Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Here’s a question for you…

I’ve done it and I’ll bet you’ve done it too. You start off reading a series of books and you think they’re great. A few books in and things aren’t looking so good but you think, “I’ll keep going, things are bound to pick up in the next book.” At least, that’s what you think; little do you know it but you’re just about to enter the ‘twilight zone’ in every series, that one book that perhaps represents the lowest point of the author’s career. You hate it and cannot believe that you shelled out money, that you worked for, in order to buy it. You go on as many on-line forums as you can and go on at length about how rubbish you think it is. But when you think no-one is looking, you gather together your hard earned cash, sneak off to the bookstore and buy the next book. This one may be just as bad (or even worse) than the last but you will still go to the bookstore, when the next one comes out, and keep buying.
Why do we do this? Is it force of habit? Is it a need to see the completed series on the bookshelf? Are we trying to make some kind of ironic point? Why do we keep buying books, in a series, when the last one was so bad it makes us want to cry?
I’m just as guilty of this weird behaviour; I’m collecting the ‘Wheel of Time’ series. For me, the series started off looking very good indeed. And it kept getting better; peaking at book four, slumping a little on book five and then perking up again for book six. Then things started to get ropey. Far too many characters and sub-plots, and Jordan seemed to feel compelled to follow each one through to the bitter end. It also got to a point where I felt like breaking something if one more female character folded her arms, pulled her braid or said something bad about ‘the menfolk’. And then ‘Crossroads of Twilight’ was published… It had everything I hated about the last few books only it was all described in far greater detail this time. Fifty pages on what an Aes Sedai campsite looked like. Whole chapters where all a travelling circus did was travel a few yards up the road. It’s safe to say that there are only a few books that I have enjoyed less than ‘Crossroads of Twlight’. But you know what? As soon as ‘Knife of Dreams’ came out in mass-market paperback I made sure I had a copy. Why did I do this? For me, I think it was a case of sheer bloody-mindedness. I looked at the reams of paper that I had trawled to (to get to this point) and thought, “I can’t stop now, especially as there’s only supposed to be one book left after this!” The other thing was that, despite my confusion at some of their actions, I had invested a lot of time in watching certain characters grow and wanted to see how things ended up for them. Oh yes, and the bookshelf wouldn’t look right without the whole series sitting on it…
That’s my confession, what about yours? Why do you continue to put money in the wallet of an author that you really don’t think deserves it anymore? You don’t have to name any names if you don’t want to!

23 comments:

Tia Nevitt said...

There is a point where the author will lose me. I read as far as book 6 in WOT. I enjoyed book 4 and 5 the best. After book 6, I decided not to read anymore until I knew how long RJ would drag it out. Now that I know it's 12 books, I'm not going to bother.

Same goes for George R. R. Martin's epic. I loved the first two books, and I even enjoyed book 3. Then, I heard that it was going to be another neverending series. But I was still mildly curious, so I bought book 4 at a (gasp!) used book store. And what did I find within but an entire volume of either characters I had never seen before, or the most unpleasant of characters from the earlier books. I've had it for months and still haven't finished.

I blogged on this a few weeks ago. I don't know why authors write such huge series. Do they think I'll stop buying their books once the series is finished? I've purchased multiple series by Tad Williams, Anne Mc Caffrey, J.V. Jones, Elizabeth Moon and others. I love it when an author is willing to try something new.

Joe Abercrombie said...

Comforting to know that no matter how poor my books become, I will always have at least one reader...

Mark Chitty said...

I've not yet got to that point with any series I've read, although I am very careful about what I buy nowadays after reading some stinkers that I hired from the library.
My weakness is tracking down 1st editions (HB if possible) of authors I like, which can prove expensive, although I've yet to go into triple figures....

Sue said...

I feel this way about Terry Pratchett but I will always keep reading his books. Story telling was never his strong point but you didn't care because you enjoyed the silliness of the books so much (I did anyway). Now he's moved away from that and the point of reading his books has gone but I live in hope.

org said...

I'm trying to think of a sci-fi equivalent, as I tend to read more of that than fantasy, but I can't.
The only 'series' I've bought several books of is Iain M Banks Culture novels, and they're not a continuing story, just based in the same universe.

GS said...

Mark Chadbourn does the cycle thing brilliantly. His books are a good reading size.

I usually end up reading trilogies rather than continuing sequences - Pratchett is the exection though I don't feel the compulsion I once did and I'm three or four books behind.

What puts me most of all in longer sequences is the size of the books. I'm not sure I could read sequences where each book is 700 plus pages. And then find out that they are mostly filler.

Always willing to try though if anyone has some suggestions of where to start?

