Saturday, November 17, 2012

How Fair is Fair in Reading?

I've been trying hard lately to really catch up on all of my classics - science-fiction classics specifically.

I think I'm pretty well-versed as far as traditional classics go. About three-fourths of my personal library consists of nothing but titles from Shakespeare, Dickens, Steinbeck, Hemingway, among others... but a lot of the cult stuff, I've missed over the years. I think it largely has to do with the fact that while I was in school a lot of the titles we read were the traditional classics (I do have a few eccentric contemporary works that are likely to become classics in a couple of decades, but I don't think they are considered so yet.) - whilst in school, I wanted to be fluent in the classics in an attempt to impress colleagues and professors; note to all you eager English majors out here, just because you've read a lot of books doesn't immediately make you cool (and it certainly doesn't help if you are constantly chattering about comic books, haha)

Apart from the mandatory Brave New World by Huxley and 1984 by Orwell, I've already blazed through I, Robot by Asimov, 2001:A Space Odyssey by Clarke, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Dick, and the entire Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Adams.... all of which I enjoyed immensely. But now I'm trying to get through Neuromancer by Gibson -

and it just isn't working out of me... so I would like to pose the question to my readers : How many pages is it fair to give a title, say that you tried, and that you just couldn't finish it?

My general rule of thumb is 50 pages. If I am not mildly entertained by 50 pages, then I feel like the rest of the book is just going to be a struggle and not really worth my time BUT I do make exceptions for classics simply because sometimes it takes me longer to grow accustomed to the time period of the book and the time period that the author is writing in.

Gibson writes in fragments --- little chunks of sentences rather than complete sentences which detail a picture but in a very abstract way. He doesn't tell you so much what it is but what it feels like. He is definitely an artist; I can tell that. This style however is really confusing to follow and if you aren't going to read it religiously (don't you dare take a break reading), then it becomes increasingly hard to follow. The terminology is dated though; this is a novel written in the 1980s and had the 1980s fantasies regarding computer and cyberspace. Thirty years later, when I know the future of computers and cyberspace, I have difficulties grasping the 'groundbreaking' concepts that he has. Another issue I had was that he jumps into this futuristic world without explaining much of anything that goes on in it or the jargon that the people are using. I don't mind a brave new world approach like this but after a while and you still have no idea what's happening around you, you start to feel uncomfortable and like you shouldn't be there. I hate novels that give me this sort of feeling; it makes me feel like an idiot. I can safely say that no one likes feeling like an idiot. I will give Gibson credit for writing one of the first cyberpunk novels. This book is 'genre-creating' and the founding father of the cyberpunk genre. But it's just not for me.

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