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King's Dark Tower series: reader reluctance; reader betrayal

I'm currently four books into Stephen King's seven book Dark Tower series, completed this September. I'd read these first four previously, but had been holding off on the most recent three, each released six months after the other. My re-read of the first four is complete, and it's prompted a couple of thoughts about reading.

So I'm oddly reluctant to pick up the first new-to-me book, The Wolves of the Calla—not that I've had the time to read since I finished the fourth at the start of this week, but the desire isn't there, either.

The reluctance may be odd, but it's explicable: bluntly, I'm scared the ending will suck. This series has been in progress for longer than I've been alive, and I've been reading it for a considerable portion of my own life. I don't remember when I read the first two novels, but I distinctly remember picking up the third, The Waste Lands from a stack of new trade paperbacks and reading the inside excerpt—that moment of astonished joy is probably what well-and-truly hooked me on the series. (I'll rot13 the revelation, even though it probably no longer counts as a spoiler: wnxr jnf onpx!)

That was January 1992. I was 14. The next volume, and the last I've read, was published in 1997. I don't like it as well—I think it's too long and slightly unsatisfying—which I think is a fairly reasonable apprisal of its merits. However, I am also aware that I am no longer 14 and no longer uncritically gulp down books: the unconditional love I have for the first three books, especially The Waste Lands, is a lot harder to come by these days. Because of that distance between my experience of the first three and now, it's hard not to feel that these later ones are, or will be, a let-down.

Beyond my changes as a reader, though, it's just nerve-wracking to contemplate the conclusion of a series that's been in progress for so very long (since 1970). It's like contemplating the last scenes of whatever series you still care about, that you half- (or more) disbelieve will actually be finished: The Door Into Starlight, Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, Song of Fire and Ice, the Continuing Time Series . . . (I really didn't think I'd ever see the Dark Tower series finished. Looking at volume seven, sitting on my bookshelf with its gorgeous Michael Whelan cover (Whelan also illustrated the first volume), gives me a faint sense of unreality.) I've been trying to avoid reviews of these most recent books, for fear of spoilers, but the few bits of information that I've picked up here and there make me nervous. Though, to be fair, I'd been nervous about the direction ever since it became clear that King had decided that all of his books, more or less, were connected to the Dark Tower universe—rarely a good idea, I think.

Work has been a bear, anyway—I scratched this out on notepaper during downtime at a CLE this morning—so perhaps when I have time to read, I'll want to. (And I've saved a re-read of my favorite King, The Eyes of the Dragon (tangentially related to the series), in case the ending does suck.)

But how about you? If you had the long, long-awaited conclusion of a sequence before you, one you'd given up hoping for—would you jump right in, or would you hold back, a little fearful of what you might find? Have you already experienced this situation, and with what?


A secondary reason for my reluctance to start the new-to-me volumes is what King's done to the first volume: he's rewritten and republished The Gunslinger, retconning it—or more than retconning, which re-explains or re-interprets existing canon, and doesn't literally re-write it. (Or am I interpreting "retcon" too narrowly? It's like what Lucas is doing with the Star Wars DVDs.) I haven't read the new edition, but rysmiel has, and the resulting comments confirm that I don't want to read it. (There's also a comprehensive list of significant changes by a fan site, which I have only skimmed because it has references to book five.)

On one hand, I can understand that tales grow in the telling, and sometimes (as Teresa Nielsen Hayden has said) "do three and a half somersaults in midair and come down wearing a different costume." And I imagine that many artists feel very strongly about being able to control the way their work is presented.

Yet as a reader, the word that keeps coming to mind is "betrayal," melodramatic as it sounds. I think it has something do with nature of fiction: once published, a fictional world and fictional characters live in the minds of the readers as well as on the page and in the mind of the author. In a way, they no longer belong solely to the author—so the author rewrites their history at his or her peril. A straight retcon is at least transparent; rewriting a book, such that the original is no longer in print, seems less . . . honest? Less desirable, at least, to remove the reader's option.

I might not be able to fully articulate or justify this feeling of betrayal, but I feel it keenly all the same. As readers, writers, critics, what do you think? Am I overreacting, discounting the author's interest? Is this just not a question most readers have occasion to confront? If you were Stephen King, would you have done it?


rushthatspeaks

2004-11-19 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

I liked book five, though I thought it was the weakest of the series. I liked book six.

