From the diary: “May 25, 1982
“Merit Book Center is closing forever. I probably made my last purchase at Merit, The Many Colored Land, a science fiction book. 20% off. I’m really sort of sad about it. There goes the best selection of magazines and paperbacks in Sebastopol. The economy and their absentee landlord raising the rent … combined to close the shop which has been open for nine years. We’ve been going to Merit almost every week ever since we moved to Sebastopol. I wish they could stay open.”
I bought a sympathy card and gave it to the woman behind the counter. I’d always been a bit afraid of her, especially since a few years earlier I’d special-ordered an Oz book from Merit and before it arrived found the same book in the other local bookstore (and for 45 cents less, the newest printing having seen a price increase – when the book cost $1.50, an additional 45 cents was a hefty increase). Naturally the woman at Merit was miffed. I remember crying while my mother talked to her.
When the woman behind the counter opened the sympathy card she laughed. She called over the man who worked there, too. And he got a good chuckle. I was, of course, all embarassed and everything.
The Many Colored Land is a science fiction novel by Julian May. It’s the first of a trilogy. I later bought the second book, The Nonborn King, but I don’t think I ever got the third. The book columnist for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine was ga-ga over Julian May. That guy read a lot of books. He oughta know what’s good. I wasn’t so thrilled with Land. What sticks with me most vividly was a herd animal that migrated great distances across the planet’s single continent, plagued the entire way by a vexing parasitic fly.
These days I won’t start a trilogy until all three books have been published, just in case I like the first one and want to finish the darn story.
Update: In comments D says, "Funny, that bit about the parasitic fly - I thought that was in the Helliconia Trilogy." If this is true (and I do remember working my way through the Helliconia books) then I remember nothing about The Many Colored Land. This would be why I later started the booklog. A few notes really do help one's recall. A mere title isn't enough mnemonic.
Hmmmm I love starting a trilliogy or series before it's finished being published.. because then it gives me something to look forward to! Once the series is done... it's kinda depressing cause you know there's no more =)
Thanks for the well wishes by the way!
I'm sure it would be even more vexing to think you've started a trilogy only to discover it's actually a quadrology (is that a word?). Which is what the "Pliocene Epic" turned out to be. And for those who wanted more May then wrote a four volume (I think) prequel.
I remember enjoying the books. I read the first four. A time travel epic without dinosaurs or directly affecting human history seemed sort of exotic to me. I must not have been completely wowed by the series since I've never tried to read anything else by the author. That's always a clue.
Funny, that bit about the parasitic fly - I thought that was in the Helliconia Trilogy. I can't be sure though. Too many scifi epics in my brain. The details get mushed together.
Hi I found your blog when I searched for Merit Book Center. Merit was my family's business. My aunt owned the Sebastopol location. I remember playing behind the store (I was a kid then) and falling down the small hill there and unto the railroad tracks. I skinned my knee real bad and came screaming into the store all bloody...mom was not amused! I miss the bookstore and how wonderful it was to be a part of it. so nice to read that someone remembers one of the stores fondly. Thanks!
Aw. Poor knee!
Hey Glenn—Bart King here. I was just reminiscing about Merit Book Center, and the powers that be at Google led me here.
I can remember wandering into MBC and being awestruck. They had science fiction magazines! I bought more copies of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (and Analog and Galaxy and Asimov's) than I could ever possibly store. (I know that because I'm still trying to store them.)
And the paperbacks. God, I bought the entire canons of Robert E. Howard, Clifford Simak, Edgar Rice Burroughs... well, enough. I have only the fondest memories of the place, and I was sad to leave Sebastopol briefly, and then return and find it GONE.
Incidentally, I believe I was in David's class at Analy. :)
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