Growing up, I was notorious for having bad luck on my brother’s birthday. I usually sustained some kind of damage to my face, which was the result of various things, including cement at high velocity and a golf club to the eye. It seems to be something that I more or less grew out of by the time I hit puberty, and I don’t know if if pubescence was causal or coincident to the reduction of bad face events.
When I got back from California I moved into a little apartment above a comic book store with 3 rabbits, a rat, and a vegan. The only rule in the house was to not eat whatever was in the box in the freezer. It turned out to be a rat awaiting cremation: the twin of the very aged rat that lived in the living room. I did not eat either of them.
About a block from our place was a very good used book store: Brown’s Books. The last time I’d been there was on a separate bookhunt, for Driving Dr. Albert, perhaps 10 years earlier.
It wasn’t until my brother’s birthday, a couple weeks after moving in, that I made it over there and set to work browsing the wonderfully packed shelves. This place smelled right — it smelled like old books (or at least it looked like it smelled like old books, enough that I remember it smelling that way) — and it looked right — with more books stacked around than could fit on their shelves.
I moved through the science fiction section and found some treasures, but not exactly what I was looking for.
They did not seem to have a book about Telepathic Spiders from Space.
“Do you have any Colin Wilson?” I ventured to ask.
“Yes, he has his own section.” Of course, he does. And there — right there — was Spider World: The Tower. It looked just like the one I saw in California — even in size — but it wasn’t a hard cover. Hardcover size but soft cover: a trade paperback. And only about 8 bucks (less than 10% the price of the first edition copy I’d found in California).
But here was the thing, I’d assumed that The Tower wasn’t the first book. I figured it was the second book. I’d made a point of not looking it up online once I knew it existed, but even with the book in hand, I couldn’t figure out which was the first. There were some pulp paperbacks on the shelf, that listed the series: The Desert, The Tower, The Fortress, The Delta. There were four books? No, wait: Spiderworld: The Magician and Spiderworld: Shadowlands. There were six? Why weren’t they listed consistently across the editions? Which ones were part of the story arc? And what was their order?
Flipping through the big edition of The Tower I figured it out. The first volume was The Tower, which was divided into three parts: The Desert, The Tower, and The Fortress — later published as separate (pulp) books. The second volume was The Delta, which seemed to be about as long as a single part from the first volume. Later, The Magician and Shadowlands were published. So, four books, not six, and yes the first one was The Tower. And it was here. And it was 8 bucks.
I excitedly explained my discovery to the guy at the book store, and I’m pretty sure that he didn’t care. I was weirdly a little put out that this copy was big and in perfect condition and looked brand new. I bet it had never even been read. I had definitely been hoping for a beat up pulp edition. But when we find what we’re looking for, we can’t judge it against our expectations too descriminately. I had searched for the book. I had found the book. And now I had the book.
I couldn’t wait to read the book.
It just so happened that I’d started reading another book (a library book!) the day before — and I wanted to give this one my undivided attention. So I didn’t get to start this one until I finished The Colour of Magic, but oh, it was so satisfying to see it on my bookshelf, just waiting for me.
Spiderworld: The Tower did not disappoint. It was certainly about Giant Telepathic Spiders that had taken over the world. But they weren’t from space. I’d gotten that wrong, and it may have been this fact that had poisoned my original google searches for it. Why had I assumed they were from space? The story allowed for that possibility, I suppose, but it would have been a stretch within the rest of the context. No, they weren’t giant telepathic spiders from space. Just giant telepathic spiders. Still pretty cool. Space was involved, but in a different way — I won’t ruin it for you.