Book seven is sitting on my shelf, basking in the glory of being one of the few hardcovers I have actually dashed out to buy new, and I decided a week-and-a-half ago, after much vacillation, that I am not going to read it. I can't stand to have this series over. It's that simple. My best friend read me the last several pages over the phone, but the large portion in the middle will remain unread for now, simply so that I know that if I ever come to a time in my life when I absolutely need to read Dark Tower I haven't read, it will be sitting there.

Of course, I have no idea if this resolution will last out the year.

A note on book seven, by the way: it has, and King has been perfectly up-front about this, two endings-- the one he wrote, and the one the publisher wanted him to put on, which is separated from the rest of the book by a vitriolic little essay about why it shouldn't be there. Everyone I know who has stopped after the first ending has been delighted and happy and satisfied. Everyone I know who has read the second has furiously wished they hadn't. If you're the kind of person who reads things whether you decide to or not, I'd recommend cutting the second ending out and throwing it away before you can read it, because King never wanted it to see print and really would rather everyone ignore its existence.

As far as the revised edition of book one goes, I haven't been able to bring myself to read it, and have been buying up copies of the original in used bookstores to give to people I want to introduce to the series. Betrayed sounds exactly right to me.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)

I had not heard at *ALL* about the two endings--thank you so much for the warning. Chad's out walking the dog right now, but I think when he comes back, I will ask him to go upstairs, find the second ending, and paperclip it.

I don't know if I can bear to have him cut it out. On one hand, I might well read it if it's there. On the other, book mutilation! Is it really that bad?

(And how can _Stephen_ _King_, of all people, not resist publisher pressure to change a work? I just don't understand. Really do not.)

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 06:03 am (UTC) (Link)

(Chad's come home and said, "I love you, but I'm not cutting up books for you."

(This is really the only appropriate response, not that I think about it.)

orzelc

2004-11-20 08:01 am (UTC) (Link)

As the person who has been asked to find the offending section and mark it to be skipped, I need a little more information, because I'm just not seeing any vitriolic little essays near the end of Book Seven.

Can you give me a page number, or a section heading, or something?

rushthatspeaks

2004-11-20 09:00 am (UTC) (Link)

'Coda', beginning at page 817. If you read the first couple paragraphs of that, it's the essay-- it's not set off by different type or anything.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 09:43 am (UTC) (Link)

You're both very kind, thank you--I don't dare do it myself, because even *opening* the book is too much temptation.

There's no possibility that it's a weird meta-fictional thing on the lines of inserting himself as a character, or William Goldman's _The Princess Bride_? (Chad's suggestion.)

rushthatspeaks

2004-11-20 10:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Really not.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 10:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Alas.

How extremely weird.

orzelc

2004-11-20 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)

OK.

I really didn't get "vitriolic little essay" from that, even knowing that that's what it was supposed to be. I marked off the relevant section in Kate's book all the same.

desdenova

2004-11-20 11:16 am (UTC) (Link)

I know that if I ever come to a time in my life when I absolutely need to read Dark Tower I haven't read, it will be sitting there.

On the one hand, this is kind of weird, but on the other hand, I know exactly what you're talking about. I have an unread Roger Zelazny book which I have been hanging on to for years and years. I haven't read it because, once I do, there will be no new Zelazny for me to read, ever. So, it continues to sit there, waiting.

On a completely unrelated note, I really like your icon. What's it from?

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 11:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Well, there might be, but it would be scraped from the bottom of his desk drawer, which isn't at all the same.

desdenova

2004-11-20 11:55 am (UTC) (Link)

I dunno; by now, they'd have scraped it out already, don't you think?

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Weirder things have happened, but you're probably right.

rushthatspeaks

2004-11-24 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

The manga Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles by CLAMP. The character is a polite and faintly sarcastic wizard. I'm fond of his smile and his color scheme.

msagara

2004-11-19 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

I might not be able to fully articulate or justify this feeling of betrayal, but I feel it keenly all the same. As readers, writers, critics, what do you think? Am I overreacting, discounting the author's interest? Is this just not a question most readers have occasion to confront? If you were Stephen King, would you have done it?

