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Author Topic: Series In Order or Out?  (Read 579 times)
ulthar
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« on: December 19, 2012, 04:19:49 PM »

I just finished a re-reading of the sixth book in a Sci Fi series that I enjoy.  Like I sometimes do with books and movies, I looked up some reviews online ... AFTER reading the book (or watching the movie) ... to see what others think of it.  I tend to avoid reviews before reading/watching unless I have a need to better gage if I even want to watch or read.

Anyway, as I said, this book is a series, but they are so-called standalone novels.  I've read the first six (at least two times), and yes, they are standalone novels, but it REALLY helps to understand the later books to have read the earlier ones.  The back stories help a lot, even if they are briefly mentioned in subsequent books.

While I was reading reviews, I was amazed at the number of people that read this book but not the earlier ones, and reviewers that said they've read others but not in order either.  Some reviewers mentioned other series for which they read out of order, too, and if that made the overall arcs "suffer" or not.

Is this a symptom of labeling the books "standalone?"

Personally, standalone or not, I cannot imagine fully enjoying these books out of order.  Though I DID read the third one first, after reading the first two, I really wish I had not.  So much in the third book made more sense, and there was a LOT more 'investment' with the characters having read the first two...

I suspect they standalone label arises because the series does not contain main continuing story arcs.  It's episodic; each book starts with a set-up, the story and a conclusion.  But I cannot imagine reading just this sixth book and getting anything NEAR out of it without having read the first five.

Several reviewers remarked on character development for this "standalone" installment.  I found some of their comments laughable, given the criticisms were ONLY from the perspective of not having read the other books.

I'm curious.  Who here would be sticklers for reading/watching a series (books, movies, tv) in order, even if labeled "standalone"?  I myself do try to do that.

No matter how stand alone it APPEARS to be, there is ALWAYS something tied into earlier episodes...assuming, of course, the writer is good enough at intra-series continuity (as this one is).

Incidentally, the series that sparked this thought is the RCN/Leary series by David Drake, just in case anyone is interested in that detail.

Edit:  I guess this could apply to video games as well.  Just thought of that.
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« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2012, 07:50:03 PM »

I'm curious.  Who here would be sticklers for reading/watching a series (books, movies, tv) in order, even if labeled "standalone"?  I myself do try to do that.

That's a tough one for me, since a number of book series I enjoy were written and published over a great period of time and out of chronological order.  I usually try to go back and read them in the order of the internal chronology at some point, but the big dilemma for me has always been when recommending them to others: do I advise them to read them in the order written, or the order of the internal events?  I have heard arguments in favour of both approaches.

To answer your question, though, I generally make my best effort to read a series in its intended order - 'stand alone' or not.  (I have been known to pick up a single volume first - because I buy a lot of used books - and then pursue the rest of the series if it appeals, and/or sometimes if it is SO good I simply haven't the patience to wait until I have the 'next' book and skip ahead to one I have at hand: my preference is to read in order, though, and since I am  're-reader' I will make a point to do that the next time through.)

For movies and TV I definitely prefer to stick to the proper order when I can.
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ulthar
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« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2012, 10:21:17 PM »


That's a tough one for me, since a number of book series I enjoy were written and published over a great period of time and out of chronological order.


That's a good point; I had not thought of that.

I THINK in this case, I'd prefer read them in published order.  I don't know, but I think moving with the stories/characters as the writer did is the richest experience (most of the time, anyway).

An exception is the Machete Order of the STAR WARS movies.  That seems a good approach for that particular franchise.

Quote

 (I have been known to pick up a single volume first - because I buy a lot of used books - and then pursue the rest of the series if it appeals, and/or sometimes if it is SO good I simply haven't the patience to wait until I have the 'next' book and skip ahead to one I have at hand: my preference is to read in order, though, and since I am  're-reader' I will make a point to do that the next time through.)


That's what happened to me with the RCN series.  Someone loaned me "Far Side of the Stars" just to see if I'd like it, and I did.  Years later, I started reading the series from the beginning, and FSotS made LOTS more sense having read the other two, and I picked up on a lot that I did not think was important on that first, cold reading.

