Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme in which we answer a question about books or reading.
This week’s meme is: Series? Or Stand-alone books?
The very short answer: Yes!
But actually I’m a bit conflicted…
When I find a series I love, I hate for it to end. I’m a fan of many series: Bujold’s Vorkosigan-saga, Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Butcher’s Dresden Files, Willis’ time travel books, Pratchett’s Discworld series, Marsden’s Tomorrow series, Le Guin’s Earthsea and Hainish cycle, and several others. I love the characters and the universe and the whole package, and it’s a joy to get back to it with each new installment.
Then sometimes I read a good book, discover that it’s the first in a series, and feel let down. I was ready for it to end and not for it to be a series. Even more so if the next book in the series aren’t as good as the first one, then it feels like the characters have been let down. I absolutely loved the The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway and was quite pleased that it wasn’t the first in a series (I hope). I also loved The Lies of Locke Lamora and didn’t mind it being the first in a series, but felt let down by number two and hope I like number three more. I really hope the author at some point reveals who built the towers in the city, but the series is planned for seven books… I also loved the first book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, got increasingly frustrated during book two and are gritting my teeth through book three.
On the other hand, sometimes I read a stand-alone book and yearn for it to be the first in a series. I’m not an easy customer to please… (can’t remember any examples right now, but I know they are there)
Then again, series are different. Some follow one main character through several books while others are set in the same universe but centres on different characters from book to book, like many of the books by Charles De Lint, Connie Willis, Ursula K. Le Guin and Terry Pratchett. I quite like that. Those books provides much of the freshness of stand-alone books while also providing the comfy familiarity of a series you know and love.
I also like it when a series take an unexptected turn and throw in some surprises. I loved it when I realised that the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey really was science fiction and not “just” fantasy, I have a great time when Bujold let other characters observe Miles and share their thoughts about him with us, I actually enjoyed what Jim Butcher did to Harry in Changes (review forthcoming) and think that makes the series more intersting again.
My biggest grudge when it comes to series is that they take so much time. When you get into a series it has a tendency to take over a lot of reading time, so I feel that I miss out on many good stand-alone books because I’m so immersed in different series.
Overall I think there are too many series these days, particularly in YA fantasy. I see so many of my big-reader-students only reading series and I know they are missing out on many great stand-alone books or common-universe-different-protagonists-books that they never give a chance or has time for because it doesn’t belong to a series.