Don’t you love a series?
Before I go any further, let’s define what I mean by ‘series’; a set of books set in the same environment, often using the same characters. The world-building has been done, it’s familiar. Sometimes main characters in one book might be bit-players in another but the reader has (probably) met them before and knows who they are. Here, I’m talking about books written by the same author. A good example is Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series which started with the dragonriders and expanded to harpers and then others as the demand grew.
Crime books starring particular detectives are a stand-out example of a series. Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Adam Dalgleish, Inspector Banks etc etc etc. Grab me with one and you’ve sold me the lot.
I should point out, though, that liking a series by an author does not immediately imply I’ll like everything an author writes. Of course, there are exceptions. I’d read a shopping list if Terry Pratchett wrote it. But I have been disappointed. Ms McCaffrey’s ‘Talent’ books (Pegasus et al) left me cold and although I loved Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano and Vatta series, her award-winning novel about autism (Speed of Dark) was a dnf. This is not necessarily a reflection on the ability of the writers. At the end of the day, the contract made between the author and the reader inevitably includes the subject matter. I only bought Speed of Dark because Moon wrote it – but perhaps I should have looked a little more closely before I spent my money.
Which brings me to another type of series which is really a franchise. One of the most famous of this type is Star Wars. Since it expanded beyond the original three movies the Star Wars franchise has gone super nova. There must be at least one hundred Star Wars novels out – I don’t know, I haven’t counted. Here, the setting in particular, is as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. The characters are bit-players in a larger scene. Only the authors are different, which means, of course, the reading experience differs. I’ve read some very good Star Wars novels and some that were (imo) total rubbish. Anne McCaffrey handed on her Pern series to her son, Todd, also a writer. For me, the transition was not a great success.
And then there’s that last type of series/franchise that frankly grates on me. A lot of the Big Names such as James Patterson and Dale Brown have developed franchises. Their names are on the books in Great Big Letters. And underneath, you’ll find the by-line “with Fred Nerk”. Which means Fred Nerk wrote it. To me, that’s almost false pretences. And I avoid those books.
How do series work for you?