The Death of a Good Book (Series)

Robin Hobb Books

Right now I’m between books.* In fact, I’m purposefully taking a break before I start reading something else. I recently finished reading Robin Hobb‘s entire Assassin/Liveship/Tawny Man/Rain Wild series. There’s probably a more proper name for the whole thing, but it boils down to this: three trilogies followed by a tetralogy, all taking place in the same world with some characters overlapping from series to series.

I’d read the three trilogies before, and once the final book in the recent tetralogy came out last year, I decided it was time to jump back in. These are some of my favorite fantasy books ever, so I had no qualms about re-reading them all, and despite a busy schedule, I managed to whip through all nine in a matter of a few months.

When I finished that ninth book, I started drafting a blog post that somewhere along the line got lost. I dug it up today, and it brought back the same feelings I had when I wrote it:

The end of a good book–I mean a really good book–is like a death in a way. It’s only been a few minutes since I turned the last pages (or clicked the button–I read it on my Nook), but I’m still walking around corners expecting to see the characters. I find myself looking forward to the next few moments I’ll spend with them, even though those moments are done. I know I can go back and reread the book, but that’s not the same. In this case, I actually have the next four books in the series waiting on my bedroom floor to be read. I got them for Christmas. That’s great, but I don’t actually know if any of the characters come back in this next series. Don’t tell me! It is much more fun to discover it for myself.

Clearly, I gave no one a chance to spoil that for me, as this snippet promptly disappeared into the bowels of my Evernote account. When I stumbled across this today, reading it reminded me of why I haven’t started reading anything else yet, despite finishing that series weeks ago: I fall too deeply, too easily.

When I really get into a book,** I have a tendency to disdain the real world for the one between the pages. The fantastic*** world I’m reading about takes on more color and vibrancy than whatever’s happening in real life–even when real life is super-damn-awesome. I find this irresistible, and sometimes spend time reading when I should be doing something else. I’ve gotten better at policing myself and scheduling stricter reading time, but it’s still a danger.

But the time-suck factor really isn’t the reason I’m taking a brief book-break. The time-management thing could be said of lots of stuff lately (old movies, podcasting, LA Noire, and Doctor Who Legacy, to name a few). No, the real problem lies in what happens at the end, when I’m done reading something I love. It’s like a breakup every time, or better yet, as I said above, a death. I’ll have my memories of those characters and that world, but I can never really experience them like that again. Rereading is wonderful, and something I do a LOT of, but like they say, “you can’t go home again”.°

Just thinking about those books is causing me slight heartbreak. I was so wrapped up in that world for so long that not being in it feels strange and wrong. And I know that when I find another really good series to sink my brain-teeth into, I’m going to feel exactly the same way when it’s over. I’ll go through those same stages of grief and struggle to get my head back into the real world.

And you know what? It’ll be totally worth it.

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*This isn’t 100% technically true, as I’ve been desultorily re-re-reading Stephen King’s The Stand. I don’t really count that though because A) I’ve read it many times before, B) I’m not really reading it diligently, and C) it’s not exactly the type of book to draw me in in the way I’m talking about here.

**Or more accurately, a series. I’ve almost always appreciated series more than standalone books. Perhaps because a single novel doesn’t give me proper time to become enveloped in this way. That might be another blog post altogether!

***I read genre fiction almost exclusively.

°I still love my family, and I can’t wait until the next time I get to visit them, but it’s never quite the same experience as it was when I was growing up. Of course, in many ways it’s better. Just like there are ways in which a re-read can sometimes be even better than the first time. (Another blog post altogether, perhaps!) Better, but not the same.

Editor’s notes
1) Yes, I realize that picture is missing Golden Fool. I fear it was lost in the move! Gasp! Frowny face!
2) This was my first attempt at flash-blogging. I took my inspiration from a fragment of a previous draft, but everything I wrote here happened in a very short space of time with minimal editing. It’s the antithesis of how I usually work, but I think it’s worth pushing myself and trying to level up some new skills. Feedback welcome. (But for heaven’s sake, be polite about it!)
3) I’m all ears for suggestions of what to read next when I get around to it. I’ve got a lot of Hugo reading on my plate for the next few months, but I’d dig a great fantasy series to look forward to!

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