Friday, January 7, 2011

Series Fatigue

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
I still remember the day when I was first introduced to Robert Jordan, author of the phenomenal Wheel of Time series now continued by Brandon Sanderson since RJ's passing. It was Christmas 1991 in College Station, TX. A friend asked me to go to the mall with her so she could pick up the latest Jordan book. I was a heavy duty reader myself, but I was stunned when she paid hardcover price. Until then, I couldn't remember ever buying hardcover. I mean, we were poor college students working as Teaching Assistants for $10k/year. I didn't have money for hardcover!

But she insisted he was worth it. To prove it to me, she lent me her copies of the first three books in the series.

Within a few days, I was back at that bookstore myself, buying my first hardcover.

Now the end of Jordan's great series is almost here. The last book is supposed to come out late this year, all of them heavy, meaty fantasy tomes. Once upon a time, I read the ENTIRE series again before his latest book was released - and then usually read them AGAIN after reading the latest to tie all the events and people together. [I did this through book seven, can you believe it?!?] I even had a notebook at one time for notes because I was trying to figure out who the Forsaken were in the Tower.

I look back now and I can only laugh at myself. I still love the series, definitely, and I can't wait for the whole journey to be complete -- but I don't read long meaty series like that any longer. Maybe I'm just getting old -- or I'm busy with children, a full-time job, not to mention this writing gig. But I can't remember characters and events. They blend together into the dreamscape in my mind, even getting confused with my own stories and other authors' until it's a wonderfully convoluted mess.

[I was discussing Legend of the Black Scorpion the other day on Twitter and guessing about who killed a major character at the end of the movie. I was sure it was this one guy -- and felt like a complete fool when my friend pointed out that the same guy had died in the previous scene. Oops. In *my* version he was still alive!]

I can't keep up any longer. I haven't read Jordan since book 10. I haven't read George RR Martin since book 3 of his latest trilogy. I quit reading Kim Harrison's series around book 3 or 4 too. I loved the stories....I just couldn't. Keep. Reading. I couldn't remember what happened in book 1. The characters got mixed up. Sigh. So I've sworn to wait until the last book comes out -- and then I'll read the series straight through one last time.

I guess I have series fatigue. So tell me, am I alone in dreading the heft of book 17 in an neverending series? Can you recommend a fantastic standalone fantasy that doesn't take years and years to release?

For me, I've loved Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana and Sharon Shinn's Summers at Castle Auburn.


  1. Joely, I'm with you. Except my burnout came at book 6. I couldn't believe that Jordon had dragged the heat problem out another volume. I was sick of everyone smoldering and the Aes Sedai being able to keep cool through the use of the Source.

    The unfortunate thing is when I finished book 5, I loved it so much that I thought I'd stay with the series as long as Jordon cared to write. But nothing seemed to happen in book 6. I did intend to buy the next book. When it came out in paperback, I went to the store, picked up a book, bought it and took it home. And I was aghast to discover that I had purchased book 6 again. All the titles had started running together through my mind.

    So I never bought book 7.

    And I never got through the 4th Martin book, either. It was a big disappointment to not encounter a single familiar character, or even a new character I liked.

    As for standalone books--J. V. Jones THE BARBED COIL is excellent. It's one of those books I reread from time to time.

    However, I'm having trouble getting through her current series.

    (Just tried to post this comment--why don't I have comments wide open, here? Fixing...)

  2. Yeah, I quit George R. R. Martin's series in the middle of book 3! Nothing GOOD ever happened to the characters I connected with. It was just bad shit, on to more bad shit on to worse shit!
    I do like JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I have sequels planned for all the books I write, but I haven't gotten around to writing any of them. I've heard it's a really good way to build a readership.

  3. Don't shoot me, but I've never read Jordan. I'm a bit wary of huge books and long series. Short, sharp and connected suits me. I do like a series, and I often end up reading every book in one, but I like a series where if you never read another book in the series, you could live satisfied with where the characters are at. I think mystery writers handle this well. Dana Stabenow and Margaret Maron spring to mind. Ah, but this is a fantasy blog. Um, Patricia Wrede and Terry Pratchett.

    I'm happily waiting on next books in series by Ilona Andrews (her Kate Daniels stories), Lisa Shearin (who knew a rock could be evil?), Patricia Briggs and I'm guessing others that Goodreads is remembering for me :)

  4. Tia, book 6 was my favorite RJ book so far - I read it straight through in less than 24 hours. Book 7,8 were a bit of a let down, so I got behind. I've bought 10,11 but I haven't read them yet.

    Wasn't that wedding in Martin's series CRAZY!?!? Pretty much every character is dead! Or presumed dead....

  5. Barbara, I read many of Ward's books too -- but I got lost after 4 or 5. The men sort of started blending together in my head!

  6. Jenny, no shooting. :-) I totally understand - RJ's books are massive.

    I've read the first 2 of the Kate Daniels series, but again, started to get lost with the wait in between series.

    Now one series that did work for me was the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks. All three books came out very close together, so I sat down and read all three in a week, back to back. That was wonderful. However, I don't often have a week where I can simply take off from writing, housework, etc. and just read!

  7. I haven't read RJ either, my husband loved the books though. He's willing to wait for paperback to finish up the series. He adores that stuff though.

    For me, it depends on the series. Women of the Otherworld is on book...12? And I have no intention to stop reading. Like Jenny said, I could stop the series after almost any of the books and have a satisfying ending (Waking the Witch being the only exception I can think of). Sure some plot threads are left out there, but they aren't HUGE.

    I'm a fan of looking at series kind of like TV shows. Even if it's a multi-book arc, there's an "end" to THIS story, even if the characters go on to another multi-book arc (each arc like a season of the TV show). But it gives readers who aren't totally into it a good stopping place without sacrificing the characters for those who still want more.

    To be fair though, WotO is the only long-term series I can think of that I keep up with. I read some others, but I'm woefully behind. *shrug*

  8. I followed RJ for several books but it was so long ago I couldn't even tell you where I left off. I did read a lot of series when I was younger Eddings, Feist, Jordan... but there are only two right now that I actively follow - Briggs' Mercy Thompson and KMM's fever series. I do like Caitlin Kittredge's Black London series too, so hmmm I guess that's three. (Maybe I'm a series fan after all.)
    I think Juliet Marillier's books are pretty self-contained even though they are listed as series.
    Then there are books like Robin McKinley's Sunshine...I got to the end of that one and ran to get the next only to find out it was a stand alone. So sad. Still hoping she writes a sequel.

  9. Seleste, I guess I would like a long-running series where the plot and characters don't come back to haunt me. e.g. there's one character mentioned in book 1 who's later a key player in book 10. That drives me nuts because I can't remember the clues and plots from that long ago! I used to love it (hence the notebook for RJ), but I just can't keep up any more.

  10. Eleri, I need to read Sunshine - it's been on my list for a long time. I loved her YA sword/dragon books.

  11. It is time for this Diana Gabaldon fan to confess: I have the hardcover of her latest (An Echo In The Bone) and it still sits on my TBR. I just don't have the oomph to go into it. Wondering when I will.


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