Tom Lloyd said...

For some reason the only series I've been so bloody minded about is also the Robert Jordan so I sympathise! I became pretty adept at not even registering each tugging of the braid or smoothing of the dress, but it's still a strange situation where my principal motivation for intending to borrow the last ones off someone and reading them is simply that I won't let Jordan beat me!

However off-putting the writing, however little happens, I want to win this small battle. Admittedly he doesn't even know it's a battle and the point of good writing is not to set the readers against you but every rule has its exceptions. Or maybe I just have problems...

A.R.Yngve said...

I don't read Wheel Of Time myself, but I know a guy who does... and he describes it as some kind of addiction.

This addiction thing also bears the hallmarks of an abusive relationship: At first things are fine, then gradually things get worse, but the victim keeps clinging to the hope that "It'll get better! I can change him!"

Wrong. Buying more books in a single series will enly encourage him to write more sequels.

Just. Say. No.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I have the same problem with, please forgive me, Terry Goodkind's series. I read the first two, decided no more, then got given another two books, and I hate them. But I have the rest. And the last two in hardback. When the last one comes out, I'll read it, then take the entire series to the charity shop!

I have to know how a series ends. It's one thing about me that I hate.

Great to see so many authors pop by for you, btw, Graeme :)Nice to see you again, A.R!

John Dent said...

I refuse to read Wheel of Time, out of principle. The "neverending paycheck" doesn't really do it for me.

As to what's been said about Terry Pratchett...he's got so many different things to write about that sometimes he *is* going to be off the mark.
I'll admit I get his books from the library rather than buy them.

Remy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Remy said...

I have to get a complete set if I already a few books in the series. Not reading the last few in a series would be like watching Star Wars Ep. 1 and deciding it sucked so you don't watch Ep. 2 and 3.

I also need to have the complete series or it will drive me insane. I am getting read to get a UK copy of Before They are Hanged because I know that I couldn't read The Blade Itself without immediately starting the second novel in the series.

Remy
www.thefantasyreview.com

Angela/SciFiChick said...

I've done this. But buying books, in general, is an obsession for me. It's too hard to stop. So I don't.

SQT said...

I'm almost embarrassed by how often I do this. Terry Goodkind comes most quickly to mind. I absolutely couldn't stand "Temple of the Winds" but I just kept plugging away until I realized he was going for the endless series like Robert Jordan. Ugh!

Graeme Flory said...

I'm not even going to mention the time when I trawled the charity shops looking for any of Edding's 'Malloreon' books... Except I just have (bugger...)

Joe - I'm trusting you to carry on writing quality books and not rubbish (even though I'd end up buying it anyway...)

Tom - Fight the good fight soldier! We will prevail in the end! ;o)

I can't think of a series that I've stopped buying/reading no matter how crappy it's been. Actually, I can! Laurell K. Hamilton's books, I will never read another one of those again...

GS said...

This addiction to knowing what happens next must be the reason I stay on the fantasy edges and steer clear of the big boys - big in both stature and the size of the piles you can make from their books.

Though that might be changing as I'm picking up some of the hot debuts, which are mostly starts of series. I'm just hoping they'll end on book - three or four or five at a push...

Either that or I'm going back to YA novels.

638 said...

I do have to add that I'm biased against fat fantasy, if you hadn't already guessed. I really can't see how a story being told over 1000 pages can't be told over 400 - the other 600 has got to be waffle surely?

And not only that their are 10 books in the series.

Maybe I've just not found the right book then and no-one wants to start off my addiction.

SQT said...

Oh God, Laurell K. Hamilton. Don't get me started.....

Glenda Larke said...

As a writer, staying in one world for 10 books would bore me to tears! Not something I would ever want to inflict on a reader.

Four books, max, from me, ever. Promise.

Kim said...

I echo Tom's thoughts. It's sheer bloody mindedness that used to keep me reading a series after I stopped really liking the books. It was a sense that no matter how bad it was getting, I had to finish the task I'd started.

However, now that time is more precious, I've gotten better at cutting series loose after they lose me. WoT killed at Book 6. Sword of Truth killed at Faith of the Fallen.

You could always buy them and hide them behind the books you really want to read. Then you feel like you'll get to them eventually, but you never really have to ;)

Graeme Flory said...

Hey Glenda,
Thanks for stopping by, you do realise that I will hold you to that promise... ;o)

Kim - That is possibly one of the best ideas ever! :o) It could also be the reason why my book 'pile' has taken over most of the floor...

Blue Tyson said...

Jordan and Hamilton, two good examples of why to get over the collector thing. :)

Graeme Flory said...

Good point but carrying one on the train gives the arms a decent workout ;o)