Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Books Read in 2010: "The Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Baen Webscriptions

This thing took forever to get through. And it wasn't because it was bad, or because it was particularly dense. It just took me a long, long time. It started to feel a little desperate in the second half. When I'm reading a book for pleasure, it shouldn't feel like work. Well, that's not quite right. I'm willing to work through a book if I think it's going to be rewarding in the end. It shouldn't feel like an OBLIGATION, like something I HAVE to do, and therefore contrive ways to postpone and avoid it.

My schedule being what it was through much of December, time would pass where I couldn't read much. And when I did, I very often fell asleep after just a few paragraphs. Reading hard SF at a time like that doesn't help, since there's a whole universe being built that I had to keep straight, and that proved difficult. "Jeez," I would think, "Can't this take place on Earth? Why does it have to be half in space, half on a planet inhabited by 3-armed mutant hermaphrodites with a genetically determined caste system and complex and, well, alien socio-political structure?" And then I'd fall asleep.

But what this book really marked for me was my seeming preference for electronic texts. Under certain conditions, anyway.

I started reading the novel in a mass market paperback that my wife found among her books. She'd forgotten that she'd bought it and wondered if I was interested. I started to flip through it and got sucked in. I carried the paper copy around for a couple of weeks, and even all the way to Chicago and back on a trip to visit my parents, when I decided that I was tired of doing that. Since I couldn't just sit down for a length of time and read, I wanted to be able to dip into the book whenever I had a few minutes. Easier to do on my phone, or even my Kindle. Plus, the cheap qualities of mass market paperbacks really shone through on this one. Tiny text, lousy ink, and a not-so-great binding that was slightly warped to boot. I was always afraid that if I bent the cover too far, the binding would break and snap in half. It wasn't a particularly pleasant "tactile experience," as the critics of ebooks would say in defense of the printed page.

Having enough of this, I checked Inkmesh to see if there were any electronic versions available, and found the link above to Baen's webscriptions, where I was able to purchase a DRM-free copy in multiple formats (.mobi for the Kindle, .epub for the iPhone, .rtf for archive purposes) for just $5.

And it worked out great, for the most part. I finally finished the book, didn't I?