Spoiler Check: I have completed the Wheel of Time series up to Towers of Midnight inclusive
As late as 22 October, I had only just finished Crossroads of Twilight, Book 10 of the Wheel of Time. That left me Books 11, 12 and 13, all of them massive tomes, to get through in a little over two months if I was to complete my re-read of the series before the publication of the final book on 8 January.
In the event, I managed it with over a month to spare. Largely thanks to Audible, since I was able to keep reading while driving, walking the dog, chores around the house. But not while doing the lawn – the mowing season was already over.
Upping the narrator speed to 1.5X helped. Incredible to think but it saved me something like 35 hours of listening time. And it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the books – I can keep up fine at that speed. If reading a book for the first time, I prefer the narration to be at normal speed; but for a re-read under time pressure I can justify resorting to speed boost. Interesting point: there is a bug in the Android Audible app such that the actual speed increase is exactly one half of the increase selected. I originally set the narrator speed to 1.5X but found I was not getting through the book at the expected rate. I wondered at first if the speed increase was simply not working at all. So I measured elapsed time vs progress through the book and found that the narrator speed was actually 1.25X normal. So I switched to an indicated 2X which resulted in the actual speed of 1.5X I had been looking for.
And my Wheelless month has not gone to waste. For one thing, I had been reading WoT almost exclusively for months and was in danger of getting all wheeled out. I would rather be fresh for A Memory of Light come 8 January. And for another thing, I have been enjoying some markedly different, and generally much shorter, novels.
I finished Railsea a week ago. Strictly speaking a YA novel, but still a wonderful breath of fresh air, and a very witty, engaging and somehow modern writing style.
Then a trip back in time for the Philip K Dick classic, The Man in the High Castle. About two-thirds of the way through. This is definitely not one to read at boosted speed. Slowing it down would be the more likely option. I’m sure Dick did not invent the alternative reality concept but his reimagining of 1962 as things might have panned out if the Axis had won WWII is very well thought through, very detailed, powerfully evoked. But not only the imagined projection of history. The real power of the book is in the way he takes us inside the minds of the characters, explores where they are culturally and politically, what drives them and the way they interpret (or sometimes misinterpret) events and the motivations of others. So we don’t just get Dick’s insight into politics and the drivers that shape history, we also get his insight into how all of that is reflected in the thoughts, attitudes and ambitions of people, and how the latter are affected by background and status.
This is a serious book, beyond anything I’ve read in quite a while. And I like the irony that so many of the book’s characters are themselves reading a book called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” which is itself an alternative reality where the Allies defeated the Axis, but as a “third” reality as opposed to reflecting the real world. It might have been too complicated if The Grasshopper Lies Heavy followed real history … because it might have featured characters reading “The Man in the High Castle” and so on to infinity.
Next on the list is William Gibson’s Neuromancer. I should get through that before 8 January, but probably won’t get to Redshirts. John Scalzi will need to wait until after AMoL.