Re-reading some old favorites

When I was younger, I read a few series of books over and over and OVER again. I can still quote whole passages from Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall series, the early Xanth books (I’m so ashamed), Robert Lynn Aspirin’s Myth series, and, of course, The Lord of the Rings. These days, I’m reading Patrick O’Brian’s historical novels about Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin. I have a hard time explaining why I like the books so much; O’Brian overuses certain narrative figures and lines far too often (no character “says” when he can “cry” something) and the books contain passages about seamanship that remain a mystery (e.g., a double sister block, coaked). But I do love them. I love the mix of locations, from Hampshire and the English Channel to the Mediterranean, Java, the Galapagos Islands, North Africa, and Boston. I love the deep character exploration of Aubrey and Maturin over many books–Stephen’s loathing of anything smacking of an informant, Jack’s good-willed, clumsy wenching. I love the matter-of-fact, deliberately sudden way that important characters can die from the myriad dangers of war, seafaring, or simple low-tech danger. I’m running a steampunk RPG soon, and while it’s not set during this period, I think re-reading the books is helping me get back into the long-vanished mindset of the European gentry.

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