In a previous post I linked to an essay about re-reading books in a reliable Canadian newspaper. The author of the essay claimed never to have re-read any science fiction, and was quite content that this should continue to be the case. In the list of authors he thought were unworthy of re-reading he included William Gibson. Today as I read Count Zero by William Gibson, I came across this passage which follows the description of a nightmare:
“She woke in the coffee-scented morning and saw the squares of sunlight spread across the books on Andrea’s table, heard Andrea’s comfortingly familiar morning cough as she lit a first cigarette from the stove’s front burner. She shook off the dark colors of the dream and sat up on Andrea’s couch, hugging the dark red quilt around her knees.”
What’s wrong with that? Who wouldn’t call those two sentences literature? Anyone who can set a scene so clearly ought to be re-read. I say this as one who has only recently come to the works of Mr. Gibson, and therefore have not re-read any of them. I am thoroughly enjoying my first reads, and several of Gibson’s works have survived the Great Library Cut before the Great Move of 2012.
I’ve re-read other works of science fiction, and don’t find that they suffer on re-reading. Some of the works gain on re-reading, much as you would expect from any good book. Others don’t stand up to the scrutiny of a re-read, particularly books I was fond of in my much younger days and now re-read out of nostalgia. I think science fiction as a genre is like any other genre of writing. Some authors do it very well and their works cry out to be re-read. Others churn out the pot-boilers, and we see the books at a thousand garage sales.
Do you re-read science fiction? Is there any genre which cannot be re-read?