This is an interesting question, and I haven't read the King Dark Tower series (I have an unfortunate allergy to Westerns, and it was called The Gunslinger. And yes, if it weren't for andpuff and the manager at the store, I would have missed Firefly, which would have served my narrow little reading tastes right).

My first published novel will be reprinted in September of next year. I'm almost terrified of it, to be honest -- I haven't reread the book in years, and I'm certain there are things I wouldn't do now, and there are things I would do entirely differently now. I don't hate the story -- but I was younger and knew less, and because I wrote it, what I see first and foremost are the errors, the things that show cracks in the craftsmanship of the whole.

But... having said that? There are people who still write me to say they loved that book. Whatever flaws I perceive in it, or will, they don't see. They see the heart of it, the thing that drove me to write it -- but not the flaws that I'll see. I've had people tell me they were upset by the end of the fourth novel because they knew there wouldn't be any more of them, and they almost didn't want to finish it because of that.

And mine didn't have those long gaps between volumes.

Digression, digression, and too much Me. If I were to have to write in that universe, if I were to somehow return to it, and I were given the chance to change things, I think I would almost have to, to keep going. Because it wouldn't be a finished thing, to me, anymore; it wouldn't have that certain sense of completion. I would have re-opened the world, and the story, and while doing that? I think the story would have different layers and different meanings or subtext than it once had. Granted, King always intended to write more. But a lot of years passed between the first and the last, and I'm sure that has to be part of it.

Retcon, to my understanding, can also involve wholesale shifts into an alternate reality (or it felt that way in comics, which is where I first heard the term used widely). But your use is more in keeping with how it's generally done.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm not sure I understand you--would you change the text of the first novel and republish it, or decide to revise the meaning of things in the new work?

msagara

2004-11-20 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm not sure I understand you--would you change the text of the first novel and republish it, or decide to revise the meaning of things in the new work?

If I had to re-open the whole story cycle, probably some of both; I don't know, because I don't actually ever intend to do it. I'm just musing on what would probably have to happen in order to make a continuous story vital enough to write.

But as I'm not going to reopen it, I don't need to do that. And, to be fair, I would try hard to leave the original alone (i.e. maybe try to do something with next generation people) precisely because if the story was finished and they'd reached a place of some peace, it would probably annoy people immensely -- who otherwise liked those books -- were I to take that away by revision.

Ummm, was that any better?

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 07:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Not better or worse, just clearer, thank you for explaining. The ability to get back into a world hadn't occured to me before, though even if that's what happened with King, I still think it was a sucky thing to do. =>

msagara

2004-11-20 07:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Not better or worse, just clearer, thank you for explaining. The ability to get back into a world hadn't occured to me before, though even if that's what happened with King, I still think it was a sucky thing to do. =>

There's also just the revision factor. If it's one long story, and you're an organic writer, things can become clear to you near the end that simply weren't intellectually what you intended at the beginning. If the work is unpublished (because this can frequently happen in novels), you can go back and change things in a way that support your anvil of realization.

But yes, I can see that it would be a bit disappointing to watch an author do this after the fact.

It's one of the things that strikes people who have written stand-alones but not tightly connected trilogies/xologies -- they can't go back and fix things, or change them, when that type of intuition finally hits. And since they're accustomed to being able to revise the first third of the story by the time they've finished the last third, this can be daunting.

feelings of betrayal at revisions

(Anonymous)

2004-12-07 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

I have felt this way, sort of, but I would have expressed it differently than betrayal. What I have felt, was that the energy and drive of the original were enervated by the revisions; it might be technically a better work, but the life was gone.

I remember coming to this conclusion about "The Light on the Sound" and the revised version. I loved that series (early Somtow Sucharitkul / SP Somtow works) but the revised version of the first two books was not nearly as vivid ad the originals, even though it was smoother and had fewer discontinuities from the later books (which were better).

msagara

2004-11-19 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oops. And to add: if I ever had thoughts of wholesale revision, if I ever had even the glimmering of a thought about it, this whole post would stop me dead in my tracks. Which is probably not a bad thing <g>.

montoya

2004-11-19 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Revision: If it's to fix stylistic flaws or whatever, fine. Some people might object, but only people that you could dismiss with a wave of the hand and an airy "Pshaw!" But if it's to put in plot points that you didn't think of back then, CHEATER CHEATER CHEATER.

