Saturday, March 07, 2009

Belated Lenten Resolution

Did you know that Union troops during the Civil War found a document, Special Order 191, lying on a battlefield...and it turned out to be orders from Robert E. Lee detailing plans for a whole series of upcoming battles. It's true! (I even heard about it on "The Rest of the Story" once!) This information helped turn the tide of the war, which at that point was going badly for the North, and was probably instrumental in determining its ultimate outcome. Can you imagine if that document had never been found?

Well, Harry Turtledove did more than just imagine it: he's written thousands of pages of "alternate history" based on the premise that, because of this one small change in actual events, the entire history of North America was radically changed. I read the first book based on this idea, How Few Remain, a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. Then, a few months ago, I found out that there was a trilogy of books following the same characters through World War I (in which the USA and the CSA -Confederate States of America, that is-were on opposing sides).

So, I ordered those three books from Paperbackswap, and promptly wanted to do nothing but sit and read them. The problem is that they are each about 500 pages long, plus (it turns out) there are seven MORE books (each about the same length) following the same characters through the Depression era and World War II. Assuming the books average around 500 pages each, that's 5,500 pages of "what if"s! At that point, I have to reassess how committed I am to seeing the series through (kinda like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, which to date has totaled about 9,600 pages, and-as much as I like it-has gotten to be an endurance test).

Besides being a daunting amount of reading, I think I would probably have a problem with the books' affects on my relationship with my family. Knowing how I get when I am engrossed in a story, I would probably try to read the remaining books every chance I get until finish them all. It would make it hard for me to get what I need to do around the house done but, more importantly, it would keep me from giving enough attention to MM and the kids.

THEREFORE, I've resolved to give up reading these books for the foreseeable future. I have the first of the Depression-era trilogy on its way via Paperbackswap right now, but I think I may even list it back on the site to avoid tempting me to get sucked in again. I didn't really plan on giving anything up this Lent but, as timing would have it, this works out pretty well. I think this will result in my growing more as a father and husband than something like giving up chocolate would, anyway.

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