There is a “problem” with being both retired and dull. Sometimes, I can have too much time and too little to do. After too long streaming and gaming, I’m happy to find myself back where I belong: Reading!
Generally, I have “go-to” places among the media for my moods. When I’m morose, it’s Blazing Saddles. For simple fun and eye-popping pictures, it’s Jack Kirby’s 4th world comics or anything by Walt Simonson. And for getting back to hardcore reading, it’s always Jack Vance.
The fact that I have gushed before over Mr. Vance and am doing so again should not come as a surprise. I could spend an entire month of this blog filled with my love of his stories. Then I could break each book down into such minute detail as to paralyze the brains of anyone reading.
But I won’t. The point of today’s post is to explain how, whenever I need to “get back into” reading, Jack Vance is where I always start. His least tale is a treasure and his greatest are marvels of any age.
It’s possible I have not read everything he has published, but it would be a near thing, at least.
At first, I considered simply picking up one of his stand-alone books, since my intent was to reboot my reading habit. Then I decided, why short shrift myself and went with a trilogy. His most familiar form of continued tale is the trilogy, with the notable exceptions being the Demon Princes (5 books) and the Tschai series (4 books).
I had the choices of magical nature (Lyonesse, Dying Earth) and classic sci-fi (Durdane), but I went for that unique blend of adventure and mystery wrapped up in his Cadwal Chronicles trilogy.
Jack Vance is free of the intricate structure required for magical continuity in the Cadwal Chronicles. Mr. Vance always builds his magic so it flows from a logical process. He was also freed of the technical “accuracy” of space science.
Instead, his incomparable gift for prose and character development could be paired with his unmatched level of detail and imagination on alien flora and fauna. Jack Vance builds not just alien races, but whole worlds; whole cosmos even.
Though I’ve reread these tales many times before, I still (literally) laugh out loud at some of the dialogue in the book. It is deft and clever and charming all at once and, like my other “go-to” locations, transports me into a better place – emotionally and imaginatively.
Of course, the first book is 554 pages and that’s pointed out one of my glaring weaknesses: I’m out of shape.
Only avid readers who have taken a break from reading may share this ache. I, who could once read the entire Lord of the Rings non-stop (okay, I did sleep somewhere in there), can barely get 100 pages without my eyes starting to tire. And that’s with my glasses on.
I find that my (preservative-free) eye drops help a bit. Also, a break of 10-15 minutes gives me back my reading chops. Hopefully, like working out, I’ll be able to rebuild my reading “muscles” to handle longer uninterrupted stints.
No more binge-watching and scratching my head over what to do. I’m back where I belong: reading!