Long-running series reaching a conclusion: The only thing that comes to mind is Brust's Khaavren novels; I still half-expect another one to come out some day...

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)

I think I'd actually prefer people didn't revise style flaws, but this is because of the way I read: I have a very intense visual memory for beloved text, down to "that line is on the top right of a page about halfway through," and when suddenly it *isn't*--well, I cut out a paragraph of this rant about something in book 4 that depended on the revised book 1 and confused me and jolted me out of the text. I hate being jolted out of the text.

But it doesn't make me splutter incoherently for several nights running at Chad during dog-walking conversations.

Funny, I don't expect there to be another Khaavren novel. I'd be pleased if there was, because I trust Brust, but I completely do not expect it.

I do wish I still cared about the Wheel of Time. I'll read the last pages in a bookstore, just for curiosity, but since I didn't read the last book and don't regret it . . .

thette

2004-11-20 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)

I'll probably buy the last book (if I know it to be, really, the last one, no additions, thank you) in such a way Jordan gets my money. The other ones are second hand, and I'll probably not read them until I have the ending.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 10:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Even if I had the ending I don't think I would; I had Chad thoroughly spoil the last one for me, and the only bit that sounded interesting, would probably have been painful to read. I really don't want to slog through all that excess prose.

papersky

2004-11-20 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)

The first two things I had that feeling about were Silver on the Tree and The Courts of Chaos... most recently I had it with the new Kirsteins.

There's this weird thing with pacing, with a series, because as a reader there are these huge gaps between volumes in which you re-read. And, for me, into that re-reading comes thinking about what happens next, and sometimes that becomes thinking what ought to be the shape of what happens next -- and that's bad, because if the author has thought of something else, then it will at least initially disappoint me. (This is, incidentally, why I don't go to fragments of novel readings at conventions. If I've heard chapter one, my brain will fill in the shape around it, and then when I get the real book, it won't fit that.)

The worst case of this ever was Sylvia Engdahl's Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains. In this case, it wasn't Engdahl's fault that I had a twenty-five year gap between reading the first book and the sequels -- the first one was published in Britain and the others weren't, I couldn't even ILL them. But because Heritage of the Star/This Star Shall Abide was Puffin, it had an author bio with names of other books, and the name of Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains was there, and, even better, (worse) I knew what that meant, because it's a line from something in the book. I re-read the first book a million times between the ages of eight and thirty-five, and my Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains was about the wonderful culmination and success of the project... no book could have lived up to that, and the real BtTM was a very strange experience.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Gosh. What do you think of _Silver on the Tree_ after that?

Yes, I've been trying not to read sample chapters online (readings are usually short enough that they don't pose the same problem). I broke this resolution for _Paladin of Souls_ and the chapters stopped at a place that gave me an entirely wrong idea of the shape of the story, which was distracting. But my willpower is not good.

There are a lot of books that I've decided not to read until the series they're part of is complete, partly because I want to see if they *will* be complete, but partly because I've really come around to thinking that all-at-once is the optimal way to experience a series. Not that I'm short of reading options in the meantime, so it's no great hardship.

montoya

2004-11-20 06:48 am (UTC) (Link)

This is a fine strategy, the only downside of which is that once a series is completed, it can look awfully intimidating sitting there on your bookshelf in (say) four thousand-page bricks. I've yet to read anything of Hobb's beyond the Assassin books because/despite having them sitting there waiting for me.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Yeah, I know. Sometimes I get in the mood to dive into something and not come out for a while, though, so I'm hoping that will balance it out. Also, a lot of times I don't actually buy all of them, just the first or none at all, until it's finished, so there's less bookshelf intimidation.

papersky

2004-11-20 08:46 am (UTC) (Link)

If you don't buy them, they might not sell well enough for the author to ever finish them.

SotT, well, both of those books would almost have been better left unread, though it's only the very end of SotT that I don't like, the forgetting, there's some very fine stuff on the way to it.

