Thursday, 20 January 2011

A Series By Any Other Name

Sometimes random things annoy me. Like buzzing lights in the supermarket, elevator muzak, or long queues... well, anywhere.

Now and again, I would like to rant about things that annoy me in the book world. I don't know that ranting about them will make them better, but you never know. It'll make me feel better, anyway. :-) So, here goes...

Rant time!

Here's the thing... authors of series annoy the heck out of me. Not all of them obviously. Nor do they annoy me personally. I love series. I love authors! I've got a list of favorite authors a mile long and I pretty much feel about them the way a five year old boy feels about superheroes.

But I digress. What annoys me is the way so many authors these days handle the promotion of their book series.

I can't tell you how many times I've read a question from a fan to an author asking if his or her series of novels should be read in order and the author comes back with this namby pamby answer:

"You don't have to read my books in order. Each book stands alone."


If each book stood alone it would be a stand alone novel! NOT a series!!!!! Am I alone in this belief? Possibly. Maybe I'm one of those crazy cat ladies that likes to complain about everything. Except for the part where I'm allergic to cats.

But here's the thing; even if the novels have very little to do with each other except the world in which they take place, there's a whole lot of world building that goes on from one book to the next. Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are a prime example. Pern is another. Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling world comes to mind, too, as does Meljean Brook's Iron Seas.

If the series is about the same characters, there's character building as well as world building. The relationships between the characters can progress so much from book to book, let alone the protagonist's relationship within him or herself.

Think about Janet Evanovich's hilarious Stephanie Plum novels. Can you imagine missing out on all the fun that is her crazy on-again-off-again relationship with Joe Morelli, or her ever increasing lust for Ranger?

I think not.

About the only type of book "series" I can think of that you can truly read out of order are those like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. These weren't even written by the same author but were written to a template by many in-house writers under a pseudonym. No progressive world building and zero character development. This is, of course, not the type of series I'm talking about.

It seems to be an increasingly common theme among authors of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and that sort of thing, to write a series and then claim it can be read in any order. As though they might miss out on a new reader if they don't give said reader an easy out, allowing them to avoid the tedious process of reading a lengthy series.

Some day, some where, I'd like an author to have the balls stand up and say, "Sorry folks. I've written a series. You need to read them in order if you want to know what the heck is going on. End of."

Stop the namby pamby folks. Either write a series or don't. If you write a series, promote the series as a series. There's nothing more annoying as a reader than picking up a book half-way through a series and realizing you've no idea what's going on. World building is important. Character building is important.

My opinion is than an author should be proud enough of his or her own work to label it what it is and sell it that way. Otherwise what is the point?

And just in case you're wondering, the Sunwalker Saga has to be read in order.

Rant over.

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