I get that writing a long running series is hard. Fans have expectations. Critics have expectations. And at some point the reality is that the author has used up all the initial plots that made her think these books were a fabulous idea. I like and hate series because of this. Increasingly, I’m starting to wish that more authors had the balls to go the Sandman route and END. But that takes big cast iron balls if your books are bestsellers and your publisher maybe thinks they keep the market afloat. Still. End or be good. STOP THE SUCKAGE. And there is a lot of suck brewing out there in series land, folks. Here is my run down on three of the biggest.
Stephanie Plum: So, a brief review, no, it is too much, I will sum up: Whole chunks of exposition & dialogue were lifted from previous books. Not kidding. Didn’t even bother to rewrite the gist of things, just chunked them in as they were originally. Which is lazy to the nth degree, certainly, but what I do not get is that her readers have been along from the word go, right? So why would she assume we’d not remember those lines-classic lines? Either we’re stupid or that’s what the author thinks we’re reading it for. That’s right, I’m saying it. I think the author truly believes that her readers give her $ so they can re-read vol 1-16 slightly remixed. The standoff where bad guy one kills bad guy two, yeah, that’s happened before. At least twice. Steph bailing on Joe? Yeaaaaah. We’ve seen that before. Vinnie/Lula/Mooner/Grandma living in Steph’s apartment? Check. All the inept takedowns where Ranger’s men save her butt &/or she gets covered in food? Not new. Killer inexplicably fascinated with Stephanie? Every single time. The ending where she picks a guy out of a hat? Saw that in, what, book 5? The only surprise in this plotless wonder was that she had sex with Ranger (again) and I’m assuming that’s just pity fodder for die-hard Ranger fans thinking about giving up the ghost. This was like those high school papers that get flagged for plagiarism because they just cut and pasted a few different papers on the net. She just cut and pasted bits of her previous books and called it a new one. And have I mentioned that the hardcover comes with stickers? Because that’s just what you want in a book right? It comes with stickers, sold!
Verdict: I stopped buying in hardcover and downgraded to pocket paper. Then stopped buying new and started buying used. Now I’m just debating buying at all. Nothing ever changes! (solid up until 12)
Anita Blake: Full disclosure: I was in High School when I started reading these, and I started with Killing Dance, the book many think kicked off the downward spiral of (yes literally) death and sex. I was obsessed to a frothing at the mouth degree, read all of the previous books, made many friends and frightened acquaintances start reading them and then . . .WTF? I will stand up and say with certainty of conviction that LKH created the Urban Fantasy genre, as well as Paranormal Romance. Yep, I know it predates her, but that kind of best seller status is what told publishers it was a marketable niche and by god did they market it. But while that was happening Anita went from badass to sex fiend to whiny irritant. I’m not against sex. I’m not against multiple partner sex. I’m against sex that swallows the plot, the point, and any semblance of sexiness. I’m against talking about sex for 3 chapters prior to it occurring and whining about it for 6 chapters after. Go, kill something. Be snarky.
Verdict: Stopped buying in hardcover after, I forget, Cerulean Sins maybe? Tried to pick it up in paperback on Harlequin and just . . . couldn’t. The language, the mopping, Richard, the lack of coherence and/or copyediting, let alone an editor willing to point up plot holes that I could build a house in. I stopped, and sometimes I feel sad about that, but when I try to pick one up, I just feel . . . sticky*. (Solid up until Obsidian Butterfly, assuming you skip Blue Moon.)
Sookie Stackhouse: Starting to fall victim to a few long term series woes. One: men like our heroine. Sex, and sexual partner s are great, it’s just starting to seem odd how attracted to Sookie all preternatural males in the South are. Just saying. (LKH anyone?) Two: drive by plot lines. I liked Quin, Sookie liked Quin, and then he was arbitrarily bounced in favour of the long running Eric plotline. Turns out he was just an obstacle to keep our hero and heroine apart for a few more books. Erksome. Three: Lack of plot, whole books on character. I love the characters, I do. But I also want a viable mystery, not just emotional KP duty for 250 pages. From Dead to Worse, I mean you.
Verdict: Wavering. Have stopped buying in hardback after aforementioned flop, but recently started buying the pocket papers used and Dead and Gone seemed much improved upon. I’ll pick up Dead in the Family the same way, and if it’s still on a better track, buy the next at full cover—in paperback. (Solid until All Together Dead.)
Random series notes:
Raine Caine: Stopped after about 5, 6 maybe?
Kelley Armstrong: Stopped after 3, still pick up the ones relating to the original characters though.
Patricia Briggs: happy as a clam with these. Still buying in hardcover. Bring on the changes baby!
Marcia Muller: I would have kept reading, but they got hard to find in publication. Oddly, I thought the quality of these improved over time rather than went downhill. This may be because she was willing to kill characters, change up location, and let old flames actually burn out and GO AWAY.
Newer, but still strong: Obsessed with (and in order of obsession) Seanan McGuire’s Toby Day Books (5 coming on the 6th of September, so Happy Birthday me!) Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels (at book 5) and . . . nope, that’s it. There a few good things at 2 or 3, but everything should still be good at that point. It’s once you get past 6 that things typically start to slip.
*Why sticky you ask? Because a book in her Merry Gentry series is actually called Swallowing Darkness. One of her lead male characters is named Darkness. Wait for it . . . Yeah. I cannot even put that book in my hands. It’s porn. Bad, awkward, porn.