I'm trying not to re-read the Martin until A Feast For Crows is out.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)

The first volumes I have lying around unread are mostly from people who sounded interesting at cons. This is my half-conscious compromise.

papersky

2004-11-20 05:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh yeah, the revision thing?

I have feelings both ways, both that I own other people's books as a reader and my own as a writer. I think it just shows how important it is to get it right first time.

Chapter 32 of The King's Peace remains in italics in my plan file, meaning that I never actually got it right, but sometimes you have to let it go anyway. It's beyond getting right. I still don't know how to fix it, but if I did, I don't know that it would be fair to do so. Hmm. If I could fix it for the German edition, I would. But I don't know how I'd feel about fixing it for a putative new English version. I think -- I think there's been enough time, and I've changed enough and moved on enough that I'm not sure I'm the person who wrote it, and I'm not sure my messing with it would not in fact be a betrayal of that person and of it, rather than a shoring up. So it'll just have to stay as it is. OTOH, I made a few minor consistency tweaks to the mmpb to make nomenclature fit with Prize... but I was still writing that then.

I just discovered that in fact I believe that up to the paperback, it's fixable, the paperback is the immutable copy, because that's the one normal readers buy. Go figure.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)

I just discovered that in fact I believe that up to the paperback, it's fixable, the paperback is the immutable copy, because that's the one normal readers buy.

I think a lot of people think it's fixable up to the mmpb--I always look for the little line on the copyright page, "This book contains the complete text of the hardcover. Not one word has been omitted," and it's more often than not absent. Though even still I would expect consistency tweaking and typo fixing, not major things.

papersky

2004-11-20 08:49 am (UTC) (Link)

I've never changed anything major. But then I was lucky with timing -- I finished writing The King's Name before The King's Peace got set in lead. It would have been very annoying otherwise -- not on anything major, but things like giving Masarn's wife a name because she needed one later and things like that.

desdenova

2004-11-20 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Dark Tower, I am kind of in the same position; have not read books 5-7. I'm not quite faced with the same problem you have, because I haven't had TIME to read them. When they come out in TPB versions which match the other ones, I will make an effort, though. I have been hooked on this series since the first sentence ("The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."), which IIRC I also read sometime around age 14, and there's no way I cannot find out how it ends. FWIW, people with good taste have given books 5&6 good reviews.

Re: revision old works & reader betrayal, I on the one hand know what you're talking about, because I have felt that way. Actually George Lucas & Star Wars is a perfect comparison. On the one hand, I can understand a creator being dissatisfied with an early work, and wanting to "fix" it, but OTOH, works take on an existence independent of their creator, in the minds of the readers/viewers/etc, and it's not fair of an author/director/etc to just up and say that the original work isn't valid any more. Best, I think, would be for old version and new version to be available. Like, fine, revise The Gunslinger if you must, but don't try to make it as if the original never existed.

Re: possibility of suckage, it is always disappointing when a series goes from good to bad, but I try to avoid letting bad sequels retroactively ruin their predecessors for me. Sometimes this requires one to be proactive, and to trust the opinions of friends--I will never watch the third Matrix movie, for example.






kate_nepveu

2004-11-20 11:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Right, and apparently you can't get copies of the original Star Wars movies on DVD either.

Have you figured out a way to avoid retroactive ruination besides not watching/reading? If so, I'd love to know how.

desdenova

2004-11-20 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, it's a matter of degree. Like, accepting the fact that the later parts of a series suck, but still appreciating the earlier, good parts as their own thing. It's adjusting the mental boundary between jumping the shark and retroactive ruination. Like, if the first two seasons of a TV show are good, and the third is not, I tell myself to be happy with the first two seasons and pretend the third doesn't exist.

It's kind of like the difference between thinking a book is actively bad, and acknowledging that I don't like it just because it's not the book I wanted it to be, but further down the suck scale.

Some things go so bad that it's impossible to do that, in which case avoidance is the only possible course of action.


khavrinen

2004-11-21 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)

whatever series you still care about, that you half- (or more) disbelieve will actually be finished: The Door Into Starlight, Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, Song of Fire and Ice, the Continuing Time Series . . .

