Newsflashes, while efficient, are so sterile. Let me tell you a story instead, clarity be damned.
The first ever Real Adult Book I read was Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage II. It was a massive thing to my twelve-year-old eyes, a gargantuan undertaking that took all summer to get through. My very first Sci-fi doorstopper.
I fell in love early on. Albert Morrison was my scientist avatar, awkward, love-starved, a bit desperate. Natalya Boranova a compelling and stable companion, the one I rooted for as love interest. Sophia Kaliinin a tempting sylph, but quite clearly out of Morrison’s league. And Yuri Whatsisname an apt, ultimately too-powerful rival. There was another guy in there, the pilot or whatnot, but apparently I didn’t care that much for him because I can’t remember his name. I can’t explain to you right now how proud I am of remembering those names, by the way.
The Science-fiction and plot points were awesome too, but they kind of took a back-seat to the relationships in there. I’ve always been a very character-focused type of reader, or I guess media-consumer. Be it novel, TV show or CRPG, it’s the character interactions that really do it for me.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Fantastic Voyage II opened my eyes to what books could really do for you. It was my first obsession in written form, and I’d re-read it at least five times in the course of my teenage years—whenever I couldn’t remember the name of one of the cast. That poor paperback was lovingly beaten and downtrodden by the time I was done with it.
Some time after that first read, my brother picked up from the library the first volume of Chronicles of the Dragonlance. I remember being greatly intrigued by its cover, Tanis and Goldmoon and Sturm all posing in front of a forest or a meadow or something like that, super badass and attractive. It was another massive book, too—to my eyes, at least.
I wouldn’t have dared open it up if it weren’t for my Fantastic Voyage II venture, but I was a seasoned doorstopper reader by then, you see. What would have been daunting before was only a mild challenge now. And so I started reading it. And so my true teenage obsession began.
The Dragonlance series, flawed and cliché and hit-you-over-the-head pro-Christian as they might appear to a more adult or experienced readership, was my Lord of the Rings, my Star Wars, my Star Trek. I had no idea what a fantasy trope was at the time, so everything was just fresh and mind-blowing. The religious undertones flew completely under my radar—it was just a fantastic story with Gods and mortals and life lessons and whatnot. The most awesome tale ever told, and I do mean awesome in the biblical sense. I would pay real money to have that sense of wonder again, to be able to relive that discovery. It takes so much more nowadays to buy into things….
I consumed Dragons of Autumn Twilight like it was my first heroin high, then felt sad when it was over, then overjoyed when my brother said that this was, in fact, the first volume of a trilogy. Oh, how I buggered him to find the next installment, which he did, and the third installment, which he didn’t. They didn’t have at the library, you understand.
So I had to go hunting. This was the late nineties, with the internet in its infancy and online ordering nothing but a distant chimera (It still kinda is, in Spain.) So that meant going to a local bookstore.
Now, you must understand what this means for an awkward, shy, overweight-and-self-conscious-about-it teenage boy. It means tentatively walking into a somewhat secluded, mildly busy place, trying to look like I knew where I was going. It means surreptitiously reading aisle signs in a frantic search for the suitable section. It means working up the inhuman courage to talk to a pretty and helpful staff member because I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Truly an epic ordeal for the ages.
Anyway, they didn’t have it in stock. I could’ve tried in half a dozen other stores, but that would have meant repeating this whole process all over again, which was a fate worse than death. They happily offered to order it for me. “You can do that?” I remember saying. It never occurred to me that you could choose which books the store would get. It was magical.
I bought the book from them a week later. It was the best in the series. I loved every tiny bit. And at the end, there were ads. In stunned silence I leaned that there were more Dragonlance books out there. A LOT more. So I returned to the store.
That bookstore, the name of which I’ve unfortunately forgotten, became my drug dealer. I’d come in with a list of wonderful highs I wanted to try, and a week later they’d have a pile of the stuff waiting for me. I just needed to cough up the cash, which my parents were gracious enough to provide. My mother loved it, was so glad I was spending time away from the ubiquitous videogames. My father would just shake his head in amusement. Not much of a fantasy guy. They still have my giant collection on their shelves, providing a much appreciated and probably well-calculated sting of nostalgia whenever I lay eyes upon them through the webcam.
What the hell am I getting at with all this, you might ask? I have a great fondness for local bookstores, that’s what I’m getting at. They were a strange, mystical, nigh foreboding place that later became a direct gateway to some of the best experiences of my teens, which was getting lost in Krynn and daydreaming about being a badass Red Robe. Wait, is that sad? That’s pretty sad, isn’t it. Just replace “bookstore” with “brothel” and “Krynn” with “titties.” Yeah, much better.
So hopefully this story begins to explain just how special it feels to see this at Gulliver’s Books, the bookstore to which I deliver mail every day:
Gulliver’s Books is currently stocking Eternal. Hooray!
It’s only relatively recently that I went in there as a customer, which I regret dearly. I grew older, moved away from home, had no transportation of my own for a while so I was swept into the convenience of ordering books online. Shame, shame, everlasting shame.
After going back into an actual building to buy books, it became clear how far I’d strayed. How much magic is lost through the sterile causeways of the internet. There’s something about standing in the middle of wall-to-wall shelves full of books waiting to be discovered, something that simply cannot be described. Countless covers and spines clamoring for your attention or quietly awaiting their turn. Perhaps it’s the density of work-hours condensed into one place: hundreds upon hundreds of hours per linear inch, all neatly stacked and presented as somebody’s best efforts to take you somewhere they thought was worthy of the time.
Have you done it of late? Have you ever done it? Well, now is as good a time as any. And if you live anywhere close to Fairbanks, Alaska… you know where to find my stack of hopeful hours.