Posted by: Matt | January 9, 2008

Beginning a Series

Anyone familiar with fantasy novels knows that they are often part of a series. Often times a trilogy, but sometimes a series of 7, 10 or even 12. And usually the books become progressively longer so that by the end you have a novel that is 1000 pages or more. Recently I have had a problem with series books, it seems that I’ll read one but not feel like reading the next. I suppose that means the book wasn’t good enough to retain my interest. But at the same time I have really become interested in the fantasy genre again. So obviously I have a conflict here. However, it appears that I may have found a remedy.

I recently began reading Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson which happens to be the first in a 10 book series. And although I am only about 200 pages in, I think this is going to be a series I stick with. The new trend with fantasy, meaning in the last 7 or 8 years, appears to be a move toward more complex story lines with a large cast of characters, dark atmosphere and much violence. The Malazan Book of the Fallen, of which Gardens of the Moon is the first book, is no exception. (Another very popular series, which has done much to popularize this trend, is A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin; projected to be a 7 book series.) But because of its complexity, and the authors seeming unwillingness to explain much in the beginning, Gardens of the Moon is a challenging read at the start. There are unfamiliar terms galore, a twisted political landscape and a huge military campaign. But if you can get past the overwhelming newness of everything and stick with the story it will sweep you away. I’m already looking forward to continuing on with this series, and I’m not even half way through the first book. A big change from many of the series I’ve started recently…

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Responses

  1. I can certainly understand a reticence on a person’s part to get involved in these long, seemingly never-ending series. As much as I have a tendency to get really attached to characters in books I read, I am often thrilled when I find out that the most an author plans on doing is writing a trilogy. I am even more thrilled with writers whose works trend back towards the days when a 300 page novel was considered HUGE vs. today’s books where if it isn’t 600 plus pages, why publish it?

    To me the true frustration lies with authors whose series are not yet complete. Reading 4, 5, 6, 8 hundred page novels and then waiting 3 or 4 or more years for the next one is just unacceptable to me. That was the reason I quit reading Jordan’s series and now he has passed on and the last one will be written (albiet from copious notes) by another (very gifted) author. End the damn thing already!

    Another issue is editing. Rowlings novels and Jordans are both good examples. When authors are successful and are writing these longer series, it appears that editors begin to lose their nerve and the books get longer and more poorly edited with each successive novel. I’d like to put the call out for courageous editors who will tell the big dogs when they need to trim the fat!

    In the end though I truly believe that there are some amazing series out there. I’ve heard nothing but praise for Martin’s work from friends who swear by him and I’ve heard similar praise concerning Erikson. I hope the series works out for you and that you enjoy it. Maybe I’ll get the courage to finally start Song of Fire and Ice series this year!

  2. Carl V. – It does seem that the editors give up after a couple of successful novels, I’ve particularly heard this about Robert Jordan’s books which is why I stopped reading after the 3rd book. It also had to do with not knowing when the series would finish.

    So you bring up another great point there, I am reticent to start a series that has not finished yet because I don’t want to read through all of the books each time a new volume is released because I’ve forgotten the plot. I am optimistic about Erikson’s series because he has already finished book 8, although book 7 hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet, and he seems to be writing a book a year. So I shouldn’t have to wait too long for the finish.

    However, I do plan on starting A Song of Fire and Ice in the near future even though he has only finished the first 4 and is taking 3 years or more to write each book.

  3. I also had a reluctance to start reading fantasy series. To start, I’m not that familiar with the fantasy/sci fi genre and looking at those thick books, and never-ending series is just daunting. So I compromised a few months ago, and bought George R. R. Martin’s DREAMSCAPES, VOL. 1. The book is still a doorstop, but at least it’s broken up into short stories. And this way, I can get a sampling of his writing to see if I like it enough to invest in reading his series. Only time will tell. Of course, I have to actually start reading DREAMSCAPES some time in the near future… 😉

  4. J.S. Peyton – I’ve read quite a few posts about Dreamscapes on different blogs. People seem to be enjoying it. I have the first book of his series, my friend sent it to me as a gift, which I plan on getting to this year sometime. I look forward to reading your thoughts on Dreamscapes…


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