Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Rambling: Series

Anyone who's been reading my blog in the last couple of weeks will have been inundated in science fiction reviews, most of which are from just one series, David Weber's Honor Harrington books. And, I'm not done yet with the series, so if SF isn't your typical read, I'm sorry. However, these books did spark a couple of thoughts/questions about series.

First of all, is it possible for a series to get to be too big? I like the Honor Harrington series, but I am rather starting to wonder if/when the series is going to end. And not only are there the main books in the series, with a new one coming out next month, Mission of Honor, but there are also the two sets of spin-offs, termed the "Honorverse": the Saganami series, and the Crown of Slaves/Torch of Freedom side of the story as well, co-authored by Eric Flint - all of which are connected to the main story quite closely. And we can't forget about the anthologies of stories either. Although some of those are really good.

The other series that comes to mind as having gotten too big is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. We're at The Gathering Storm with no end in sight to the series as far as I can tell. On the other hand, I gave up on the series several books ago. Winter's Heart, I think was the last book I read. I've thought about re-reading the series, but then comes the thought "do I want to start a twelve book series with no end in sight?" followed by "a thousand pages followed only two of the main characters?". In my mind, those two thoughts are signs that a series has definitely gotten too big (at least to easily attract new readers), and may well be rather intimidating. I know I've definitely heard accusations of repetitiveness being leveled at The Wheel of Time. It's been too long since I read any of the books for me to easily say if I agree with that though.

A third thought with longer series when I've thought about reading them is "finding these in any sort of order at the library is going to be fun". Yes, that is heavy sarcasm there, but that little fact has made me think twice about picking up some otherwise promising looking series/books. Especially when trying to read out of order can leave you scratching your head.

And yet, there are some other truly massive series that I don't feel that way about at all, such as Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books or the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Possibly it's because they're made up of smaller series stretched over the course of the whole world's history, each one focussing on different characters, rather than book after book about the same characters.

What series do you think have gotten to be too big? Or am I completely off-base with my thoughts here?

The other major thing that came to mind as I started reading and reviewing my way through the Honor Harrington books is geared more towards reviewers.

Do you find yourself reviewing the series rather than the book?

To be honest, that's something I'm having to try not to do, and I'm sometimes wondering if I'm succeeding or not. Knowing that something foreshadows something in a later book, or looking at character development not in terms of this book, but in terms of the series to date. I find myself making comments about the series as a whole rather than looking at the specific book I'm trying to review.

If this is a problem for you, I'd love to know how you solve it or work around the issue. Or, do you just give in and more or less review the series as a whole?


Jenn said...

I find that when an author has the same character as the series focus, it tends to get bogged down. But if the author creates a series around different characters (such as Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, which is up to 30 books, I think...), it seems to keep the reader's (at least mine!) interest through more books.

BTW, your reviews of the Honor Harrington series have got me interested - I've placed the first book on hold at the library. It's a change for me, as I usually read more fantasy than sci-fi.

Thanks for the reviews! ;-)

Elena said...

You're quite welcome, Jenn. I rather forgot about Sherrilyn Kenyon's books when I was writing this up, but they are definitely another good example.

Hope you like On Basilisk Station and the rest.

Tahlia said...

I agree that long series can get a bit bogged down and I certianly think of the whole series when I'm evaluating them, unless one book stands out amongst the rest.

The standard Trilogy works well, I think and occaisonally 4. If they're any longer for me they have to be really good.

My own YA fantasy story was going to be a trilogy but it's ended up being 4. You can see chapter 1 on the Lethal Inheritance page of

I liker your blog. It's wonderful to find all these likeminded people from all over the world


Tahlia said...

whoops. I left the p off my blogsite URL

Here it is again. It'd be great to hear what you think of my ch 1.


Elena said...

I'll check it out, Tahlia. Thanks for commenting.

Chad Hull said...

"First of all, is it possible for a series to get to be too big?"

I was say yes. I almost feel to the point where it is a flaw on behalf of the author if they need more than one book to tell a story. (Though I hypocritically read books in a series from time to time but they generally scare me away for reasons you've mentioned and others.)

I'm anything but a snob when it comes to fiction but I do wonder why books generally placed in the horribly named genre of 'literary fiction' never need more than one book to tell their story. Can you imagine, Life of Pi, Lolita, or Beloved as one of three?

I don't think you're thoughts are off base at all. (In part because it's fun to find a fellow like-minded thinker.)

As for reviews, I reviewed Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn in three parts, but didn't really care for the way it came out. Unless a book is self contained and not dependent on what came before in the series I don't think I'll be reviewing such works in the future (e.g. James Clavell's Asian Saga).

Great Blog

Elena said...

Thanks for your comment Chad. Definitely some food for thought there.

I have to add another thought that came to mind on series. When there start to be too many various plot-lines/points of view in each book. At the point of In Enemy Hands, there's Thiesman, the PRH government, White-Haven, Honor herself (and I'm only four or five chapters in).

J.R. Ward took that approach in Lover Mine as well. I generally find there's at least one point of view/plot thread that doesn't catch my interest at all.


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