Wed
Jul 30 2008 12:15am

Re-reading long series

I'm re-reading C.J. Cherryh's Atevi books; expect a thoughtful post about them in a few days. There are nine of them, and another three promised, which makes them one of the longer SF series around. I was thinking, as I made my way through book 2, Invader, that there are some things about a long series, any long series, that are quite different from an individual novel, perhaps in the same way an individual novel is different from a short story.

A novel is one story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Diane Duane's Door Into... books, when people are going to tell a story they begin, where we'd start "Once upon a time," with the formula "This is the story of /whatever/ and this is the way I tell it." I find it quite useful myself to think of that as the unwritten first line of any novel, because knowing what story it is and how I tell it is a very useful thing. The Iliad starts off with "Sing Goddess, of the wrath of Achilles" and the story you get is the wrath of Achilles, not the whole saga of the Trojan war--it begins ten years into the war, with the reasons for Achilles's wrath, and ends when he stops being angry, with Troy still unfallen. Next of Kin is the story of how Leeming single-handedly won the war against the Lathians. Citizen of the Galaxy is the story of how Thorby learned to be a free man. Random Acts of Senseless Violence is the story of how Lola and her world went to hell together...and so on.

But when you have a long series, it isn't like that. There are artifacts of publishing where one story gets spread over multiple volumes (Charlie Stross's The Family Trade and The Hidden Family, or The Lord of the Rings for that matter) but I'm not talking about that. There are also very long series, like Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars books, where you have one very long story in separate volumes that have individual narratives but aren't really separable. I'm not talking about that either, though that's interesting and I might talk about that some other time. And you get things like Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution books or Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias where the different parts stand alone but comment on each other, which is also really nifty, but not what I want to talk about.

What I'm talking about is something like Cherryh's Alliance/Universe or Atevi books, or Brust's Vlad books, or Bujold's Miles books, or Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin books, where you have individual books that each tell a story and can be read alone, but each book is part of a longer history, and the books illuminate each other and the longer story and the way that is told begins to emerge as the series progresses. It isn't Achilles's wrath but the whole Trojan War, but it isn't a rambling set of anecdotes either, it's a lot more like a whole mythology.

The length itself has something to do with it. I always feel that re-reading a series like that is like embarking on a voyage, because you have many volumes in front of you. When you set off, you know you're committing yourself to a long time in the world, you're launching yourself into something you know is good and absorbing and is really going to last. I love that feeling, when you step again into that universe, knowing what happens, knowing the long road you have to go along before you reach the end--or the present end. When a series is still ongoing, I usually re-read it when a new volume comes out. Then there's a lovely sense that the new volume is waiting there at the end for me, that I can sail happily through the known waters with unknown waters ahead. I re-read the whole Vlad series in preparation for Dzur, and may well again for Jhegaala. Ooh! What a treat!

When I do this, of course, one thing I really notice is any minor inconsistencies. I used to have a problem understanding this. If I could see them, why couldn't the author see them and reconcile them? If I could launch myself into the universe and re-read so happily, why couldn't the author? Since then, I have written series myself, and now I am far more sympathetic. Re-reading one's own work is unlikely to bring the same warm glow of trusting yourself to the words on the page and the world they create. And remembering one's own work, one remembers what one meant to do and the broad sweep of intent, not every detail of what one actually put down. Oh well. 

I also notice the felicities of connection that I might have missed before. This minor character will become a major character several books later! This antagonist will become a friend, and this friend a traitor. (Cherryh
 is particularly good at this.) Also, you can really appreciate set-up. Through nine Vlad books, Brust mentions Valabar's as a wonderful restaurant, but before Dzur we never see it.