One thing about 'standalones' I don't like though is all the repetition...a lot of exposition goes to explaining things in each installment and it's here that continuity errors become glaring.

Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series is like this...in theory standalone but oh man, there's NO WAY one would get the full flavor of ANY of the books without reading the in order.  O'Brian was very brief in his restatement of "critical" backstory, too, further increasing potential confusion.

As an example, the second book, "Post Captain," is an utter bore to me.  I cannot stand it, and when I reread the series (I've probably read the whole enchilada six or more times), I usually skip this one.  But, there is some crucial story stuff that IS relevant later, and a LOT of stuff that happens with those characters just loses so much without that depth.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2012, 10:57:31 AM by ulthar » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2012, 11:34:53 PM »

I've often come into a series halfway through, and enjoy that book so much that I go back to the beginning to read everything in sequence.  For example, I read The Queen of the Damned before Interview with the Vampire; I read Necroscope IV before I went back to the original Necroscope (Brian Lumley is a god among horror fantasy writers!).

Before I knew what 'paranormal romance' was, I accidentally bought a JR Ward Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, thinking it was vampire action.  After all, it had been placed in the horror section.  Little did I know it was some kind of escapist women's fangjunkie porn novel.  For the women who have outgrown Twilight and discovered sex, but still like vampires.  Um, yeah.
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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2012, 04:45:30 AM »

I think it really depends on how "episodic" the content is.

A lot of mystery novels are this way. While it helps to have some sense of the back-story involved, it doesn't necessarily detract from your enjoyment of the story being presented. I remember reading a "Hap and Leonard" novel by Joe R. Lansdale and thinking the back-story was unusually well thought out. Then I realized I was reading the second novel and the allusions were to the first book (which I still haven't read).

However, if the importance of a book's storyline is dependent on an overarching narrative, there is no way I would recommend reading them out of order. Imagine reading a George R.R. Martin book without knowing the plot of the previous books. Awful.

It's the same with television series. You can watch an episode of "Burn Notice" or "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" without watching the rest of it. But my bar-none favorite series of the moment "Breaking Bad," there's no way I recommend watching that without starting from the beginning.

I'm a big comics reader, and it didn't used to be the case that all back-issues were collected in trade paperbacks. So often I was forced to read them in random order, because back-issues are often hard to find. I read my favorite comic series of all time, "Doom Patrol," in that fashion.

Given the choice, I will always read series in the order of the date they were published. For instance, "The Chronicles of Narnia" are these days presented in the internal chronology instead of the dates they were published. I decided to read them in the order they were written/published as opposed to when they happen in that particular universe. Bad example, but it would be a very bad idea to read Orson Scott Card's "Ender" series chronologically by events. "Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead" are two amazing books. Then Card took a sharp turn towards crazy town and diminishing returns. It would be a worse idea to watch the Star Wars movie by Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

But I'm really a stickler for these sorts of things. I started a project several years ago to watch every film by every director I like in order of the date they were made. You have to watch a lot of not-so-good films (Hitchcock, I'm looking at you) to get to the good stuff. But I think watching the evolution of a creative mind is more interesting to witness than a strict adherence to internal timelines.
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ulthar
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2012, 11:07:21 AM »


But I think watching the evolution of a creative mind is more interesting to witness


Yep; this is what I was trying to say.  You said it better than I.

I do this even with music when I have enough of a collection from one artist/band.  I like to listen to them in order....or at least 'creative sets.'

I find this important as an overall "arc" from an author in particular.  Back to David Drake for a moment...."Redliners" is by far his best work (in my opinion, and, I think, his).  It's not a book for everybody, though.  You can tell he wrote that book for himself as much as writing it for sale.  It's very much a catharsis, and in a lot of ways it's a tough book to read.

But to the point, one can VERY readily see the differences in his overall style before and after "Redliners." 

And yes, like you, I'm like this with directors, as well.  It's like a body of work, even if not 'set' into a series, is a series...a metaseries if you will.  Stephen King, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Peter Jackson are but a few further examples that their "career arcs" are very interesting to follow.
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Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
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--Real Genius
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