Bookish Topic Tuesday
So today I want to talk about book series (or is that serieses or serii?). It really is a staple when it comes to books, I know that’s especially true for me, as I tend to love a good series. It’s just something about the fact that there can be so much detail spread across several books, and numerous story arcs. And there’s always twists and turns and foreshadowing, and character development. It’s all very exciting, and sometimes within the confines of a single 400 page book, you don’t quite get the same ‘stuff’. I got thinking recently after finishing Parasite and The Waking Engine, about what a series really is. Because both of these books really just finished with the storyline unfinished, in the case of the former, it actually had a ‘to be continued’ at the end. So are the individual books in a series even books?What I’m getting at is whether or not a series is really just one long book, split up into more convenient chunks (which is definitely the case with The Lord of the Rings) or whether you can truly say that each book is a stand alone book. When it comes to the latter that’s a little tricky, because what defines a book in the first place? Is it a complete, distinct storyline within the one book? Well in the case of some series, each book has a definite storyline, which just works to the overall story line. But with some others, they just sort of end at the end of each book, like Parasite. They still have a story in the book, but it’s harder to say that it is distinct.
I guess the fun of a series is that you get part of the greater story, and you actually have time to reflect and try to theorise. That’s why series have such large followings. You can’t really get that with a single book, all you can discuss is that one book. With a series you can discuss each of the books, but you can also theorise on what is to come, and I think that’s really the joy of a good series. Despite the wait between books being antagonising, it’s a good time to try to figure out where it’ll go. And it gives you something specific to yearn for, you’ll wait in anticipation of the next one. You don’t really see people lining up for a brand new stand-alone book, but you do sometimes for a good series (Harry Potter mainly). So the series really gives time for people to really start to love the book, after all, I know that I reread a series more than a stand-alone book, because I reread before new ones, or the entire thing, and get to see so much more (in terms of foreshadowing and little things I missed) a second time around (or third, or fourth…).
But what happens is that fans get annoyed, and they start to feel entitled to getting the next book in the series. It’s all well and good for some authors to just knuckle down and write one book after another, and do a whole series in three consecutive years. But sometimes, good things take time. In the case of the Obernewtyn Chronicles there was a 9 year wait between two of the books, and right now it’s still unfinished after 27 years! So the waiting can be quite frustrating, and it can also mean that you just forget about the book, which is unfortunate. Or even worse, is that the author dies or just gives up on the series. You then never find out what happens in the end. But I put it to you, what’s worse, a bad sequel or no sequel at all? Would you rather be let down by the end of a series, or never have an end? It’s a tough question for me, and I guess no end at all is better, since there won’t be the same disappointment, and instead you’re left wondering. I think a popular example of this is the Millenium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) which was supposed to be a longer series, but the author died.
There is of course a danger, that the series gets dragged out by the author, especially once it becomes lucrative, and it starts to become flogging of a dead horse (I’m looking at you Cassandra Clare, the trilogy was fine by itself, you don’t need an extra trilogy beyond the original, and then a prequel trilogy which turns into a hexology). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing having a series spawn from a stand-alone one, with something like Ender’s Saga, where the first book could definitely just be the end.
So what do you like? A good stand-alone book or a series? Is a series just one long book, or several distinct books? Has a series ever been left unfinished for you, or perhaps it’s been dragged out too far?