It isn't just seeing details, though. I think there's a way that a quantitative difference becomes a qualitative difference. Really long series can do different things. Partly the difference is just a case of having longer to build your spear to drive home your spearpoints. If the reader has lived with the characters for a long time and knows them really well, a line like "Ivan you idiot, what are you doing here?" can bring tears to their eyes. (Bujold's Memory. Read the other seven books first.) The same goes for Dorothy Dunnett's Pawn in Frankincense, where I've known several people who have read only that book not be knocked over by the events at the end, whereas people who have read from the beginning of the series (it's book four) reliably are.

Beyond all this, in a long series we have history. This can be the ability to give a historical perspective--Cherryh's Alliance/Union books are brilliant at that. because they're written from different angles on a long history. But even books that use the same points of view can do it--we see history change in the Miles books and in the Atevi books. We see people go from being a glint in someone's eye to viewpoint characters in a length of time that feels emotionally long enough for that to happen. In a really long series, there's time for characters to really grow and change in a way that doesn't feel rushed or forced. And in SF, as we've noted before, the world is a character. So there's time and space for the world to grow and change. The world growing and changing is what history is, and seeing it happening before our eyes is a wonderful thing that provides a new and fascinating kind of perspective.

32 comments
Tex Anne
1. TexAnne
I haven't read the Cherryh series. Is she writing it in chronological order? What do you think of the differences in writing a series that way (à la O'Brian) vs. not (à la Brust)? And do you reread the Vlad books in publication order, or Vlad's-biography order? (I've done both, but I prefer publication order.)

(I don't understand why I'm getting an ellipsis on preview.)
David Goldfarb
2. David_Goldfarb
That's a very curious coincidence: I have a friend whom I loaned my copies of Farthing and Ha'Penny a while ago, but she hasn't read them yet because she decided to re-read that very series.
Matthew Smith
3. djfoobarmatt
A couple of friends were lending me the Aubrey/Maturin books and I recently recalled that in these books nothing seems to happen yet they are compelling. What I mean is that the books just detail a series of events that happen on a given voyage but don't seem to amount to anything. Having read the first two Atevi books, I can see what you mean about the similarities although the Atevi books do have a problem / resolution pattern at least.

I don't know if this is correct terminology but I think of books as plot based or character based. Character based books can be frustrating or boring to read if you're not in the right frame of mind. What I like about Cherryh and O'Brian is they manage to strike a good balance between giving you some action and "texturing" the characters and setting.
Ray Radlein
4. RayRadlein
When a series is still ongoing, I usually re-read it when a new volume comes out.

Heh. My wife does that as well. Between the fact that some of the series she reads (Discworld, Pern, etc) are getting fairly long in the tooth, and the fact that she doesn't read as fast as I used to (back when I could read), there would seem to be some kind of upper limit on how many series she could read that way; but if so, she has yet to approach it.
Brenda Cooper
5. brendacooper
I just finished reading the George R.R. Martin fantasy series - the one that includes A STORM OF SWORDS etc.
It held up pretty well.
I did find that I was less excited about the last book (A FEAST FOR CROWS) when I got there, and could put it down more easily than the others. I think that was more about having plowed through 2000 or so pages of similar writing in close to one sitting...I'm looking forward to the next one coming out.
I did like way re-reading the whole series without a stop let me see the resonance between books more clearly.
Iain Scott
6. iopgod
Re: Rereading in anticipation of a new book: I find it depends on the series. Bujold, for example, I have reread so often and I know the books so well that I dont feel the need to start from the beginging every time.. others, like Jordan, have series which require rereading just so that I remember the characters, let alone the plot!
Gabe Carr
7. Okorikuma
Mr. Pratchett is particularly brilliant at disguising sequential Discworld novels as something more like one-offs. If any "Previously on: Rincewind"-type information is needed, it's integrated so seamlessly into the narrative that a newcomer might not know it's not an introduction to those characters and settings, even if the book in question is well into their development. I'm guessing this might make the series notably newcomer-friendly. Then again, I've been reading Discworld fairly continuously for the last decade, so I shouldn't really say how a newcomer would find it.

