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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Thoughts on book series

My friend Suzanne says "there's nothing like a good series."  Which I sort of agree with, and sort of don't.  When you like a book and a character, it's so sad when the book ends and you have to part company.  So it's great to be able to continue on the adventure with them in another book.  That's the obvious benefit.  But the downside is that I think it's a crutch for authors in some way.  They don't have to resolve the issues they created, because they can always return to them in another book.  Or they can ignore them and pursue other, new complications in subsequent books.  I think the pressure of a single novel forces an author to structure the story arc toward closure, and, hopefully, create a tigher narrative.

What I'm discovering with regard to series, is that I prefer to read them after all the books are written.  I've done it both ways.  I recently read 2 popular YA novels that are clearly intended as the first in (at least) a trilogy - Matched by Ally Condie and Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Both books were very good and I'm looking forward to the sequels/subsequent books.  But the wait may be long, and who knows how I'll feel about devoting the time to them, once they finally arrive.  I had this experience with the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa - when the 3rd book came out, I started it, and then took it back to the library because I just wasn't invested in the characters anymore.  With the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore, the release of the 3rd book (Bitterblue) has already been rescheduled twice, and I'm starting to hate the author and publisher for torturing me with these delays - not really the frame of mind I want to be in, when I crack open a highly anticipated story.

With many of the series that I've read all at once, including Twilight, The Hunger Games, the Poison Study series, and The Mistress of the Art of Death series, I think the continuity of reading them in relative proximitry really kept the characters, and their situations, fresh in my mind, and my heart.  And I love and recommend these series, and hold them in high esteem.

The Uglies/Pretties series by Scott Westerfeld is an exception - I read the first 2 and then ran out of steam, even though there were at least 2 more books available, and I think there's a 3rd (5th) now as well.  I liked the books, but not enough to keep reading about the same characters and situations.  I think this is what I mean about an author crutch.  I think he said what there was to say about this dystopian society in the first book, and there wasn't enough "there" there for my reading taste, to invest in continuing.  Incarceron by Catherine Fisher is also an exception - I got the sequel (Sapphique) almost immediately, but I still lost interest after a few chapters.  It's a great story, but the writing style, which I think keeps the reader a bit detached from the characters, is just not my cup of tea.



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