I’ve been thinking a fair bit about reading series lately. That’s been a good chunk of my recent reading (or listening, as the case zdmay be) and I thought this would be a good time to get some of my randomish thoughts on this down.

What I’m going to do is discuss two topics relating to series. For the first I’ll also list what I consider the pros and cons, from both a reader’s perspective and from a writer’s perspective. For the second, I don’t think it can be broken down that easily but we’ll see.

  • Avoiding starting a series until it’s complete and all the books are available.

Reader Pro – Obviously the main benefit here is that you can marathon the entire series without having to wait X number of years to know how it turns out.

Writer Pro – By reading the series in one go you can follow the development of plot lines, see foreshadowing and appreciate the groundwork much easier.*

Reader & Writer Con – Actually I can think of two cons here, both of which can result in the series never being finished

  1. The first is that you run the risk of the author dying before the work is done. The Wheel of Time series had to be finished by Brandon Sanderson following Robert Jordan’s death and Stephen King has said that following his accident he was nature if he would ever finish The Dark Tower. In both cases, a slightly different outcome would have left those series in limbo.
  2. Assuming that the series in question isn’t being written by someone the likes of King or Jordan, not reading the initial books may mean that publishers are reluctant to commission sequels. I’ve heard that many authors, even those with established careers, can have difficulty getting approval if sales are too low. True, this may be less of an issue now but it still exists.

* Of course, the way around any of this, which I’m sure many of us do with the series that we’re attached to, is to read the books as they come out, then re-read the previous instalments before starting the new one. Which leads me rather neatly into my next scenario.

  • Sometimes, even if you’re still enjoying a series, you just need to take a break from it.

Maybe it’s just me getting older, and I am a very old man at this stage, but it seems like there’s a limit on how many books in the same series I can get through before I want to switch to something else.

It’s not that I don’t like what I’m reading, or don’t want to know how things turn out, it’s just that I need something different. Of course, there has been the odd time where I’ve bailed out on a series completely, either because I didn’t like the characters much anymore or because the style of writing began to grate on me, but for the most part, I have come back to the books after I’ve had a little bit of time away. If you’ll forgive me using a food simile here; you might really like pizza but you can only have it so many nights in a row before you start craving something else.

As I said above, I don’t think this one lends itself to the same kind of analysis as my first point but I couldn’t really separate the two in mind so, for better or worse, here they are. Any thoughts?


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