But if new additions function that well independently, it might obviate re-reading previous books as a catch-up, as if anyone really needs that as an excuse. I haven't read any of the series mentioned above-how do they rate for the old in medias res?
Jo Walton
8. bluejo
TexAnne: The Atevi books are being written in chronological order. Each individual volume has a story, each set of three books has a story, and the nine books so far are part of a story.

Pamela Dean said you shouldn't read the Patrick O'Brian books out of order if you normally read the chapters of a book in order. Nevertheless, I read them out of order pretty much randomly, and for months put myself to sleep at night working out the event order. I've since re-read them three times in order, and I agree they're better that way. You really shouldn't read the Atevi books out of order!

With Vlad I read in publication order, ever since _Dragon_ made chronological order impossible. I used to alternate.

I alternate with Anthony Price. I read the Dryco books in chronological order always, though I have done it in publication order once, because Emmet kept saying there was a benefit to that.

I think -- I meant to put this in the post but got sleepy and forgot -- there's a thing with pacing of revelation in long series. Vlad illustrates this very well. When you find out the thing you find out in _Orca_ it works much better if you've read all the other books first so that when everything rearranges in your head it's a whole long line of dominoes going down. In the Atevi books you find out something about two of the main characters in book 4 which makes you reassess everything about them.

And this sort of thing makes me wonder how much the author knows in advance, to do set-up such a long way back. Personally, I am always dying to get all the cool stuff out there, and I find keeping it back really hard. I don't know how Brust managed to keep certain things to himself for so long, and no doubt he has others up his sleeve. That's awesome. Part of me thinks it would be such fun to do that, but I know another part of me would hate to wait.
Francis Turner
9. FrancisT
Coincidentally I just reread the Vorkosigan books starting with Memory (and ending with the short Winterfair Gifts) and I find that they make a very pleasant story arc, despite "Ivan you idiot" - although of course this time because I remember the earlier books it's a bit different. However, this is actually a series I started in the middle of (Komarr then A Civil Campaign then Diplomatic Immunity before going back and reading the rest), it worked very well because there was enough information to guide the new reader along but not so much that you knew what happened in earlier books (or that readers of the earlier books got bored).

I think the trick is to slip in the infodumps in small fragments and only with the minimum amount of information.

Either Bujold or Eric Flint (or possibly a bit of both) have talked about a series needing multiple story arcs of different sizes so that you have a grand "whole series" arc, a smaller 2-3 books arc as well as a single book arc.

I think this is another key to a good series: it should have entry points that make sense even if you missed book one. Given the way that bookshops often seem to omit book 1 and 2 of a 6 volume series because they are "too old" (publishers letting book 1 go out of print don't help either) this is a really good thing.

I'll also note that some authors seem to screw this multi-arc thing up and omit the single volume arc so you end up at a cliff-hanger waiting for 9 months or more for the next book to come along. After being bitten by this a couple of times (David Weber, Peter Hamilton this means YOU) I've been very careful to read reviews before plunking down the cash for a book which is noted as book 1 or 2 of a series. The problem seems to be more acute in book 2 I think. Book 1 is quite often written as a stand alone. Then if it sells well so the publisher asks the writer to write 2-3 more books in the series. Author now has the space to extend and so come up with the larger scale arcs and kind of forgets that he needs to come up with a suitable conclusion to the intermediate book(s).

And don't get me started on filler books in the middle of series where nothing important happens (names omitted because we all know some of them)
Marissa Lingen
10. Mris
A month ago I took all of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels over to my parents' house and thumped them down on my mother's to-read shelf. The next time I talked to her, she said she was done with Busman's Honeymoon, and which one should she read second?

Sigh.
Dave Rutt
11. rutty
And don't get me started on filler books in the middle of series where nothing important happens (names omitted because we all know some of them)


Well, I'm naming one of the worst offenders: Book 10 of the Wheel of Time. Robert Jordan (Rest in Peace) will remain one of my favourite authors but that book was probably one of the most boring reads I've ever had. It just seemed to be entirely for setting the resolution to the series in the final two books.

