Friday, March 7, 2008

A visit to the bookstore

I love going to bookstores. Neurotically so. The simple pleasure of being able to sift through shelf after shelf of nothing but books is why I almost never order books online, even if it is easier and often cheaper. I always have a few books I'm looking for in particular (and if I can't find them I'll get the store to order them) when I'm at a bookstore, but I always find one or two I would have never looked at while scanning the book racks.

Alas, there is only one bookstore worth mentioning (ie. the only one with a sci-fi section) here on my little island. The good news is, it has a huge section of used books. I love the old sci-fi and I feel like I'm digging up buried treasure as I sift through finding the occasional golden age classic (still haven't found Time enough for love though).

But today was something beyond just a normal visit to the bookstore. Oh, I picked up some of my usual fare; Pyramid Scheme by Eric Flint, another of his rather tongue-in-cheek surrealist stories, Star Strike by Ian Douglas, the first book in the third trilogy of his space marines stories, Celestial Hit List by Charles Ingrid, third book in the Sand Wars which has eluded me for a few weeks now, Anvil of Stars by Greg bear, a dimly remembered favorite from childhood. The real treat, however, was the smallest and cheapest book I bought.

Shortly before I joined the Navy (about a decade ago), I read a brief reference to another Greg Bear book called Hard Fought. At the time, I didn't think much of it, I just made a mental note to pick it up sometime. Boot camp came and went, then in A-school I remembered it and figured I needed some recreational reading anyway. Except, I couldn't find it. Not a big deal, even the three large bookstores at the local mall couldn't have every book. Then they couldn't order it because their distributors didn't have it either. The heck? About that time my training schedule began getting increasingly hectic and as I endured my whirlwind of a training pipeline I had to put it out of my mind.

It was two years after joining the navy that life calmed down a little bit (briefly) and I remembered having looked for this one book. I still knew very little about this book except that it had eluded me. That seems to be the single motivating factor here. So I checked the bookstores around my new command. Nope, of course not, and none of them could order it either. That seems to have done it. I got online and looked for it. Zip. When the Navy had me travel I would visit any bookstore I came across, if I had the time, and look. After awhile of doing that, I made up some contact cards and started giving them out to anyone who might come across a copy along with a twenty dollar bill and the promise of more, all over the world. The harder I looked for this damn book, the worse I wanted it. I even joined several internet groups that specialized in rare books. Four or five years into this sad tale, I even paid to have professionals find a copy. Nothing. One of my forum buddies did find a copy once, a few years back, but it was gone before he got a hold of me.

The worst part about it was, I heard from a few people who started looking after I did and managed to get a copy. So while it was rare, it wasn't that rare.

This carried on for ten years. TEN YEARS. I didn't even specify a first edition or anything else, just a copy, any copy, of the damned book.

You see where this is going, right? Of course you do.

I walked into my local bookstore today, looked around in sci-fi section (not sure the store has any other sections) for about thirty seconds and, yeah, there it was.

Bribing bookstore owners the world over: $20 (x?)
Contracting finder’s agencies: $50-150 (x4)
Finding the damn book for $2.00 at the local bookstore: priceless

1 comment:

alison said...

That is awesome! I love that feeling, a combination of crazy elation and i did five bazillion things to find this book and its here?