"Yes, I can actually read this fast."
Everybody knows smart people love reading
. That's why surrounding a character with big, thick, difficult-looking books whenever possible is considered an acceptable way of indicating that that person is meant to be brainy
Every now and then, though, you'll find yourself in a situation where you want to establish a character as even smarter
than your run-of-the-mill smart guy. You may even want to convey that they're some kind of bonefide genius
. So what do you do?
Easy. You show them reading really, really fast.
Super Speed Readers
are characters who are seen turning the pages of books at improbable speeds, presumably retaining all of the information they're flipping through, as a way of demonstrating their intelligence. While it is
possible for the audience to learn a character has this ability in some other way, in visual media, it's fairly common for a scene to be present where we actually get to see
this feat performed, most likely because occasions where high IQ can actually be translated into to exciting visuals are few and far between
Disappointingly, speed reading in Real Life
is not actually a function of raw IQ, but a learned skill which involves tedious practice and sacrificing some degree of comprehension in favor of speed. Also, in order to make this sort of thing look impressive on film, it's generally necessary to depict characters reading at a rate that would noticeably exceed those of the fastest known real-life speed readers, if anyone in the audience were to get out a stopwatch and do the math
. Neither of these things are of any concern when a speed reading character is meant to be supernaturally
intelligent, though, which is often the case when this trope is in play.
One of the things the other 90% of Your Brain
is used for. Often seen alongside, or even conflated with, Photographic Memory
. Potentially a skill of the TV Genius
, particularly when he has an IQ score that is too high to make sense
. The Emergent Human
will use this skill to get caught up on the sum total of human knowledge over a long weekend.
Don't expect anyone to ever get carpal tunnel syndrome from turning thousands of pages per minute — the less-glamourous Required Secondary Power
of "Super Page Turning" is bundled in for free.
- In Kujibiki Unbalance (the original version), evil genius Renko reads through a whole bunch of cookbooks in seconds in order to direct her team in a cooking competition - but she can only remember what she reads for three minutes.
- Yuki Nagato from Suzumiya Haruhi, with good reason.
- Yuuno of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has a spell that allows him do this on several books at once, making him the ideal scholar and head librarian of the Infinity Library. After StrikerS, he teaches this spell to Vivio.
- Lucy from Fairy Tail has a special artifact for this.
- Yun, a minor character from Seireino Moribito, is able to read, memorize, and transcribe an entire book like lightning, although it only ever comes into play once. This, in addition to being a highly skilled warrior. One has to imagine what that wanted ad looked like...
- Ryuu Tsuji from Special A pulls this one off to read all 1000 questions in the test battle with his SA privilege on the line and then answering all of them in 10 minutes. He got all of them right!
- The Tangent Comics version of Superman first expresses his "otherness" this way.
- As does The Leader from Marvel Comics
- The Flash is capable of doing this, as a manifestation of his super speed.
- Quicksilver of Marvel Comics can do this as well.
- Bart Allen (Impulse/Kid Flash) was established as different from other speedsters when it was revealed he can speed read AND retain everything he read (other speedsters can speedread but forget about the facts they researched soon). Subverted in that Kid Flash is still a hyperkinetic attention-deficit teenager and not exactly a genius.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Michael Valentine Smith can read at incredible speeds. He is very intelligent, though he starts off naive and inexperienced.
- In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie at a point mentions he can read a page per second.
- Brutha of Small Gods, by virtue of his ability to never forget anything he saw, no matter how fleeting. This ability of his was shown when, in probably around an hour's time, he memorized half of the books and scrolls stored in the Library of Ephebe, the second largest library in Discworld, moments before the Omnians burned it down. Granted, he can't actually understand it, at least at first, because in addition to a photographic memory he is completely illiterate and appears to have some form of dyslexia.
- Belgarath of The Belgariad mentions offhand that he can read and comprehend a whole sentence in a glance. His daughter, Polgara, can read a whole paragraph in the same time.
- Magic: The Gathering: Planeswalker Teferi tops them all.
Radha: How long will it take you? [to read a book the size of a hay bale]
Teferi: [eyes glow blue] About that long.
Radha: You just read the entire Book of Keld?
Teferi: Read it, memorized it, ready to recite it.
- Several game systems allow players to pick a speed reading trait during the process of character creation; naturally, speeds reached are a function of the intelligence stat.
- GURPS makes it a skill so anyone can be really good at Speed-Reading, although a high IQ stat helps. Truly super speed reading is the domain of the Scholars in the Dungeon Fantasy books who can compress 200 hours of study into an hour, even to learn magic or skills that bend the laws of physics.
- Grace, the human/alien/another alien/squirrel hybrid from El Goonish Shive is also seen reading textbooks at superhuman speed. She got enhanced short-term memory, probably from free-shapeshifting ancestors.
- Peanut of Housepets! is capable of doing this, even though he's not suggested to be a genius. Even Fox, who is a bookworm himself, is impressed.
- It's a part of the stock mental package of the Exemplar mutant power set in the Whateley Universe, along with lightning computational skills and sometimes a danger sense or directional sense. The higher your Exemplar (mental) level, the faster you can read, the easier you can memorize anything you see, and the faster you can do basic algebra types of math. It doesn't make you smarter, but it does make you better able to get good grades. Also, plenty of Exemplars do not have the mental package that goes with their level of power.
- Lisa and her soon-to-be boyfriend bond over speed-reading the one textbook they both wanted in The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding". The appear to finish it in an afternoon.
- In "They Saved Lisa's Brain", the whole Mensa group including Lisa finished reading the town charter (which is a scroll sized page) in seconds.
- Bender, as well as every other robot, does this on Futurama. Played for Laughs when after doing it, Bender declares the book "alright..."
- Taken Up to Eleven in an episode of the sixth season where Bender gains Super Intelligence after being overclocked and proceeds to read the Professor's whole library in seconds. In fact, he starts overheating from his sheer reading speed and he has to jury-rig a new cooling system for himself.
- In the DuckTales movie Treasure of the Lost Lamp, the young genie character reads all of the encyclopedia set in the ten seconds he was off-screen, though this may be more to do with him being magic and a Keet than being super-intelligent.