Gee, you'd never guess which of these is at the top of my wish-list -- unless you read my user-name. I keep checking "Out of Ambit" for a tick mark next to The Door Into Starlight on her "What I've Worked on Today" list, but I haven't seen one in over a year. *sigh* I keep telling myself that it is because she is less than compulsive about updating the list, rather than that it has been languishing in a drawer un-looked-at all this time. And, interestingly enough, I was (almost) fourteen when I started on this series; perhaps there is something about that age that causes us to grab on tightly to things we will love for a lifetime.


Though, to be fair, I'd been nervous about the direction ever since it became clear that King had decided that all of his books, more or less, were connected to the Dark Tower universe -- rarely a good idea, I think.

I'm in agreement with you on this point. Despite the fact that To Sail Beyond the Sunset is one of my favorite Heinleins, it had felt to me for several books that he was really straining to get all of them to tie-together with his "Future History," when sometimes it might have been better to let them stand alone. In fact, given that The Number of the Beast was about there being " 6^6^6 " universes (or "ficti-verses"), one would think that there was more than enough room for each to have its own. Although for the most part it's fun to recognize characters from other beloved books, there were times when I thought, "Jeez, Bob, give it a rest."


If you had the long, long-awaited conclusion of a sequence before you, one you'd given up hoping for -- would you jump right in, or would you hold back, a little fearful of what you might find? Have you already experienced this situation, and with what?

For me the trouble wasn't that the "ending" sucked, it was with what came after. I'm definitely of the "jump right in" sort, and one series for which I waited a somewhat-long time was David Brin's "Uplift" series. Although I felt the newer trilogy wasn't quite as good as the original three books were, I was pretty happy with the ending, as an ending. Unfortunately, I then picked up Robert Silverberg's anthology Far Horizons, in which Brin's short story "Temptation" (set just after/concurrent with the ending of the series), came along to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I'm still a little peeved by that one. After a thousand-plus pages of "our under-dog heroes, despite enormous odds, continue to struggle along on the side of truth and justice," tacking on fifty-pages of "here's why your petty little struggle is pointless" just felt like a slap in the face.


Continued

khavrinen

2004-11-21 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)

I hadn't really "given up hoping" for the Uplift series, though; I had more or less considered it done with the first three. The one I had been most afraid would never be completed (and technically hasn't been, yet) was Rosemary Kirstein's "Steerswoman" series, to which papersky alluded. It may have been less time between The Outskirter's Secret and The Lost Steersmanthan it has been since the last actually new volume in the "Doors" series, but at least Diane Duane continued/continues to write other stuff; as far as I could tell for most of that time, Rosemary Kirstein had ceased to write altogether. The Lost Steersman I at first didn't like as well as the first two, most likely because of what papersky said about Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains. I had been re-reading the first two in the intervening years and it didn't go any of the directions I had predicted. The next one, however, ( The Language of Power ) was a complete joy, mitigated only by the fact that she said in an interview that there are intended to be seven volumes in the completed series, plus a prequel -- which means I have to go back to waiting. On the plus side, that means that there will be more to love, yet, unlike what seems to be the case with so many authors these days, there is supposed to be an actual ending. Robert Jordan isn't one of the authors I read, but from things that I have heard from numerous sources, I suspect that closure is not really something one can reasonably expect from his books, for example.

From reading some of your replies to other comments, I suspect that one of the differences between those in the "jump in" camp versus those in the "hold back because it might suck" one may be in the way we remember books. With respect to not liking even stylist revisions, you said you have a very intense visualmemory for text, whereas I've often bemoaned the fact that with my terrible memory I can rarely quote anything accurately without having to look it up. If a book, once read, will be more or less engraved upon your memory, I can understand your reluctance to commit to something that may dash your high hopes. One of the few benefits of a poor memory like mine, however, is that unless an unsatisfying book is spectacularly bad (or ticks me off like "Temptation" did), I can merely consign it to the compost heap of my mind and not be bothered by it any more. The other benefit is that, if I leave a beloved series alone for ten years, it is almost like reading it again for the first time -- which may be another reason I haven't held back from reading a "last" book, because I know if it is good I can read it again and again.


