Sunday, April 18, 2010
TSS: Reading Series
So far this year I have read 52 books. Of those, only 21 have been stand alone. I have started 10 new series, finished 4 series, and I have 5 series where I have read the last book in the series that is available and I am waiting for the next book to be published.
There are some advantages and disadvantages to reading series though and I thought for today's post that I would list some of those using series that I am reading or have read as examples.
So here are the advantages of reading a series
Characters and world that you are familiar with -Once you begin to get to know characters and connect with them and their world, the idea of coming back and seeing what they are up to now is so comforting. For example, Diana Gabaldon writes such door stoppers, and the last couple haven't been as good as they had been previously, but I will always come back to read more about Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series. I can't imagine stopping now. I've invested too much time and emotion to not find out what happens in the end.
Knowing what to expect - Some days you just want a certain type of read. You want to be fairly sure that you will pick up the book and really enjoy the contents. Knowing the characters, the world and the author's style of writing helps with this assurance, especially if there is a long history of consistent quality. For example, with the J D Robb series, the quality of the writing has been very consistent from book one. Yes, some books are better than others, but even the worst J D Robb book is better than many other books I have read.
Character development – although it doesn’t always seem to happen – Stephanie Plum is a perfect example of books that continue to be written without much character development happen. Watching a character move through from one point to the next and seeing their growth can be very satisfying.
Funnily enough it is easier to think of disadvantages than advantages
Waiting for the next book – Some times that wait for the next book seems to take forever, especially when the author has ended the previous book with a cliffhanger as so many of them do. As an example, I can’t remember how many I can’t wait for Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, and I know I am not alone there.
Series not being finished due to contract reasons or worse – The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson is a classic example of this. I can’t remember where I saw it, but I am sure that I read somewhere that the original plan was that there would be more books in the series than the 3 we ended up with due to his untimely death.
Whilst the book felt finished in terms of an individual story, I guess I was reading with the expectation that the book wasn’t the end, and it certainly felt like there was plenty more to come, but unfortunately it is not to be.
There are also plenty of examples of series where the publishers do not want to continue publishing the series. One of the more notable examples of this recently has been Cynthia Harrod-Eagles Morland Dynasty series. The last book that will be released will be book 34, but the original plan was to continue through for another couple of books. As a reader I would be mightily annoyed if I had invested years reading a series that long and then found out that I wasn’t actually going to read the ending that the author wanted to write.
Authors finishing a series: There are a couple of series that I seriously wonder about whether the author will actually ever finish the series – Yes, Janet Evanovich and Diana Gabaldon I am looking at you! The Outlander series was originally slated to be something like 5 books. Now, every time a book comes out in that series, we also get the accompanying statement which says ‘no, this isn’t the last book’. For Evanovich there doesn’t really seem to be a way for her to finish the Plum series without seriously upsetting a large number of fans. As a cupcake, I am definitely hoping that when the Stephanie Plum series does eventually end, Stephanie Plum will end up with Joe Morelli, but there are plenty of passionate babes out there who would like to see her with Ranger at the end of the series. I guess the other option would be to either have her end up with someone other then either of those two characters, or to have her end up with no-one, but then the danger is that you actually alienate all your fans instead of just some of them.
The whole love triangle thing in a series is problematic in itself. For example, in Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series, Hannah is torn between dentist Norman, and policeman Mike. I haven’t read past the 8th book, mainly because I got bored of Hannah alternating between the two of them. Both of the men apparently felt so strongly about her that they both proposed, but Hannah didn't feel strongly enough about either of them to be able to accept either one, and so the threesome continues. To be fair, I am a long way behind in this series now, so perhaps things have changed. At least I hope so.
Another series that I wonder how it is going to end is J D Robb’s IN Death series but for different reasons. Eve and Roarke are one of my favourite literary couples, but how on earth the author is going to finish the series is something I wonder about, simply because it isn’t likely that murders in New York will suddenly stop in the year 2058. You would also think that there will be a point at some stage where Eve and Roarke may want to become parents and that isn’t really something that I would want to read about, simply because of the type of stories that have been written featuring these characters previously
Reading out of order – I really, really don't like reading a series out of order, and I will do as much as I can to avoid that happening. Sometimes though, it is not necessarily clear in the blurbs on books that it is part of a series, and it is only later that you find out that you haven’t started at the beginning. Some times it really doesn’t matter. Other times it is hard to see how someone who comes to a series part way through can really enjoy the book. Using the Larsson trilogy as an example, coming to the third book, if you hadn’t read the first two books in the series you would be left wondering exactly how it was that Lisbeth Salander started the book in hospital, why was Mikael Blomkvist fighting so hard for her and more.
Reading the last book: Thinking about this is actually one of the things that inspired this post. Sitting on my pile of books not too far away from me is The Endless Forest by Sara Donati. This is a book that I have anticipated for a long time, and yet for some reason there is a sense of apprehension at picking up that last book and knowing that this will be the last time I get to read something new about their lives And so I continue to look at the book, and thinking about reading it, but not quite ready to take that step and actually starting to read it. I think it is harder because Sara Donati is no longer writing and so there is no chance that in the near future there will be a new book from her at all.
This list is by no means extensive. I am sure there are many other pros and cons to reading series. Which ones have I not listed that you think are important? Do you like to read series, or do you prefer standalone novels?