26 October 2010

A Piece Of String

I stated reading a new book this morning - Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue. It's the first of (to date) three books in the October Daye series. Although I knew going in that the series currently totalled three books, I have no idea how many books the author has planned for the series. And I'm wondering whether that should worry me. I've read all over the blogosphere of bloggers who won't start reading a series 'until the author has finished it'. Is that because they don't want the wait between books or because they want to know what they are getting themselves into? How committed does a reader have to be when starting a book?

A good example would be JD Robb's In Death series. I started reading it knowing there were over 20 books in the series (although now there are over 30 - JD Robb is very prolific :) At the time the sheer number of books in the series didn't bother me, but I was only just discovering the various genres and the online blogs, and my TBR list had yet to spiral out of control. Would I start it now? I don't know. I've never picked up a Sherrilyn Kenyon book (apart from Night Play, which I read because I wanted to read about a heroine that wasn't a size zero). I've heard lots of people rave about the series, but...for me there are just too many books. And this isn't a conversation about standalone books and series - that's (hopefully) later this week *grin* but more about how many books (in a series) are too many? When does the size of a series start to impede your desire to read it?

So, I guess the question I'm asking is not 'how long is a piece of string?' but...'how long should a piece of string be?'.


  1. The only thing that stops me from starting a series is someone telling me that the later books aren't as good as the earlier ones. As far as I'm concerned, there's no point in starting if you're not going to read to the end, and if you know before you start that the quality suffers, why bother?

  2. Starting a series that you know is already long, is kind of scary, I agree. Even if the books are fantastic, it's such a major investment in time when you know there are all these other books piling up as well. It can be worth it (I'm glad I've taken on Janny Wurts' Wars of Light and Shadow for example, even though it is already 8 fat books) but when you don't know, it's kind of scary.

    It can be a lot easier to start a series early in even if you don't know how long it is going to be because so long as you read each new one, you can keep up. Even if a book comes out every 6 months (and a year is much more usual), you can keep up because the time investment might be a few days out of 6 months, instead of goodness knows long. Going back to J. D. Robb as your example, I'm up to date with that one, so even though there's a huge number of books in the series, I read each new one in 24 hours, so it isn't actually a huge investment for me any more. But it was until I got caught up. Knowing I could read each one fast made me ready to take on the challenge.

    I can understand why people wait for a series to finish before starting, but I can't do that because then the series wouldn't be a manageable size for me. Small bites separated out work for me better than all at once.

    Brandon Sanderson has just started a new fantasy series. I read the first three chapters that he posted online and liked it. I seriously considered trying it out. Until I found out it was going to be 10 books long and the first one is over 1000 pages with the other likely to be the same size or longer. It would take me weeks to read just one and I've got others things I want to read more. So I won't be tackling that series.

    Especially since I got sick, I make a lot of my decisions on whether or not to do something on a cost/benefit ratio, where the cost isn't monetary, but in terms of my time, effort and energy. If I don't think I'm going to get enough benefit for what it will cost me, I'm unlikely to take it on. If the benefit promises to be high, I'll take the chance.

    I'm sure I get it wrong sometimes, but I have to make a decision somehow. There are way, way too many books out there for me to read them all.

  3. My first reaction was to say the size of a series doesn't intimidate me but then as I thought about it - I haven't started Jim Butcher yet because there are 10 or 12 books that I would have to read.

    At the same time, I did plow my way through Kenyon, and Feehan....I've made it about 6 books into JD Robb.

    I am more likely to try shorter series - and I do get extra tingly when I start at the beginning of a series and I am able to keep up. :)

    Looking forward to your thoughts on this series - it is one I still need to read.

  4. I'm all over the place on this one. For years I wouldn't read a series at all, because too many series had stopped midway, leaving too many points hanging. I'd invested in them and they hadn't paid out. The market determines if the series continues.

    I will start any series with self contained books - In Death, etc. I did not buy Connie Willis new book Blackout because reviews indicated it had a cliffhanger. Now that the sequel is out, if reviews indicate the story comes to a close, I will buy both. It's the same reason I stopped watching new TV shows. There is too much media for anyone to consume, so I chose the ones that won't leave me alone and unfulfilled.

  5. I don't think I have a set of rules about it, because I've done both extremes ... started a series that already had 28+ books with book 1 (J.D. Robb's In Death series), but for some reason that didn't seem so intimidating. I don't know why. Maybe because it's more crime fiction than anything else... so each book is sort of it's own entity and not part of a continuing complex series arc? At the other end of the spectrum, I simply don't feel like starting a lot of other series that I would have otherwise been interested in if there weren't already SO many books to catch up on. Brockmann's Troubleshooters for one, St. Claire's Bullet Catchers, etc. I guess it depends on how interested I am in the series premise. Idk...

    Kenyon's DH series is a whole other ball game because I read through Acheron's book and I wanted to continue in the series, but by now have fallen so far behind that I simply don't feel like catching up.

  6. I like trilogies. :D

    I also like quint... quint... hmmm... a series of five books. Five is nice.

  7. Meredith - great point! And I must admit I sometimes hold on to certain series longer than I should (LKH) in the hope that 1) they will get better and/or 2) I'll get a resolution.

    Kerry - I'm with you on the waiting. I would rather keep up too. Getting behind...it becomes a stress to catch up, and the whole 'reading to relax' plan gets lost. Brandon Sanderson's new series is going to be 10 books? Nope. Count me out. I think very few authors can keep the high standard throughout. Janny Wurts has so far, and I too am glad I am re-reading the series.

    Mandi - if it helps, I haven't started Jim Butcher's series either, and I know my best friend is a huge fan. But...the size of the TBR and the number of books in the series...I just can't see how I will do it. It's like Kerry said, it comes down to cost-benefit :)

  8. Meoskop - I am SO with you on investing in a series (book or TV) only to have it stop midway. I was trying not to bring up the TV series The Pretender, but...it's the one that still makes me mad. (I'd add Firefly in, but I saw the whole series on DVD :) I don't think it's fair to lure readers/viewers in and not give them a resolution. Saying that, there are a number of book series that I'm currently reading where I'm not sure about endings...

    Christine - hmmm. Was thinking perhaps, like Meoskop said, that the In Death books are self-contained, so you could stop at any point and feel...reasonably satisfied, although you wouldn't know about the overall plot arc. I've read two of the Troubleshooters, but...they are quite dense books. I think that figures too - how much investment is required. I'm back to Kerry's cost-benefit, aren't I?

    Oh, and quintology?

  9. Series that go on forever annoy me. Plus I feel like a lot of series are unnecessary, even for books that I really enjoyed (like Nevermore).

    That being said, long-running mystery series don't bother me as much. I think maybe because mystery novels are so character-centric?

  10. heidenkind - in a word, yes! Interesting WRT mystery novels. Maybe because they are, as was said above, usually (mass generalization here :) complete entities even if there is an overall plot arc?