Continued more

khavrinen

2004-11-21 10:20 am (UTC) (Link)

*A side note on "revisions": although I'm otherwise not much of an art aficianado, for some reason the fact that new printings of books usually have new cover art bothers me a lot more than minor revisions of the text. (I think, in addition to my poor memory, I would be a poor proof-reader, because my mind tends to see the letters that are supposed to be there rather than the ones that actually are, unless I really concentrate on weeding out typos.) After growing up with the classic Darrel K. Sweet covers of Alan Dean Foster's Flinx and Pip series, for example, I was irked to find the other day that they have been re-issued with dark, quasi-cyberpunk, teen-angst covers -- it just feels wrong that way, even given the fact that Flinx is something of a teen-angst character. (I do realize that this is something over which authors seldom have any control.) When the Tor edition of The Door Into Fire came out in 1984, Diane Duane specifically said in the Author's Note that she had made some revisions, "all directed toward having the series (which is truly a four volume novel) be consistent in itself from the beginning." I first read it in the 1979 original Dell publication from the library (and was astoundingly lucky enough to pick up that copy years later at the library's used book sale -- but then my Mom is the librarian), but though I have re-read it several times since then I have never spotted the changes. I think, for me, that the actual text is often like the glass in a TV; although I can choose to look "at" it, for the most part I'm looking "through" to the story, and I pay little attention to the medium unless there is a particularly well-turned phrase.



Sorry, hadnt' realized I got so carried away on this topic until I tried to post it.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-21 01:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

The odd thing about _The Door Into Starlight_ is that when I finished _Sunset_, I thought that was it. It seemed an altogether fine place to leave them. For that reason, I'm even more dubious about it.

(I wish I could remember what ending papersky and I came up with, fall 1997, that the author wasn't it.)

I also didn't realize she'd re-written the first one, but I believe mine is a first.

I've not read the later Uplift books; I didn't get around to them before the set of three was finished, and when I heard we still didn't really get answers, I pushed them way down the list. Personal events have since overtaken this, and now I won't read them at all, which distresses me not in the least.

On a more general level--

I suspect that one of the differences between those in the "jump in" camp versus those in the "hold back because it might suck" one may be in the way we remember books. With respect to not liking even stylist revisions, you said you have a very intense visual memory for text, whereas I've often bemoaned the fact that with my terrible memory I can rarely quote anything accurately without having to look it up. If a book, once read, will be more or less engraved upon your memory, I can understand your reluctance to commit to something that may dash your high hopes.

I think it's partly the text-based thing, and partly a certain . . . suspectibility, I think. Things like an "alternate" ending to the movie _Ronin_, on its DVD, which is actually other events intercut in--I wish I'd never seen it, because I'm convinced it *really* *happened*, just off-screen, and it's part of the movie for me forevermore. Similarly, papersky had a dream a while ago about something that happened after all Sayers' published Wimsey/Vane novels, and now I'm convinced that *really* *happened*, just not in any book Sayers got around to writing. I do very badly at separating out that kind of added story information from the original.

(Also, the text-memory thing comes from at least a couple re-readings; it's not automatic.)

veejane

2004-11-21 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Another on the pig-pile of "read 1-4 but not more (yet)". I received #5 as a gift, and still haven't gotten around to it; but then, I hated #4, and since adulthood have found the first three increasingly flimsy and excessive. I think I just became immune to the Grandiose King Magic (tm).

As for revision -- not retconning; retconning literally means inserting new information to re-interpret old information in a way not originally intended --, in the original edition of The Hobbit, Gollum lets Bilbo go. It's only when the ring gained significance in Tolkien's mind that he went back and revised that chapter to make Gollum nastier and obstructionist. (I thinkk Bilbo's lying about the ring is also in the later editions, but not in the first.) Notably, the only edition you can find outside of rare book shops is the revised edition.

So, although I'm not always a fan of retro-tinkering, sometimes it can work and even be necessary to future endeavor. Sometimes, however (take note George Lucas), it's just egomania at work.

kate_nepveu

2004-11-21 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hmmm. Interesting point--I think I knew that but had forgotten.

I'm inclined to say, "Well, if you're Tolkien you can do that," but his constant rethinking means that _The Silmarillion_ wasn't finished in his lifetime, which I think is too bad. All the same, I think it a rare happening that the revision will net something like _The Lord of the Rings_.

If you like, when I finish the Dark Tower books, I can spoil them for you so you can decide if you want to read them or not.

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