Thursday, January 21, 2016

Don't you love a series?

Picture of Elizabeth Moon booksI admit, I love series of books. If I find an author I enjoy, a story I can relate to, as soon as I’ve finished one, I’m hankering for another book in the same setting.

Before I go any further, let’s define what I mean by ‘series’; a set of books set in the same environment, often using the same characters. The world-building has been done, it’s familiar. Sometimes main characters in one book might be bit-players in another but the reader has (probably) met them before and knows who they are. Here, I’m talking about books written by the same author. A good example is Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series which started with the dragonriders and expanded to harpers and then others as the demand grew.

Crime books starring particular detectives are a stand-out example of a series. Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Adam Dalgleish, Inspector Banks etc etc etc. Grab me with one and you’ve sold me the lot.

I should point out, though, that liking a series by an author does not immediately imply I’ll like everything an author writes. Of course, there are exceptions. I’d read a laundry list if Terry Pratchett wrote it. But I have been disappointed. Ms McCaffrey’s ‘Talent’ books (Pegasus et al) left me cold and although I loved Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano and Vatta series, her award-winning novel about autism (Speed of Dark) was a dnf. This is not necessarily a reflection on the ability of the writers. At the end of the day, the contract made between the author and the reader inevitably includes the subject matter. I only bought Speed of Dark because Moon wrote it – but perhaps I should have looked a little more closely before I spent my money.

Which brings me to another type of series which is really a franchise. One of the most famous of this type is Star Wars. Since it expanded beyond the original three movies the Star Wars franchise has gone super nova. There must be at least one hundred Star Wars novels out – I don’t know, I haven’t counted. Here, the setting in particular, is as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. The characters are bit-players in a larger scene. Only the authors are different, which means, of course, the reading experience differs. I’ve read some very good Star Wars novels and some that were (imo) total rubbish. Anne McCaffrey handed on her Pern series to her son, Todd, also a writer. For me, the transition was not a great success.

And then there’s that last type of series/franchise that frankly grates on me. A lot of the Big Names such as James Patterson and Dale Brown have developed franchises. Their names are on the books in Great Big Letters. And underneath, you’ll find the by-line “with Fred Nerk”. Which means Fred Nerk wrote it. To me, that’s almost false pretenses. And I avoid those books.

A small plug for me. I have a couple of series myself. The Morgan Selwood stories, and the Ptorix Empire novels. I've put all four Ptorix Empire novels into a boxed set. You can buy it now, from Amazon only, for $4.99. It will be withdrawn at the end of the month.

How do series work for you?

10 comments:

  1. I like a good series, but Book 1 has to pull me in. I almost never start a series with later books. My favorites have a new couple in each installment rather than the HFN endings. I find my interest in a series starts to wane after five books or so. I don't want to devote my time or book budget to one universe for too long.

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    1. Fair enough. I think in romance especially it's hard to keep the same couple going for long. What happened to the HEA?

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  2. I will often want to continue a series if the first book wow-ed me. But that is a double edged sword, because I am often disappointed by the next couple of books as I am judging them against the first that I thought was so great. So, I often try to give a good amount of time in between ending the first and starting the next so that I can judge the other books in the series more objectively. For example, it took me nearly a year to read all of Catherine Spangler's Shielder series. And, probably at least 6 months to read almost all of Ruby Lionsdrake's Mandrake Company series ( I still have the last one to read).

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    1. That sounds fair, too. Not how I work, but to each his own.

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  3. Yeah, if I like an author, then I want the next book to BE by that author, not someone else. I've enjoyed the books of yours that I've read and have the rest on my TBR, so yeah, I like series. :-)

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    1. Rest assured I'll never have a franchise ;)

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  4. Luckily with the series that I've enjoyed, there has mostly been consistent wow factor writing, such as Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. One exception is Lora Leigh's Breed books, which have got better and better. Instead of focusing only on the featured couple and their relationship, the bigger picture has been developing more with with each book, which provides the reader with much more engagement with all of the past and present main characters.

    One exception to your last example imo, Greta, is the books written by other authors under the banner of Isaac Asimov and his robot 3 laws premise. The authors, although clearly not Asimov, have done a creditable job continuing Asimov's (much missed) legacy.

    I always used to wait until I had all the books in a series and then read them all back-to-back. More and more series now seem to be never ending, so this approach isn't practical anymore.

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  5. Like you all, I'm a big fan of series, especially series with "companion" books set in the same universe, but featuring new romantic couples each time: Nalini Singh's Psy-Changlings, J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed, and others. That's what I'm going for with my Interstellar Rescue series, hoping I can hook readers on the premise of the world I've created, then giving them characters they can't resist.

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  6. I'm a big fan of some series, others not so much. In fact, I'm a chronic series non-finisher.

    The Pern novels are an example. Loved all the Dragonriders books, but when the stories veered away from the dragonweirs and into the holds and harpers, yeah, not so much my thing. I didn't read those.

    I enjoyed Linnea Sinclair's Dock 5 series where she built stories on related characters while building a history for her series. This is one series where I did read every book. I found I much more enjoyed the stories centered around Gabriel "Sully" Sullivan, and missed him in stories starring his "distant cousins" (so to speak).

    I also enjoyed Ann Aquire's Sirantha Jax series, though honestly it took some major self-arm-twisting to continue with book 2 after the heroine left the hero for dead in a scene in book 1. Not my kind of heroine. She redeemed herself in later books, but I think I only got to book 4 in this series, so I don't know how the overarching tale wrapped. I really enjoy the author's razor-sharp snarkish humor though.

    As a reader, the problem I have with many series is the stories eventually wander too far from the core concept that hooked me. In reaching for a continuing saga, the writer begins to veer away from the very elements that convinced me to pick up the books to begin with. That's when I tend to lose interest.

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  7. I love a series, but I have to read the books in order. (Just a little OCD. LOL).

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