April 29, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Are You Seriesous?

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Civic library, Newcastle, 18/9/1957, Hood collection

On Friday I linked to this WSJ article about Hilary Martel and her Wolf Hall series. She tells the author that you don’t need to read Wolf Hall before reading the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. Hmm… I don’t know…

I have a love/hate relationship with series. I have a few favorites but I hate jumping into to one in the middle. I have a book on my nightstand, probably for a year now, that I thought was a standalone but turns out it’s part of a series. I keep thinking I’ll read the first one before I pick it up but I’m loathe to do it. Do I really want to start a new series? I still haven’t got past Book 2 of the Patrick O’Brien series even though I want to read more. There are 21!

That raises the question: how many books should be in a series? Is there a point when there are just too many? Can a series drag on forever? What if the author dies before the series ends? One of my favorites is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I started reading this one back in 1992. Sweet Baby J, it’s not finished yet and we’re up to Book 7. Some were better than others. The plot is getting diluted by a cast of thousands at this point. Should she have stuck a fork in it a couple of books ago? I dunno. I will keep reading like the addict I am. For me, it’s easier to get hooked on a series if I pick the books up as the author writes them. The idea of starting a seven book series from the beginning is daunting, no matter how good it might be.

The recent trend is the trilogy. Are the books planned to be a trilogy? Is one big book broken into three? I find that the second in a trilogy is mostly filler. Would one book have done just fine in these cases? And there’s something to be said for leaving people wanting more. Sometimes I want to be left imagining what happens to the characters after the book ends.

So are you pro-series?


In reading news, I’m still reading Tender Is the Night with my book club, as well as In Morocco by Edith Wharton for my Genteel Ladies project. They’re both challenging books. I also started Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier for another project I was asked to contribute to.

In the mail this week, I was sent Gold by Chris Cleave and Alys, Always by Harriet Lane.

That was it for me this week. How was your reading week?

23 comments :

  1. I enjoy series, but definitely not very long ones. If they're very long, they should be the kind where you can pick up anywhere in the series, like Discworld. One problem I do have with series though is when I find a really interesting looking fantasy novel at the library and then discover it's 1 of 5 or something. And then the library doesn't have the others! There needs to be more stand-alone novels in fantasy, it's a very series-riddled genre.

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    1. Oh, I hate that too! Especially if they're backlisted and I can't even find them at the bookstore.

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  2. I love this post mainly because I've been trying to wrap my head around my own personal feelings of series/trilogies also.

    Biggest difference between you and me though in our opinions? I would much rather START a series if I know that most of the books have been published already. AAAAANNNND it's a bonus if the whole dang thing has been published. I hate waiting. Unlike tele series, I forget too much when reading books. And it's this awkward stage at the beginning while I'm trying to remember what I should not have forgotten.

    Also, I agree that sometimes a series should just be forked and done. I'm totally feeling like that with the Sookie Stackhouse series. Thank goodness I think Harris realizes it as well.

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    1. Waiting really is the hardest part. Especially if the author takes a long time to put out a new one. But still, I'll wait for new books in a series that I'm already reading than start a new one. I don't know why.

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  3. Well written series can be read out of order and I don't mind those. I feel like this trilogy trend is a way of making us buy 3 books instead of 1 or 2.

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    1. I agree! Someone must have figured out that we'll buy them no matter what.

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  4. I think this is an outgrowth of mystery novels which featured a single detective over the course of many, many books. Of course a mystery series features books that can all stand alone.

    Last year I read all ten of the martin Beck mysteries in order and enjoyed them all.

    But I would avoid a fantasy trilogy. Fantasy's seem to be full of filler these days.

    My big questions is why will so many people read a trilogy and avoid a chunkster?

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    1. Because inherently we're afraid of commitment?

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    2. I'm not afraid of chunksters! :) But yeah, I think the size scares people.

      I agree with you about mysteries. You can pick up any Miss Marple and you won't be lost.

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  5. I found it interesting to read this. Last week I visited 4 high schools and EVERY student who came up to me after and told me they wrote fiction said they were working on a "series". One student had six books planned out. No one said they were writing a stand alone novel.

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    1. It's such a given in YA that a book is part of a series now that every kid thinks that's how they need to be written! I wonder if authors who write series ever feel trapped by them.

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  6. I am so tired of series (actually I have been for awhile). Some series make sense, but in many other cases it feels like a single novel is turned into a series as a marketing ploy, or kept alive just because the author is in a rut.

    I don't think there's a limit to the number of books that should be in a series, but I do think every series has a natural end. When the books start to become formulaic or the rules of the world start being broken just to keep the books interesting, it's time to call it quits.

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    1. The best series leave me wanting more when they end, which means they've ended in the right place.

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  7. Great post... I dont really like book series unless I start them after all books are out... hate to wait ;) As for how many - three is what I expect, four is they are super awesome but more than than it just gets LONG.

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    1. Ha! You're another impatient reader. ;)

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  8. I have the same issue -- I got a early reviewer from LT and it turned out to be the third in a series and I just can't start with it! Which means to review this one, I have to get two other books. Did the description mention it was a series? No! Grr ...
    I used to read a lot of series simultaneously but I felt like I was being stretched too thin so I decided to finish off a couple of them before starting anything new. It's a tough decision but there are just too many series out there right now! (And the trilogy thing gets on my nerve -- especially with MG and YA. Write one good book instead of three plot-stretched ones!)

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    1. This book on my nightstand was a review book but I had no idea it was part of a series. There are so many series out there!

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  9. I like trilogies as long as I know up-front that that is what it is intended to be. For example... The Passage. That was one huge, chunk of a book and I knew going into it, was was just book one. I am looking forward to book 2 this October!

    But some other books... I didn't know were series like the Nesbo books. I read them out of order AND when they were published in the US, they were even published out of order which made it even more confusing. So I've read the latter ones... but not the first ones in the series and actually, I don't think I can even get books one and two...not in the US yet.

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    1. I've been waiting for the next one after The Passage. I LOVED that book!

      The Nesbo books must fall into the mystery category. Mysteries seem to be the exception. Order doesn't matter.

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  10. Funny. I just left a comment on Andi's Outlander review noting that I would LOVE to read the series but ugh...series. I just can't seem to follow through. I did read all the HP books and all the Twilight books but only the first Walking Chaos, first Janet Evanovich, first Hunger Games, first Dragon Tattoo, etc. Its the reason I haven't read the Maisie Dobbs books.

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    1. I know it seems intimidating but Outlander is sooo good. You will be hooked. And the first book is the best.

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  11. Now you know about my all-consuming love of OUTLANDER, I did have the passing thought that maybe she could've wrapped it up after perfect book 1 and been done. But, I'm just afraid Jamie is going to piss me off. This series is so consuming so far, I feel like I'm in a new relationship just waiting to see if it's gonna go wrong.

    I'm typically bad with series books. We'll see if this series turns me.

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    1. I've had moments with Jamie but it always comes down to: He's Jamie! No matter what he does, I always love that guy.

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