I’ve been having a slightly strange, but not entirely unfamiliar, reading experience recently. I’m reading Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan. Now, I read the first chapter of this a long time ago, in the dealers’ room at a convention. I liked it a lot, and wanted to read on, but the hardback was a bit too expensive at the time.
I decided to keep an eye out for the paperback. And I did: over the years I often checked the shelves for it, but never found it. As far as I could tell, it never came out in paperback, at least in this country.
And all of this was before Amazon and so on, so I couldn’t just search for it. By the time web-based sales were here, I guess I had forgotten about it. Certainly I never thought to do a search for it.
Then in the summer we were in Hay-on-Wye, town of bookshops, for a day. I managed to spend less than £30 on books (though obviously I could have spent a lot more).
But, among my purchases, there it was: the Gollancz classics re-issue of Mindplayer. Slightly strange to find that the book has gone from first publication to classic re-issue in my lifetime, but there you go.
Now, as I read the first chapter, the fact that it was familiar to me was not at all surprising; I read it at the con years ago, right? But then I got on to chapter two, as you do. Strangely, that seemed familiar too. Hmmm. OK, maybe I’d read more of it at the con than I thought.
Chapter three: the feeling didn’t go away. Chapter four. Chapter five.
Gradually it became apparent that I had, in fact, read the book before. However, I remembered nothing — absolutely nothing — about the story. I haven’t finished it yet, and I still have no idea how it ends.
This is a very strange form of deja vu, it seems.
But it’s not the first time. A few years back I read one of Paul McAuley’s novels. It is perhaps telling that I can’t remember for sure which one, despite having looked over some reviews. I think it was Eternal Light, but it seems I still can’t remember it.
In any case, it very gradually became familar to me, and I realised I had read it before. The copy I was reading at the time came from the library, and I figured out that I had taken it out before.
In this case, with the Cadigan, I have no idea where I got the copy that I originally read. Library? Maybe. Borrowed a friend’s? Always possible. Or did I buy it, and forget? is there a copy filed away in the attic somewhere? I just have no idea.
It’s the age, I fear. Or maybe someone is playing with my mind.