I recently read and really thoroughly enjoyed C.J. Cherryh’s latest book in the Atevi series, Intruder. It’s book thirteen in the series, and I’m not actually sure it’s a book at all. It would be an impossible place to start reading, and it would little sense to a new reader — this is a very complex world and a lot of things have happened in the previous twelve volumes. But more than that, excellent as Intruder is, it’s not complete in any sense. It has a beginning and a middle and an end, sort of, but it’s not only looking back to the previous volumes it’s also reaching forward to forthcoming volumes. A lot of this book is set-up for what’s coming. It has plot, but it’s not the plot of this book so much as it’s some plot as part of a much wider arc. The first six books of this series are self-enclosed, they have volume-completion. Subsequent to that what you’ve got is not so much a book as a chunk of an ongoing story that fits conveniently between covers.
Thinking about this led me to thinking about another book I thoroughly enjoyed but which is much more a chunk than a novel, George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons. And this led me to think about series again.