This kind of put me off reading long series. I loved the earlier books but you got the impression that perhaps there was too much storyline going on (and far, far too much haberdashery!)

Henceforth I really don't want to launch myself into a lengthy story arc, despite the obvious advantages mentioned in the article.
Jessica Reisman
12. jwynne
I love those Atevi books, and Cherryh's Alliance/Union books; I also loved Duane's Door Into Fire, and I too rarely hear people talk about any of these books. (I also very much appreciated your thoughts on the non-problem of the singularity as it relates to sf novels very much.)
Alison Scott
13. AlisonScott
@rutty: I have low tolerance for series as a rule, and the Wheel of Time is perhaps the most shocking example of this; I loved the first book, quite liked the second, started to get irritated during the third and gave up the fourth part way through in disgust because of the obvious lack of Big Story Arc movement. Others' mileage may vary. That was many years ago (ten?) and since then, I have been inherently skeptical of both big books and series and intolerant of reading the same book twice, no matter how entertaining the individual pages.
bronxbee
14. bronxbee
i always *swear* i'm not going to start a series until all the books are out -- but that never works out. (case in point, jo walton's latest series... i *had* to read "Farthing", which, of course led to "Ha'Penny" and now i'm bouncing up and down waiting for "Half a Crown"...not available until OCTOBER!).

and i used to do the whole "re-reading the series thing" but i find that my list of books to read grows longer and longer, and my time gets shorter and shorter and so now i'm saving some of those re-reads for the nursing home, 50 years from now. as for the Miles series -- that's my exception to the rule. sometimes i re-read the whole series and sometimes i just pluck one from the shelf and read it ("Memory" seems to be the one i pick most often) and i would to all the S/F gods that are that LMcMB would write another one -- i'd love to know what happened to Mark and Ivan and the Koudelka sisters and all the rest (though no dying -- i really don't want any of the characters dying). Bujold's genius was that she had multiple story arcs, and also had "satelite books" in the same universe. i love her fantasy books, but they're just not in the same league as Miles for emotional content.

in any event, now i have to go and read all the rest of Jo Walton's books... as well as anxiously waiting for the wrap up to the 'Eye of the World' series ... what they need though is a good companion volume to bring us up to date before the last book.
Russ Gray
15. nimdok
I've only read one of the Atevi novels, but there wasn't enough to grab me so I didn't look for more of the series. Maybe I should look at it again.

I do like C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union novels, though. Probably the best book in that sequence is Cyteen. It's a great standalone book and it fits in with the larger universe of the stories.

I won't comment on the Wheel of Time except to say that I gave up on it at book 6 and stopped reading it entirely at book 7. Excellent start, terrible follow-through. Hundreds of pages of different characters talking to themselves in italics, with the plot remaining basically stationary from one book to the next. Very disappointing.

Another good example of stories in an interlocking universe is the Instrumentality stories by Cordwainer Smith. Many of the stories are inconsistent with each other or relate different aspects of the larger picture, but - given the story arc covered more than 10,000 years some inconsistencies are to be expected.

Alistair Reynolds' books and stories in the Revelation Space universe are pretty much all excellent. He said in his afterword to Galactic North that it was really hard to keep the series consistent, and that there were huge constraints on writing a series of consistent stories. The details of the previous stories tended to reduce what could happen later.

I can't think of other multi-book series I've read recently. I usually won't start a series at book one until a couple more books are out and the reviews say they're worth reading. I've been burned too many times by a brilliant first book, OK second book, and drivelly third.
Arachne Jericho
16. arachnejericho
A long series is difficult to get right. Writing just 50,000 words can have many traps for the unwary; writing 100,000 is even worse; writing seven books of 150k each is really asking for trouble unless you're really, really good at the story-telling thing.

