Serial Fiction

A long time ago, to feed my reading habit, I often checked out books at the library. It was there that I discovered many of the favorite books of my youth. One of those authors was Michael Moorcock. Another was Frank Herbert. What I also discovered with them was the frustration of reading a series.

I am all about the occasional trilogy. But when you get into a series of books, especially when your resources are limited, it can be frustrating laying your hands on the next book. That was always the case with Moorcock’s books. I would start a series, thinking it looked complete at the library, only to discover a few books in, volumes six through nine were pilfered by some rat faced punk! And going to the five and dime after cashing my paper route check was not an option. Most of the books in the spinny rack were bestselling one offs, or maybe the second or third installment in a trilogy. Never was there an endless stream of Moorcock’s books.

Not even the malls B. Dalton book store offered all the Moorcock books. Eventually I gave up trying with anything more than a trilogy.

Hell, most often, that trilogy I put down a couple years ago would spawn a new book. That was the case with Dune, and the Dragon Riders of Pern.

Then, there was the trilogy that was not. I started reading the Dark Tower series because all three of the books were readily available, and I would not have to wait for the next one. Boy was I fooled when I reached the end of The Wastelands and discovered there was more. And I would wait YEARS for the rest of the books.

My other frustration with trilogies or series…waiting for the next book. Too often, by the time I got around to reading the next book in the series, I forgot everything that happened in the previous book. With The Dark Tower series, Hammerhead, and eventually the Dragon Riders of Pern, I started all over with the first book. All worth the second reading, but still.

As I stated in a previous post, now with self-publishing, it seems that serial fiction is king. If you keep cranking out cliff hanger type books, you can make a living with volume over quality. Lack of quality in storytelling, or editing.

Way too frequently, when receiving recommendations from Amazon for my next read, I see “Book One,” of the Epic Series. I am already caught up in enough series, thank you Amazon, and my own lack of investigative research.

Granted, they are not all crap. Mark Kloos’s Frontline series is great reading. Even though I get tired of Skippy and Joe Bishop’s banter, the Columbus Day series by Craig Alanson is also entertaining. Unfortunately, there is a little too much reliance on the narrow escapes from impossible situations in Craig’s books.

There are others though, that I got trapped into, and could not get out of soon enough. Poor editing, and way to much reliance on cliff hanger type situations to keep the pages turning. I read as much of these works as I did because…well, its really hard to turn away from a train wreck.

However, for those I enjoyed, the issue I have always had with serial fiction is this. I have no idea how long Mark Kloos will string me along. I think Craig Alanson’s Columbus Day is wrapping up, but until I finish the current book, and read the next, I cannot be sure.

The other issue is, to often, there is a recycling of the same basic theme, with just a change in setting and characters. Vince Flynn who I idolize, and was my inspiration to write my first novel, God rest his soul, was a great story teller. But as I continued through his Mitch Rapp series, things became repetitive. Again, loved the character, and Vince’s story telling, but the enemy was always the same, just fought in a slightly different way.

Ultimately, I want to read a great book, and be done. The occasional trilogy, sure. I am getting to far along in years to not know when a story is going to end.

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