Tour’s Books Blog

June 9, 2014

Finis – The Problem of the Endless Series – Part 1

Finis.  Shows up at the end of films and sometimes books.  It’s a welcome sign that the story is over.  Unfortunately, series books, especially in the UF, paranormal, and epic fantasy genres, are more the norm than a stand alone book.  In mystery and action thrillers, the plot finishes at the end, though characters and groups may carry-on over many books (character based series).  In romance, by definition, the story ends with a happily-ever-after – which is why they kind of belong in a sub-set of fantasy.  So-called ‘series romance’ usually involves interconnected characters, like members of a family or close friends, and may have some small over-arching element, the primary plot is about the two individuals featured in the book.  Christine Warren’s The Others series, written out of order in real time, and Shelley Laurenston’s Pack and Pride series, are examples of this.

For the sake of sanity, in this article, a series is a group of books that tell an on-going story (plot based series) that is not resolved till the last book.  So each book would be an installment or section of a story with an over-arcing plot.  This type of writing is common in the fantasy, Steampunk, and Dystopian fields of science and fantasy fiction.  The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Belgariad are all examples of installments that unwound a long, continuous plot where each installment was a different segment of a whole, but the main story line does complete till the last book.  To make things simple, a plot based series needs to be read in order to makes sense of characters and events.  A character based series can be read in any order and the basic plot still makes sense, though some personal relationships may change.  Examples of character based series are James Bond, Travis McGee, Walt Longmier, Miss Marple, Dirk Pitt, or in UF, Garrett books by Glen Cook, Remy Chandler by Thomas E. Sniegoski (yes, I looked it up), the Joe Pitt series by legendary mystery author, Charlie Huston, and the Felix Gomez series, uneven in quality though it may be, by Mario Acevedo, but his best was his last Gomez book, Werewolf Smackdown.  It can easily be read as a stand alone.

The plot based series type of writing, though common,can be amazingly frustrating for readers.  Take for example the ultimate #epic fail – in multiple senses – Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.   With a 2-3 year wait between books, his incredibly complex and demanding story ended unfinished at his death.  Personally, I grew tired after over 6 years and 7 books and gave up when the last one I read covered all of 72 hours in a 1,000 pages in hardcover and was published  TWO YEARS after book six.  His death in 2006 resulted in a 4 year wait for the next installment, which was supposed to be the last book that a greedy publisher split into 3.  In part, to get an installment out before everyone forgot the series, and in part to buy time while Brandon Sanderson worked on the next two part.  It still took Sanderson 3 years to finish the last of the 3 books he co-authored.  Unlike some authors, Jordan did not make arrangements with another author while still living to finish his work, though he knew he was dying.  Not unusual.  Authors protect their ‘baby’.  From the year the first book was published till the year the last book was published, the series took 23 years.  That is an entire generation of human existence.

So, fans are understandably concerned with aging Georger R.R. Martin and his Song of Fire and Ice series.  At 66 years, he’s not young and now spends much of his time working with HBO on the Game of Thrones series.  That takes a lot of time and focus AWAY from writing.  Ask Kaylana Price, whose latest Grave Witch book is now 3 YEARS OVERDUE!  Or Scott Lynch and his Gentleman Bastards series.  It took SIX YEARS before The Republic of Thieves was FINALLY published, and that’s just book 3 in his series.  He’s a young man, but still, that is a loooooooooooooooooong wait.  I should know.  I had the book on pre-order.

Patrick Rothfuss takes his time with the King Killer Chronicles as well – which is SUPPOSED to end at book 3.  It took 4 years between 1 and 2, so I’d advise against holding your breath.

Gee, and I wondered why I was asked to name some series that have finally wrapped.  Well, I don’t read every author, but I’ll give this a shot.

David Eddings (d. 2009) – The Belgariad, The Malloreon – epic fantasy

J. R. R. Tolkein (d. 1973) – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit (a stand alone and precursor of the Lord of the Rings) – epic fantasy

Robert Jordan (d. 2007)  (w/Brandon Sanderson) – The Wheel of Time (finished 6 years after his death)

Charlaine Harris (living) – Sookie Stackouse completed 2013 (and it sucked) – UF/paranormal/paranormal romance

Daryanda Jones (living) – The Darklight Trilogy (didn’t like the ending) 3 book series complete 2013 – YA, Paranormal, UF; Charley Davidson – ongoing with no indication of when the series will end – UF, Paranormal mystery, Paranormal romance

Gail Carriger – The Parasol Protectorate (5 books) complete 2012 – Steampunk, paranormal; Finishing School – in progress – YA Steampunk  NOTE:  Highly stylized writing for both series, so read a sample to be sure you can deal with it.  I liked it after I got over her style.

