Letters of Mass Construction

When Good Series Go Bad

There is nothing better than a great book. Dollar for dollar one of the best entertainment values out there. They engage your imagination. Transport you to far off places. Allow you to meet characters you may never have met in your life. The extension of a great book is when the book turns into a great series. That eager anticipation for when the next one comes out. The holding of your breath as you turn to the last page and wonder where the next book will take you. Of course, the flip side is when a series goes wrong. Where you invest countless hours into an author and their world only to abandon it before the end.

I need to start this off with a very clear statement. I respect novelists. Writing a novel is not an easy accomplishment. I can speak from first hand experience on this one. Everything I am about to write is strictly my opinion and a matter of taste. I am also aware that I am not standing firmly with most fans of the series I am going to mention. The very nature of a publisher putting out a series means it is popular. Someone cares about it. Often times passionately.

I also think who I am as a reader is important in this. I read a lot. I have been an avid reader since about fourth grade. I look forward to retiring from my teaching job not because I dislike my job but because I have so many damn books to read. I read fast and I would rather read a great book than just about any other thing in the world (I said “just about”, so don’t get all crazy on me). I also have a very sensitive bullshit meter. If books start doing things that break the rules of the world they are set in, I tend to drop them. I feel no need to complete what I have started if the book or series loses me. There are too many books out there to waste my valuable time on books I don’t like (it is why you can pretty much assume my blog will be a terrible place to come for book reviews that shred books).

I like series. I always have. I think comic books trained me to enjoy the serial nature of words from an early age. I read The Chronicles of Narnia in 5th grade. In sixth grade I read The Dark is Rising sequence. When I jumped to adult books I was all over Terry Brooks and the Shannara series. John Carter of Mars and the Doc Savage books were constant companions. I began reading Robert Parker’s Spenser books like they were my new religion. Series are wonderful.

It doesn’t stop the landscape of my reading life from being littered with the corpses of series I gave up on. There have been a lot of reasons why this happens. I stopped reading Piers Anthony’s Xanth series because I no longer felt he was bringing anything new to the table. I stopped reading Terry Brooks’ Shannara series because they all started to feel the same (this one is one that really hurts. I adored those books. I have tried to go back and read them and failed). I stopped reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books because they began to bore me. Although, I did get through seven of them before this happened.

Sometimes I can’t explain why I go away. I can remember no discerning moment where I decided to stop reading Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. I just did. I always chalked it up to taste. As in mine moved on. I finished Frank Herbert’s Dune books as a kid but as an adult I can’t stand the later books. Dune is one of the few series that has gone wrong on me twice. I loved Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert’s relaunch for a few books than it started leaving a very bad monetary taste in my mouth and I was out again.

The longer the series the more danger there is. It is a testament to Sue Grafton’s writing that I still love her alphabet mysteries. The counter to that is by the end of Robert B. Parker’s career his writing was just a shell of its former self and I bailed. Interestingly, Ace Atkins reboot has been wonderful. Far superior to the last ten books of Parker’s. I would have never seen that coming. It does however, give me a chance to bail on a series again if it goes south.

I have dropped out because it just takes so long for the books to come out. I am getting dangerously close to this with George R.R. Martin right now. Now my fellow geeklings don’t go crazy here. I know Mr. Martin is not my bitch. It doesn’t change the fact that there is a danger you will lose some of your readers if it takes an exceptionally long time to finish a series (especially when your series requires a concordance to keep track of all the characters). It didn’t help that they pulled apart book four and five. It was a terrible decision that I felt made both books a little less enjoyable. I hope someday he goes back and puts them back together.

The Game of Thrones has an interesting place in my reading history. There is a huge contingent of fantasy series that I will never finish because Game of Thrones (You can include Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch in this equation) changed the way I felt about fantasy novels. This has happened to me before. When I was a kid it was Stephen R. Donaldson and Thomas Covenant that probably helped to kill my reading enjoyment of Terry Brooks and Piers Anthony.

There are a lot of reasons why I walk away from series. I always regret it a little when it happens but I usually quickly get over it after the next great book I read. I will always be a series guy. I like immersing myself in other people’s worlds. I love the familiar mixed with the new. The revisiting of those characters you have come to care about. I love looking at my pre-order list and thinking June isn’t that far away (this is the wait time for my current favorite series The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. Come on June hurry up). My name is Christopher and I am a book addict.

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2 Responses to “When Good Series Go Bad”

  1. Revanche says:

    I have a sentimental streak a mile wide so I hate it when a series I previously loved goes south. Sometimes I go back and hate that it’s not the same as before. Someone pointed out that the Companions in the Mercedes Lackey Valdemar were state sanctioned kidnappings and now I can’t shake that thought.

    • csdaley says:

      I really hate when external things mess with your series. I usually don’t worry about an author’s politics when I read but now there are several I simply can’t read anymore because I found out way too much. I am looking at you Orson Scott Card.

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