TIME FOR BOOKS, (Lots of it!)

One great thing about traveling is all the spare time. Yeah right; well I mean spare time compared to “normal” life. We met an American couple one night while on the backwater houseboat cruise that was also traveling. They landed in Mumbai, flew directly to Aleppey to take a one night cruise, and then their whirlwind started. They were next going to Calcutta for a friends wedding, then through Thailand, before finishing in Cambodia (Angkor What) and flying home from there. I asked if they had two months or three to do that in. Hah! They laughed, and told us… NINETEEN DAYS. That’s from home to home. I started calculating in my head, but they gave me the answer of nine days of travel, with barely 10 days of wedding, tours and relaxing. Relaxing indeed! Certainly not by my definition…

On to books then. The rest of this post should be considered completely whimsical and irrelevant, (dare I say maybe even boring?). We have all been reading lots while traveling. While Claudette and I are pretty selective and/or frugal about buying souvenirs and “stuph” we’re freewheeling in a bookstore. When no used stores were around, we’d even spend full retail prices on stocking up on material to read. Mostly though, there have been a good variety of used bookstores. If there’s no used bookstore in a place, then there is likely no new English bookstore as well. The exception to that is two times (once in Peru, once in SE Asia) where I thought I’d found a nice English bookstore, but it turned out to be a religious materials (typically Catholic) store instead.

Luke has gone through the latter six books of the Harry Potter series over the last five months. The only thing slowing him down is waiting to find the next number of book that he needs. Once we buy it, it’s usually devoured in a couple to several days, depending upon what other “tourist” things we have planned. Alex has gone through a pretty wide assortment as well. In Thailand I bought some sci-fi books and insisted that the kids read some before going on to their own choices. Specifically I grabbed “I Robot”, “2001” and the first “Lucky Star” novel from Asimov. Alex kinda enjoyed I Robot, but I changed my mind about making Luke read it just yet. I want them both to have a desperate fascination and deep appreciation for the genre, and that can only happen by them “discovering” it at their own pace. Alex did also read 2001, and Luke enjoyed the Lucky Star story, but what boy wouldn’t?

In Kovalam I’d picked up 3001 in paperback. I had really enjoyed the first two, (2001 & 2010) when I was younger. 2061 was pretty good too, but I’d always neglected to get 3001. I thought to myself that there was simply no way he could tie them together and make this last one worthwhile. Really though, I think I was just making excuses for not being able to afford the hardcover. Anyways, am I EVER glad I picked it up. the story was masterfully pieced together and with strong scientific fact that Asimov is so famous for. It was such a phenomenal read that I enjoyed tremendously. Most sci-fi authors create alternate realities that you escape too. Asimov immerses the reader in what raelly seems to be the future telling of mankind’s history. He makes everything so seamlessly real and integrated, that we can easily see that this is truly what will be happening to our society. Fahrenheit 451 affected me the same way, for they are seemingly more social commentaries utilizing some sci-fi concepts as a vehicle for that commentary. Gattaca, the movie, (I haven’t had the opportunity to find the book at all yet) also came across that way.

The other cool thing about 3001 was that Asimov took a few pages to describe how the stories all came together. 2001 originated as a relatively obscure short story until Kubrik contacted him to collaborate on something amazing together. I was always under the impression that 2001 had stood on it’s own as a popular novel long before the movie. The copy of I Robot that we originally got in Phi Phi Don, Thailand Alex went through only to discover that the last dozen or so pages were missing. I took it back the next day and demanded (with difficulty too!) a refund. This store was way high priced to begin with, and didn’t give us any sort of deal on buying about eight books altogether, so I was still burned a little from that. After giving me the money back, the girl started taping up the book at the back where the pages were lost from. She then proceeded to put it back on the shelf when I was outside (we were in a rush to catch our ferry in ten minutes). I immediately went back in and started to berate her (in front of many other customers) for trying to sell a book with missing pages at the back. I slyly noticed that ALL the other customers started checking the backs of the books in their arms, and one girl put one book of the three she was carrying back on the shelf. I insisted to the store clerk (in the friendliest possible way of course) that the incomplete book belonged in the garbage, where she eventually gently placed it. I’m pretty sure though that she took it out as soon as I was gone from sight.

I also had grabbed a couple of short story compilations from Bradbury, and have knocked off a few of those here and there when I only had a short time to focus. When we were in Costa Rica, the Alaskan guy we met gave me Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” which I still haven’t brought myself to open. I’m not sure why… probably because he was so close to Farmer (Phillip Hose’ Farmer) in the bookstores when I was a kid, and I somehow resented that??? Who knows. The only four-time Hugo Award winner can’t be the least bit bad of an author though, and it’ll be the next one I pick up to read. I’ve also been carrying around a copy of “Cather in the Rye” for quite awhile unread. NO! This does not make me a closet presidential assassin! I finally read it on the houseboat one afternoon. It was rather anti-climactic considering infamous associations of this book. Actually, the entire story was disappointing to the end that he didn’t commit suicide when it was the most likely (in fact almost the ONLY possible) conclusion the story could have produced. Perhaps it was most notable in literary circles for the rapid fire, conversational narrative method used by this ever so “depressing” character. Those who have read it, will get the inside on that comment. Now, I just need to find “The Great Gatsby” and get it crossed off my “To Read” list.

We eventually found another bookstore in Northern Thailand with another copy of I Robot. This one was even better though because it was the 50th anniversary edition and it included all sorts of extra dialog of an interview with Asimov. His thoughts and reflections were as wonderful to read as the original and inspiring story itself. Claudette was incredulous that this book would appear one day in the “To Be Mailed Home” pile we were sorting. I tried to explain, but I don’t think I was successful. All she understood in the end was that “Yes, sending this ratty old stoopid book home is, in fact, important to me rather than buying a new one from Amazon after we get home” (As if she would really support me doing so then, never mind the difficulty in finding the same edition). Wives just don’t understand sometimes I guess… (Except for you probably Lacie!) I sure wish Asimov could have been around for the utopic world unified government that he envisioned and wrote about in so many stories for the last half century! Anyways Tim, both 3001 and that I Robot copy are on their way to you (in the next couple of days when I find a post office) for safe keeping (and reading of course) until we return home. AGH! That’s in only five months!!!

One Response to “TIME FOR BOOKS, (Lots of it!)”

  1. planetnanaimo says:

    If you enjoy Asimov and Bradbury, try “Anthem” by Ayn Rand (assuming you’re not familiar with it already). The inside cover reads, “The existed only to serve the state. They were conceived in controlled Palaces of Mating. They died in the Home of the Useless. From cradle to grave, the crowd was one – a great WE. In all that was left of humanity there was only one man who dared to think, seek and love. He, Equality 7-2521, came close to losing his life because his knowledge was regarded as treacherous blasphemy…he had rediscovered the lost and holy word — I.”

    While I’m not a sci-fi reader at all (I prefer police procedurals and mysteries), Brent does read it a bit (his preference is Fantasy). That said, we both LOVED this book.

    Of course, there’s also the old standbys: Animal Farm and 1984. We re-read these recently. I’d forgotten how excellent and disturbing they are.

    Have fun! Love, cousin Michelle