Jenn Bennett (living) – Arcadia Bell – complete 2014; Four novels and 1 novella – UF, paranormal romance; consistently well written, but the ending, while good, was not slam bang.

Devon Monk (living) – Allie Beckstrom complete 2012, 9 book series – UF; the latest novel, Dark Magic, is a spin-off of the series.  Another series, Broken Magic is as well.  She is also writing Age of Steam – Steampunk set in the old West.

Kim Harrison (living) – The Hollows (AKA Rachel Morgan) Series – Supposedly complete 2014 with book 13 of the series.  There are numerous novellas associated with it as well.  Dystopian, UF, Futuristic Fantasy

Jacqueline Carey (living) – Kushiel’s Legacy – 3 different series set in the same ‘universe’ complete 2011, 9 books total plus 1 companion book – fantasy; currently writing Agents of Hel

Karen Marie Moning (living) – Fever series complete 2011; 5 books; UF; new series set in the same ‘world’ Fever World AKA Dani O’Malley series in progress; uses the Irish myths for her world building

Molly Harper (living) – Jane Jameson (Nice Girl) series, 4 books complete 2012 – paranormal, paranormal romance, humor; the Half Moon Hollow series are stand alone books set in the same ‘world’- paranormal romance; Naked Werewolf series – stand alone humorous paranormal romance with common elements tying the series to the same ‘world’.

Lauren Dane (living) – Bound by Magic – UF, paranormal romance; 4 books series complete 2013; Tied several other series involving werewolves, were jaguars, and witches together.  For a strong author, the ending was lame and unsatisfying.  The Charvez Witches – erotic paranormal romance, UF series that stopped but was not finished

Kelley Armstrong – The Women of Otherworld – 13 books, numerous novellas and short stories, paranormal romance, UF, complete 2012; has published stand alone books set in Otherworld; Darkness Rising – 3 book series, YA paranormal completed 2013; also writes mystery

Jeaniene Frost (living) – Night Huntress series 6 books,paranormal, paranormal romance, UF complete 2014; stand alone books in Night Huntress Universe and related Night Prince books on-going

Yasmine Galenorn (living) – Indigo Court – 4 books complete 2013, UF; Otherworld series on-going at 13 and at 4 more scheduled; also writes mystery

Deborah Harkness (living) – All Souls Trilogy – completes July 2014 – Paranormal romance; Occult, paranormal romantic suspense, horror; the over-arching plot looses focus now and then, and she gets quite pedantic on some subjects which takes the characters out of character; despite its shortcomings, an original concept in a ‘me too’ field, but the author can’t seem to make up her mind what’s most important, the book or the relationship between her two lead characters.

Some books start as stand alones and end up the first of a series, but unlike a true series, these books are more like mystery or thriller books where the plot is resolved, but the characters continue.  The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is a perfect UF example of a style we’d normally associated with spy or action thrillers.  Complete in itself, readers want the characters to continue.  Stiletto, his second book scheduled for Feb 2015, will continue the characters, but the primary story has (in theory) been resolved, so a new, but related story will be told.  Rather SPECTER in James Bond.

Another apparent stand alone is Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is another first novel and author Robin Sloan seemed to have ended the plot.  It’s tough to classify this book as it feels like many genres at once, yet never fits into any one.  In Amazon it’s listed under Fantasy AND Techno-thriller, so take your pick.  Personally, I found it curious, but not enthralling or exciting in any way.

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series – UF,  is one of those that is neither a character based series nor a plot based series, but instead moves between the two seamlessly.  You’ll get some virtual stand alones with only minor elements tied to earlier and later books, just as you’d get with a traditional mystery.  Then you’ll get several books primarily driven by a plot element that is resolved at some point.  Harry goes on – even after death, such as it is.  Butcher also writes Codex Alera, a separate fantasy series that has never gained the international following of his Dresden books, but sells very well.  He has signed a deal for a Steampunk series, which may well have an impact on the Dresden series.  Want a perfect example of how UF crosses into Mystery?  Butcher had a book-signing scheduled for the release date of Skin Tight at the famous mystery book store in Scottsdale, The Poisoned Pen.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga is science fantasy/science fiction and another one of those series that defies simple classification.  She wrote her Vor books in random order, moving back and forth in the timeline of Miles Vorkosigan’s life then spinning off related books in which he is not a major character.  So they can be viewed as related stand alone books or a character driven series, but the story actually starts with his mother and is plot driven!  It’s just one of the many frustrating things readers deal with.

Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is character driven in book one but turns to plot driven right at the very end.  Book 5 is due out this summer, The Getaway God.  The books read almost as stand alone novels, but link enough that reading them in order is necessary.  Horror, dystopian, UF.  His novel Dead Set is a stand alone dark fantasy/horror book.  By the way, Sandman Slim has been optioned for a movie.

Now, the real question is, when will I write Part 2????? MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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