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?
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