From what I've read from interviews with the authors of various series, from Harry Potter to GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire, the planning is long and weary, but the details can change. And throw off the rest of the arc, but you have time to correct the long-running arc; it's being as consistent as possible and taking into account the magnifying effect of small decisions as you continue.

Some of them plan the details for years (Rowling and GRRM are good examples), and some plan the big arcs and are not quite so detailed in the first, over-arching plan (Jim Butcher, maaany mystery series) though they may plan each book carefully. The "plan every detail for years" turns out series like Lord of the Rings: they end. Eventually. Usually after a single digit number of books.

The other way leaves enough things open-ended such that the series can continue for many more books, usually hitting the double digits.

There is a relationship between series and serial work. I haven't really thought about the effects of the serial, but that's another matter entirely.
Arachne Jericho
17. arachnejericho
Note: correction above:

"; it's being as consistent as possible and taking into account the magnifying effect of small decisions as you continue that's the real struggle."
bronxbee
18. Martin Wisse
I'm currently in the process of re-reading all of the Dorothy Sayers Wimsey novels in chronological order and it feels exactly like Jo describes here.
JS Bangs
19. jaspax
Oddly enough, I haven't read any of the other series that people have talked about in this thread. The ones that come to mind of this type are L.E. Modessitt's Recluce novels and LeGuin's Ekumen novels and short stories. The latter I love; the former I read because a friend wanted me to, but I couldn't really get into them.
Patrick Shepherd
20. hyperpat
Having just finished Brust's Jhegaala a couple of days ago, I think I can properly say that this one will be greatly aided by re-reading at least a few of the earlier works first. There are quite a few references to earlier happenings, and they are important to Vlad's reaction to current events, so if these earlier happenings are somewhat fuzzy in your brain from having last read the earlier books years ago, you are going to miss some important context. That said, it's probably possible to read this one in isolation without being totally confused, but neither will it resonate with the reader in the way it was intended to.

Brust does do a good job of building a much larger picture of Vlad and his world through multiple books than appears in any one of them, and it's a fascinating world. It's also one of the few fantasies I've read that does a reasonable job of actually having both a working economy and a political organization that is not just a medieval serf/lord rehash. This is one extended series that really does work.
Ray Radlein
21. RayRadlein
@FrancisT: I'll also note that some authors seem to screw this multi-arc thing up and omit the single volume arc so you end up at a cliff-hanger waiting for 9 months or more for the next book to come along. After being bitten by this a couple of times (David Weber, Peter Hamilton this means YOU) I've been very careful to read reviews before plunking down the cash for a book which is noted as book 1 or 2 of a series.


I think that, for my money, the all-time champion of that has to be Roger Zelazny's The Guns of Avalon. I mean, there is a nice single novel arc/double novel arc ending to the story, it just doesn't coincide with the end of the book, is all.
bronxbee
22. Clark E Myers
"...it's a lot more like a whole mythology."

Is that the definition of a series? one that asks the mythology be refreshed and at hand? Or is that a common element that makes a writer a favorite?

Is War and Peace a greater story than the Red Badge of Courage for going on and on and on and needing a list of characters?

I'm reminded of seeing The Alexandria Quartet (in paperback so not properly cataloged) shelved as SF - on the actually useful assumption that tetralogies are mostly SF.

On the one hand I'd say the Savage family by John Masters are related but not a series as described here - rather a stretch to get them all into one family - on the other hand I can't disagree that A Dance to the Music of Time is related. Nero Wolfe is a series I think but the early books in the mythology - Red Threads say - are hard to find and perhaps elder gods?

I'd say Andre Norton in many of her books - especially before Witch World - has a shared mythology in books that share little else but I have no notion that order matters or what such an order might be.

Any thoughts on series - e.g. Future History - where some stories - We Also Walk Dogs technology - drop out of the timeline?

