Endeavors in reading

As the name of my blog suggests, not all my reading goes that smoothly. Some stuff I read with the speed of light, other works remain lingering for many months, some even a few years. These are books that I am interested in to read, but do not really belong to my favourites. When I set up the blog I only looked at the books I was actually reading now, but I did not check my bookshelves for books that still had bookmarks in them. Books with those that I have put back are ones that I did not manage to continue in for some time that have them lying around did not help.

First one up on the continue-to-read list is Skylark of Valeron by E. E. “Doc” Smith (1934). This is a sort of classic of science fiction, third book in the four part Skylark series. The first two were still quite doable, but this one is tough, even if they are all fairly short books.  E. E. Smith was the pioneer of modern science fiction. The first one to introduce travel between the stars where speeds and distance are not limited anymore, even while he does not even use computers. The series were originally published per chapter as was common in those times. Each thus aim to make an impact, using a lot of baffling events. However, reading them all in one go is quite tiresome. Technically, this is pulp SF. It has been edited a bit to make the chapters fit better, but the writing quality is low. This is also one of his earliest works, which is notable, as I have read his Lensman series as well, which is much better written.

The second book is On Blue’s Waters by Gene Wolfe (1999), first book of the Short Sun series. This is a sequel to the Long Sun series, which I had quite enjoyed. On Blue’s Waters is science fiction, but the technological level is so low and mysterious it could almost be fantasy. I am past halfway in the book. The reason I got stuck is that the book is written in the first person. Usually that is not a problem, but in this case the main character makes a lot of comments on his own actions and in general he is not likeable to me. Another problem is that in his comments he often refers to events that will take place later on and is thus basically spoiling. In a different view this could be seen as creating tension for the expectation for how these things are going to happen, but such things are killers for me. I like to be surprised.  That’s why I also dislike descriptive titles of chapters which basically give away what will happen. Gene Wolfe aims at writing literature science fiction, but in this case he makes it very hard on me. I do want to continue and read what will happen, but for now it is on a pause.

The last book I am somewhat stuck in is Eline Vere by Louis Couperus (1889). He is considered to be one of the great Dutch writers, famous for his psychological novels. The way he writes is incredibly stylish, a sort of High Dutch, but can get somewhat tiresome. The book is about the upper class in Dutch society in the late 19th century. It’s about people with rather empty lives who do not dare to take action but just muddle about. I am at about a quarter (the book is over 400 pages), but I really needed to take a pause. It can take some time before I will continue.

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