It’s hard to miss that publishers are pushing series novels. It’s particularly weird in cosy mysteries where the intrepid amateur sleuth encounters so many dead bodies over the course of the novels that they ought to be in therapy or otherwise confined for the safety of the community. I imagine that the logic for publishers is that a casual book buyer will be more inclined to pick up an author and character with whom they are already familiar.
I have nothing against series. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is on my automatic to-buy list (although I do try and wait for the paperback–Unseen Academicals pre-ordered for July), I haunt libraries for Margaret Maron’s Judge Knott series, and other series, such as Donna Andrew’s blacksmithing Meg and her crazy family, I drop in and out of.
However, sometimes a series is just a stretched novel, and then I get cross. Mostly I encounter this cheat when I read fantasy. If an epic sprawls, prune it. I’m ruthless. I won’t read Charles Dickens for the same reason. On and on and bloody on. A well-plotted novel should complete itself in one book. It can include teasers for the next book in the series, but as a reader we should be able to close the book with a satisfied sigh.
I’ve heard Laurie King (whose writing is wonderful) finishes her Language of Bees with a to be continued. How could she? Unfair.
I guess in this post I’m advocating a return to the days when stand alones were acceptable practice within genres. Favourite authors, not favourite serials. New, exciting characters and settings, storylines and adventures with every book.
But then, I’m hugely enjoying the urban fantasy serials by Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews. I guess I’m just an unreasonable reader, after all.