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Not Enough Life for Too Many Book Series

It seems that lately every time I pick up a book I get mired in a book series—this has happened inadvertently with the last two books I’ve stumbled upon. I finished Camille Läckberg’s The Stonecutter last week, a very satisfying mystery, but when I later went to look up background information on Läckberg, I found out that The Stonecutter is a book midway through her Fjällbacka series. I put the first two series books on hold at the Brooklyn Public Library, but I know it’s wishful thinking believing that I’ll get to these novels before their due dates. On my bedroom floor is the new Jo Nesbø book from the Harry Hole series to review, the first of the George R.R. Martin series, and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, a book I just picked up that I discovered is the first part of a series.

I’m not surprised by detective series; this is part of a long-standing tradition started by the originators of the detective story, Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. And even Arthur Conan Doyle got sick of his Sherlock Holmes character and tried to kill him off, but his readers wouldn’t let him. I am weary of seeing this trend in other things that I’m reading, though. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a young-adult coven novel that I’m about one hundred pages into, and I just found out that it’s a series book from the friend who gave it to me. Instead of joyously ripping through the book as I had at the start, I find myself going through the pages more slowly and evaluating the characters. Do I like them enough? Am I willing to commit myself to these people for nine hundred-plus pages?

Writers seem to be going more toward series for monetary reasons and to guarantee book contracts. I went to see British writer Glen Duncan read from his book Talulla Rising about a female werewolf, of which there are far too few stories, in my opinion. While sitting there listening, I discovered that Talulla Rising is second in a werewolf trilogy, and I’m leery of picking up the second book without having read the first, afraid I’ll have missed important parts of the story. When Duncan was asked whether he intended for his first werewolf book The Last Werewolf to be part of a series, he said, “I just wrote the book in the hope that somebody would pick it up. I told my agent at the time to pitch it as a trilogy, because well, if somebody was going to be dumb enough to buy one…” He meant this jokingly, but I really think the book industry is pushing this following the popularity of the Harry Potter series and others, hoping that lightning will strike two or five or eighteen more times.

Once Duncan’s trilogy pitch was accepted, he said, “I had not mapped out books two and three really in any way…after I finished the first book. That was sort of hastily scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet when the publisher got around to asking what this trilogy was going to be. I had the sense that it could be a trilogy, but it wasn’t until I actually made a deal, a three-book contract, that I kind of sat down in a sense of shock and thought, Oh right, now I have to write two more of these.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to you, Talulla Rising. I can handle a comic book series where the reading time is far shorter, and a movie that is part of a series is usually only a two- or three-hour time commitment. I can do a few TV series, but I have to be choosy with those. I don’t like to follow more than two or three series at a time. A book, though, is a much larger time commitment—just one can take twenty or more hours to read. I can usually get through a book a week, and if I were to follow through on all of the series books that I’ve picked up this year, the rest of the year’s reading would be planned out for me with no room for surprise. And I don’t want a fabulous character like Erica Falck or Patrik Hedstrӧm to take up residence in my head and then become like an annoying neighbor who won’t leave.

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2 responses to “Not Enough Life for Too Many Book Series

  1. Alison Vesper ⋅

    Wow! My sentiments exactly! I recently had the same conversation with my husband about series books. You probably have more time to read than I do. I manage to get through a book a week right now, but it’s summer & I took off from college to get a break. I go back in about 2 weeks & any fun reading will probably be put on hold again until I get my degree hopefully in the spring. :o( It makes me sad because I am reading 4 different series right now. I am almost caught up to most of the author’s writing speeds lol. I am hoping to knock out 4 books in the next 2 weeks so it won’t bother me so much that a new book is out & I need to read it. I am enjoying the George R. R. Martin series but I have a long way to go to finish that one. I am pacing myself & enjoying each book just before the new season of the HBO series Game of Thrones starts so I can watch that & balance it with what I read in his books. I finished all but the last Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris & am disappointed this year with the way HBO took the True Blood show so far from the story lines of the books. I also read all but the last Laurell K. Hamilton’s preternatural series about Anita Blake (vampires, were animals, faeries, & all kinds of other creatures) & her other Faery series about Merridith Gentry. Those are both good if you like the “mommy porn” type genre. Once a series gets to about 13 or 14 books, the stories seem to follow a pattern in my opinion. The details may be different but not much else changes. I recently read the Shades of Grey series & enjoyed that, but I am not one who likes to always read about sex. I like to read good stories & envelop myself in the characters & the emotions that run through a book. It gets to be boring to me to read a sex scene every third page & that seems to be the way of a lot of books I have noticed recently. It seems that publishers have realized that sex sells & they push so much of it into the market, it can be a challenge to find something that doesn’t end up being an “X”rated romance novel! I have learned that when I see a book I think I might like to read, I have to do a little research first & make sure it isn’t part of a series, or if it is, whether I want to invest in that series. I recently read some Ray Bradbury & realized I like his work very much, so I want to read everything I can find by him. Authors don’t write like they used to, so older books draw my eye & call my name. You are right that starting a series can lock down a person’s reading list for the rest of a year or more! I have discovered that trying a new author will do the same thing for me :o/ I already know what I want to read next & try to stay out of book stores & avoid looking at book shelves at the supermarket for fear I will spot something intriguing. I hope you will have plenty of time to finish up all the series you have on your list! Hugs to you!

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    • I tried the Stackhouse series but thought it was a little goofy and didn’t want to commit. I picked up a Laurell K. Hamilton book, but it was midway through the series and didn’t work for me. I do edit a lot of series books, too, so that might prejudice me a bit. So many things you have to be aware of in a series book, and I hate endings that are rushed with a “to be continued” feel.

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