a few more. (The first two books are “The Eye of the World” and “The Great Hunt”.)

The story is truly epic. Of course it is the classic tale of good versus evil. The young farmer who has no idea of his true past is suddenly thrown into an adventure far beyond anything he could imagine. It’s like the tale of Luke Skywalker from the original “Star Wars”, or Bilbo Baggins from “The Hobbit” or any number of other legends and myths far older than today’s pop culture. The scope of this tale is larger than anything else I’ve read or watched before. The first three books weigh in at a hefty 2200 pages together. There are at least seven more books in the series and I can’t see anything that makes me believe that they aren’t a continuation of this same story.

This is definitely not a series for the faint of heart. This isn’t slick little quest that will be wrapped up nicely in 400 pages. The scope of the mythology that Robert Jordan has created is quite vast. The detail that he writes into his stories and the characters makes you feel like you are actually living the adventure with them. This a refreshing change from the paper-thin characters that I often have to see every day in the Hollywood films I tend to work on.

Robert Jordan has done a superb job of starting with the basic blueprints of a fantasy story and creating a world entirely his own. This is a world of men of many nations with a continuous political struggle between them. The wizards of the standard fantasy fair, are replaced by the Aes Sedai (Eyes Seh-DIE). Woman who channel the One Power bending the forces of Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Spirit to their will. Men cannot wield this power without eventually going mad. And when the Aes Sedai find out about a man who can, he is “gentled”–cut off from the One Power permanently.

Men live in this world with a mysterious giant people called the Ogier. They are the lovers of nature. The caretakers of the forests and in ancient times, the builders of fantastic cities of stone. Ogier live hundreds of years longer than men, and are a gentle folk. Rarely some among them are “treesingers”. By singing to trees they can shape wood into anything they can imagine.

I said it was a story of good versus evil. The men of the world fight against the forces of the Dark One. Trollocs are large half-man, half-beast monstrosities who feast on the flesh of their victims. Myrddraal are eyeless fiends who command the Trollocs. Grey Men are people who have given their soul over to the Dark One and act as his assassins.

This is a “must read” for fans of epic fantasy–readers longing for thick and juicy character development that they can really sink their teeth into. I can’t wait to pick up the next book.