Certainly given a fix-up from previously published shorter pieces I read it from the beginning but I'm not inclined to read novels of the length common today from the first book over and over simply because I am about to read the next.

I'd love to find a huckster at Denvention selling The Karres Ventures - Schmitz not Flint - and would surely read Witches of Karres again first so I suppose for my sins I don't find the books any more worth rereading simply because extended but perhaps no less?
bronxbee
23. Ymarsakar
Vernor Vinge's Fire in the Deep series, which is only one or two or three books, was very nice as stand alones.

http://sennadar.plebian.net/

Has up the Firestaff series, which is what I wanted Wheel of Time to be. Now that Brandon Sanderson is doing the work for finishing WoT, I believe you can trust him to give you a nice finish. I'll read that book, if for no reason other than that I'd like to see where Brandon takes it. And I also like his philosophy and novel themes.

I'll check up on the Atevi series since I really like series that are also stand alones. I want some "pay outs" at the end of every book. I don't want to wait on huge cliff hangers that begin, continued, and never ended. Cliff hangers are okay with me, but the primary story arch has to be finished, the arc that the story started with and just keep hitting over and over.

Like Elantris. Or Mistborn 1. If it took forever for the FInal Empire to get resolved, like say 6 books, why would I wait for six books and put that effort in to just see the end to one story arc? It's not worth it.

Much more value the way Sanderson did it.

David Weber's Off Armageddon Reef was also good example of that "stand alone series starter" novel people referred to.

I would have preferred for Terry Goodkind to put Pillars of Creation into its own separate category or world verse, since it wasn't part of the primary series story arc. It was kind of like a side quest. Given the wait between books, there's no need to compile everything into one series.

Even though the wait time on David Weber's Honor Harrington series is immense, given his other works, I still like to read Saganami Island and Crown of Thorns, since they were side quests and obviously so. But to have marketed them as a "Honor Harrington" novel when Honor Harrington only appeared little to none in the story... would not be accurate.

Vladimir Taltos was very entertaining. Dzur and all the other books always had some kind of interesting plot difference or setting difference or thematic difference that made it very refreshing to read. The Khaavren Romances were even more funny and entertaining in some ways than Taltos.

I would love to know who Taltos's soul was, given other people's reactions to him. But since the novels never made a huge deal of it, I wasn't left hanging by the cliff. The issues they addressed primarily, were primarily resolved. That is how I like it.

And if the Atev books or other series are like that, then I'll look them up.

People have mentioned Wheel of Time and where or why they stopped reading it. Personal differences will always vary on this score, but in the end, I found WoT very entertaining in the beginning for a couple of reasons.

Just like Sword of Truth, I liked the story of a beginner rising to a higher level of power and responsibility.

The story of magic and how to utilize the system is like the story of a new branch of physics. It is intriguing to figure it out and the effects it will have on the world.

The story of the Ancients, in which the Ancients had more power and expertise than the current generation, is always gripping and captivating.

It is much like the Fall of Rome. There was a Fall from a height of civilization, and now we poor souls can no longer create what our ancestors once could.

This is captivating because it gives you the hope that the world might once again gain that glory back.

As such, it is much like science fiction where the world changes through technology. Seeing an entire world change is very satisfying, especially when you see the characters you like change with it.

All of this could be seen in the beginning of the WoT series. But all of this could be seen from beginning to end in the Firestaff series by Fel.

The end is rewarding. Every novel was rewarding. In fact, every chapter often had its own little theme that began and ended it.

The progression never stopped. Even when at the latter stages of the plot, in which it might be safe to say that heroes like Rand Al'Thor were getting close to "demi-god" status, the progress and growth of the plot, characters, and magic system kept on going. This is why I said Firestaff was what I wanted Wheel of Time to be.
M R
24. Techslave
Re: Ymarsakar
I would love to know who Taltos's soul was, given other people's reactions to him. But since the novels never made a huge deal of it, I wasn't left hanging by the cliff. The issues they addressed primarily, were primarily resolved. That is how I like it.

