While reading Molly Templeton’s recent essay, Is Series Fatigue Real?, I noticed an interesting phrase: “the loose series where the books stand alone but also fit together.” I noticed that I tend to divide fiction series into two sets:
A) series in which the books are clearly linked by setting and characters, but which can provide readers with the full experience of the plot in each volume;
B) series in which each volume is nothing more than a fragment of a larger whole.
I strongly prefer the first type. When I shell out my seventy-five cents ah I’m informed prices have gone up a bit so amend it appropriately I don’t object if the book in hand builds towards the goal of a great series but I do object if the novel lacks of a functional and complete plot that does not depend on having read all the previous books in the series and will not be complete without future volumes that have not yet been written. that may never be written.
It is strange that you cannot think in short and concise terms to distinguish between the two models. Do you have any idea?
In my experience, mystery series do a better job of writing Series A books than science fiction and fantasy series. I have never read a mystery at the end of which the detective reveals that the killer will be exposed in book two. Or possibly book eight, depending on sales. , if other activities distract the author.
Maybe it’s an accident of the posting of the story (the accident of the story you saw Lord of the Rings published in three volumes) that the book fragment model caught on in speculative fiction and not mystery. Perhaps it’s simply that mystery publishers don’t care to test how people who spend an undue amount of time reading about violent murders would react to discovering that they have only part of a mystery plot. However, there are speculative fiction series whose volumes can be read and enjoyed without having read all the previous volumes. Here are five series that I am very fond of.
Melissa Scott’s Astreiant series, the first two of which, point of hopes (1995) and point of dreams (2001), were co-written with the late Lisa A. Barnett, and the last three of which, point of knives (2012), Fair Point (2014), and point of sighs (2018), Were Solo Efforts: Examines a secondary fantasy world that makes its way into modern, functional social institutions, sometimes despite the best efforts of existing archaic institutions.
The specific institution Pointsman Rathe is concerned about is law enforcement. In an ideal world, this would involve noticing adverse events, discovering the wrongdoers responsible, and punishing them appropriately. The great and powerful of the kingdom of Chenedolle in general and of the city of Astreiant in particular prefer a law enforcement that does not interfere too much in the affairs of the upper class and has the common sense not to attribute any crime to the social elite. . All very well in theory, but Astreiant’s miscreants include people of all walks of life, and some of the plots have very dire implications for the city. Sometimes a cop (and his handsome boyfriend) have to chase down the culprit, regardless of social convention.
The League of Peoples by James Alan Gardner—Replaceable (1997), Commitment Time (1998), Vigilant (1999), hunted (2000), upward (2001), Caught (2002), Radiant (2004) —offers a brilliant world of tomorrow… with one small flaw.
When the aliens offered any human who asked for a trip to pristine worlds with all the modern conveniences, humanity left en masse, leaving Earth to fend for itself (which it did…badly). According to League rules, no being that kills a sentient being (or allows a sentient being to die through inaction) may travel between star systems. Thus, centuries later, the fraction of humanity that can refrain from killing is an interstellar species, while the murderous fraction is either planet-bound or dead.
Theoretically, they should remain planet-bound because the galactic civilization doesn’t want homicidal humans rampaging through their worlds. But homicidal humans continue to look for loopholes in the cordon sanitaire.
Rarely returning to the same character point of view twice, Gardner guides the viewer through a series of grand, star-spanning adventures. The series is that rare thing in science fiction, the sci-fi comic novel (and that even rarer thing, the sci-fi comic novels that I enjoy). Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the series will continue into more volumes.
natsu hyuuga apothecary diaries focuses on Maomao, kidnapped from her city’s red light district and hired into the Back Palace (imperial harem) as a servant. This is a pitiful waste of Maomao’s skills, trained as she was by her adoptive father in the sciences of apothecary. With the imperial policy being ruthless and brutal, the smartest thing for her would be to fulfill her (involuntary) contract with her and go back to taking care of her elderly foster father. However, a combination of keen observation skills and an inability to keep his mouth shut alerts Senior Eunuch Jinshi and other members of the Back Palace that Maomao has unique and valuable abilities. A totally involuntary race of increasingly risky investigations ensues.
Volumes one through four have been translated into English. Volume five is imminent. I enjoy the puzzles, as well as the way Hyuuga stands out by providing her characters, both protagonists and antagonists, with motivations that the reader may not see coming.
Originally conceived as a single stand-alone novel, the story of Emma Newman’s Planetfall series spanned four full-length novels:fall of the planet (2015), after atlas (2016), before mars (2018), atlas alone (2019), which can be read in any order.
Cults claiming to communicate with aliens are nothing new. Pathfinder Lee Suh-Mi’s cult was different in that Pathfinder aliens were real. Certainly the starship Atlas they found something strange and enigmatic when they arrived at the world the Pathfinder took them to. The success has had consequences, which are developed over several volumes. Powerful and amoral people decide to appropriate other people’s wealth (if any) for themselves. Even more importantly, they make sure that no one else can duplicate the Pathfinder journey.
I enjoyed the ruthless way Newman drags his hapless characters to the logical conclusion of a ruthless pursuit of profit unfettered by morals or ethics. It is not a happy series, for billions of people it is as unhappy as it can be, but it is fascinating.
Some fantasy authors focus on high-level aristocrats and their fierce political disputes. by Nahoko Uehashi dying series–Spirit Guardian (nineteen ninety six), guardian of the dark (1999), guardian of dreams (2000), Void Traveler (2001), Guardian of the God: The Book of Coming (2003), Guardian of the God: The Book of Return (2003), Traveler of the Indigo-Blue Path (2005), Guardian of Heaven and Earth: The Kingdom of Lota (2006), Guardian of Heaven and Earth: The Kingdom of Kanbal (2007), Guardian of Heaven and Earth: The New Yogo Empire (2007)— features a skilled bodyguard with no social status whatsoever. The roving bodyguard Balsa avoids getting involved in royal affairs on the reasonable grounds that she is unlikely to survive. Unfortunately for her, a moment of selfless heroism drags her first into courtly politics—bad!—and then into divine affairs…which is worse.
This series presents a major complication, from the perspective of an Anglophone: only the first two volumes have been translated into English. Otherwise, this is a good example of a series on the border between fantasy and mystery: survival often forces Balsa to discover and confront things that her social superiors have gone to great lengths to hide.
Sure, you have your own favourites. I can think of a couple dozen examples that I didn’t mention because feel free to offer your candidates in the comments below.
In the words of fanfiction author Musty181, prolific book critic and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll “looks like a default mii with glasses.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times, as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis) and the Aurora Prize 2021 and 2022 finalist Young people read old SFF (where he is assisted by web person Adrienne L. Travis). He’s a four-time Hugo Award finalist for best amateur writer and he’s surprisingly flammable.