I love series. Well, when I love the characters, I love series. Because I want more of them. I want to spend more time with them, be them, live in their world longer than just a single book. I haven’t read many standalone books lately and the ones that I have, I hated for them to end because that was it – it really did end. There would be no more escaping to that world.
Well, unless I reread the book. Which I’ve been known to do. Okay, so I have a habit of it. A fairly consistent habit. But that just proves my point – when we fall in love with characters and a world, we want to keep reading about them.
Some people hate series. I don’t get them. Whatever. They probably have commitment issues in the rest of their lives, too. Just kidding! Each to their own. That’s why there are so many different kinds of books out there – because there are that many different kinds of readers. So no worries. I may not understand you, you standalone-lovers, but I still love you.
Anyway…there is the ongoing discussion of whether books in series should still be standalone books. In other words, you can pick up any book in the series and read it without being completely lost. I recently read a statement by an author that basically said all books in series should be able to stand on their own, that the reader shouldn’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy this book. I disagree.
We seem to have two types of series (probably more, but this is my blog and my discussion, so I’m saying two for my purposes): those that tell a lengthy story that can’t be told in a single book and those that tell ongoing stories that never really end because new mysteries and adventures come along for the characters.
My books fall into the first type – Alexis has a lengthy story that takes multiple books to be told, but it is still one main story with a series ending. Other (more well-known) examples would be Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Hunger Games. If authors made each of the books in these kinds of series stand alone so that a reader can pick up anywhere without being lost, then half of each book would be recapping what happened before to catch the new reader up. And readers hate that! I know I do.
Of course, J.K. Rowling did a great job (she does a great job at pretty much everything *sigh*) in that you could pick up The Goblet of Fire and be able to read it and enjoy it without having read the others, but why would you want to? And by the time you get to Deathly Hallows, you are going to miss out on some of the explanations and cool tie-ins and wrap-ups if you hadn’t read all the previous books.
The other type of series include oldies like Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and tons of children’s books, like the Lemony Snicket or Goose Bumps series. These are tales where the same characters are in new situations. They might refer to previous books and there’s some continuing of the previous story, but you don’t have to read them to enjoy whichever one is currently in your hand. They’re standalone books within a series.
Oh…I suppose there is a third kind of series. The hybrid. When the same characters are in new situations, but these new situations are based off previous events in previous books. Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake, for example. You really should be able to pick up a book in either of these series and be able to enjoy it without being completely lost. And, generally, you can. After wading through pages and pages of recaps of what happened before…or just accepting that you don’t know how Anita got together with this one guy, but just accept that she has, even when she’s also with the other dude.
Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy both of those series. To a certain extent. The number of books in each of those are in the two digits and that many books about the same main character can eventually just be too much, either for the author or for the reader. The author can lose enthusiasm and it shows, but keeps writing this series because the publisher’s making good money off of it. Or, the author does a fantastic job of carrying on the story, but readers begin to lose interest, caught up in a different, shiny, new world with pretty, new characters.
My point? I don’t know. I don’t really have one. Except to go back to what I said earlier: there are many different kinds of readers with their own preferences and, therefore, there need to be all kinds of different books – and series. So hopefully the rule-makers won’t decide that all books in a series need to be standalones, as well. But if they do…well, I suppose rules are made to be broken and some authors live for doing just that.
What say you? Do you prefer standalones or series? What do you enjoy most about series? Least? Do you have a favorite kind? Can you think of other types to add to my list?