It was there, I think you missed it. We just don't know much about who Vlad was. Blame Aliera.

I always loved Zelazny's entire Amber series as an example of a longer piece, though there were really two main series to it as well as the sub-stories. Though there are even in the Amber novels some things which are left dangling without a satisfactory wrap-up. Think Sand, and the other lost Amberites.

Brust's Taltos novels are awesome read either in chronological or publication order, and I did the same thing as I re-read everything in preparation for Dzur and Jhegaala. But Five Hundred Years After and The Phoenix Guards hold special places in my heart - as does Brokedown Palace. They show us more of the world. Not to mention providing Verra with a telling taunt.
Brust did pull an evil trick with Dragon, but I still manage to throw semi-chronological order into it. I simply play it as a flashback - I like that he was willing to sacrifice chronological order for the story being told properly as the story.Damn you, Barrit, and your little Tomb too!

Great to see Diane Duane's "Door Into ..." series mentioned, as I feel its seriously overlooked. It makes me somewhat sad. It took years for me to find all the books, in fact, due to limits of geographical distance and monetary impediment.

I feel compelled to mention Gene Wolfe's "New Sun" books as well as the "Long Sun" and "Short Sun" works, which are all tied together universally if not chronologically, and characters appear in all three - some of them incarnated in very unexpected ways. These merit a re-read as a whole if only for the sake of better understanding.

Cherryh's worlds are very, very well written. I think most of us share an admiration there. I recently started re-reading Butcher's Dresden novels, and I feel that he has put a couple too many pans into the fire at certain points. Simple too much dangling with too little attention paint to it, at least at the moment. I do like that he allows time to lapse between the novels.

I broke off the Sword of Truth and Wheel of Time series a few books back in each. I've still the urge to buy the next George R. R. Martin, but we shall see. I feel that one problem I am seeing quite often is that the major plot arc is impossible to resolve when all the sub-stories are getting in the way. There seems to be a point at which focus is lost, and both the individual stories and the greater story start stepping on feet and crowding the dance card.
Jordan's writing style ended up poking me in the eye with too many descriptions of so-and-so's clothing or so-and-so's habits as a character. One more braid-tug. I swear.

While grand sweeping series and visions are wonderful, I often find a greater enjoyment to a story told well and swiftly. Short stories may be the most underpaid form of mastery. Has anyone else read the (most) of the collected short works of Sturgeon, published in chronological order? Its very interesting to see the progression and the underlying emotional state changes that seem to come with the stories especially as compared to Sturgeon's life at the time.

I used to enjoy serial work (Stashaff, Warlock and Wizard series. Anthony, Xanth. etc. Ad infinitum) much more than I do currently. Often there is a mid-series slump after which the series cannot or does not recover, and only inertia continues my reading until trailing out a book or three later. Serial work benefits greatly from quickly realizing its own serialization and quickly assembling into logical 'groupings' within the serial.
bronxbee
25. Ymarsakar
I feel that one problem I am seeing quite often is that the major plot arc is impossible to resolve when all the sub-stories are getting in the way.

From what I've heard about Goodkind and his plans, he already knew how he would end the major story arc in Sword of Truth series. He just wanted to tell different stories before hand. Which I am against, if it is marketed or even classified as a Sword of Truth series novel. It ain't a series novel. It's a novel set in the world, but not part of the series.

Concerning sub quest stories, I don't see why people can't do like Scalzi and complete the major story arc, then start writing about all these "different perspectived" side quest stories. Nothing stops an author, especially a successful author, from making new series or spin offs after the fact. It's not like his sales will decrease.

Jordan's writing style ended up poking me in the eye with too many descriptions of so-and-so's clothing or so-and-so's habits as a character.

It wouldn't have been so bad had it changed from one novel to another. If Perrin or the squad had gone into civil war and distrust and then came back together again, smoothed away their problems, and became more than the sum of their parts, that would be one thing. But, after awhile, it started sounding like Othello except without the satisfactory ending.

Anthony's "On a Pale Horse" series was very good. Until then, I was reading his Xanth novels and the mature setting and environment he created surprised and delighted me.

The ending novel is especially nice as it goes over the entire series timeline, just in a different perspective.

It was there, I think you missed it.

I had read the spot where they were talking about him and the chaos matter substance, but that was before I had read the Khaavren Romances. So which book in the Taltos series did a miss the exposition at?
Ian Gilson
26. iangilson
Try L.E. Modweitt JR. Recluse series. They are basically stand alone within the same univers.
Try the local library to see if you like them.
Stefan Raets
27. Stefan
I've been planning to re-read the first 6 Atevi books in preparation for the latest 3. I just need to find the time, but I know it'll be a fantastic experience. Because of the fact that the narrator is fairly clueless for a good part of those 6 books, they're books that almost have to be re-read. Must find the time....

You also made me realize I should really re-read the Alliance universe too, because I read those completely out of order when half of them were out of print, so my experience of them was a bit fragmented.

As for other long series I re-read... I went through the entire Vlad Taltos series again when "Issola" was released (gods, I hope he never stops writing). I'm also in the process of re-reading the whole Discworld series, maybe one book every 3 months or so. They're just too much fun to only read once.
Carl Rigney
28. cdr
bronxbee, Bujold is doing a reading at Worldcon from her next Vorkosigan book (YAY!), as well as from Sharing Knife: Horizons (also Yay!).

I really enjoyed reading Farthing, Ha'Penny, and Half a Crown all together, although each stood on its own very well. You are right to bounce in anticipation of Half a Crown.
Frankie Nameless
29. Frankie
Not only has this thread suggested loads of new series I want to go out and spend all my pennies on, I also want to reread Cherry's Atevi books and the Dorothy L Sayers books now. Not enough time! Grrr, evil internets...


I liked the idea about mythology. I think my personal preference is probably for the less-sequential, more totally separate books in the same universe type thing. Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe is a wonderful example of this -- the books all give you a totally different view on the universe, and each one informs how you remember/reread the others. Reading Cyteen definitely changes how you view the Alliance-centric books, at least for me.


The discworld books are I guess another version of this, although reading those in order does let you see how Pratchett's view of his world has changed as he wrote it.


@nimdok -- did you know that a sequel to cyteen is coming out next year? I'm embarassingly excited about it, though its far too long to wait.
Jo Walton
30. bluejo
Frankie: I didn't read _Cyteen_ for months because I didn't want to spend that much time in Union mindsets. The ironic thing about that is that _Cyteen_ is now one of my very favourite books, and probably the individual book that I re-read most.

I'm waiting anxiously for _Regenesis_. _Cyteen_ would be a very hard book to write a sequel to anyway, and after all this time and with the way I've read it a zillion times since 1988, it's going to be even harder. However, Cherryh is still working at the top of her form (as of _Deliverer_) so I remain cautiously hopeful.

The worst kind of book in the world, for me, is a sequel that spoils the earlier books. I hate _Xenocide_ and _Ancient Light_ disproportionately more than I would if they'd been standalone books.
M R
31. Techslave
I had read the spot where they were talking about him and the chaos matter substance, but that was before I had read the Khaavren Romances. So which book in the Taltos series did a miss the exposition at?


Ymarsakar - it was in Jhereg, Chapter 9, in the the last couple pages/page depending on the version you have. Vlad is a reincarnation of someone from far earlier than the Interrengum. Which leads to interesting speculation about how it turned as it does.
Joe Oswald
32. WolfpackJoe
@iangilson: Agree completely with the Recluce series. To find at the library though, look him up as L.E. Modesitt, Jr. Great reads.

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