Saturday, June 9, 2012

Discussion: How Long is Too Long?

While on vacation, I read the 19th book in a popular series -- a series that I've loved reading and rereading for years. But something went wrong this time. I was actually kind of bored while reading about these beloved characters doing, well, the same things they have done through eighteen other novels. It wasn't a bad book by any means but it just wasn't a great one.

So, my question(s) are, how long is too long for a series? Is there a number of books that should be a limit or does it really depend on the author? I know that there are trilogies out there that feel like they should have been single books. But are there any really long series that still seem fresh, even into the double digits? What is the longest series where you still enjoy each new release?

Starting something fresh,


  1. Interesting question! I think it depends on the author and if they can keep the characters/story fresh and interesting.

    I stopped reading the Stephanie Plum series because they were stuck in a rut. The author doesn't seem to want to advance the story and have Stephanie choose between her two love interests, and she never seems to get any better at her job as bounty hunter. What was fun and cute in the first copy of books is now stale and boring to me. It's like she doesn't want to lose her cash cow, so keeps recycling what worked before.

    On the other hand, I love the Eve Dallas series by JD Robb! The characters grow and relationships change and everything is still interesting. I think she's up to #34 now, but the stories are still incredible!

  2. I tend not to read too many series because even the best ones usually grow stale as they go on too long. I thought Stephen King's Dark Tower series started out great, but quickly went downhill. Even Harry Potter, which I loved, became repetitive, and the later books weren't as good as the earlier ones. I understand the appeal of a series, but I like diving into something new more often than not.

  3. Yeah, it grieves me, but I think the Amelia Peabody series has gone on too long. I think she should have stopped after Children of the Storm; I think that would have had a nice circularity, with Ramses's children being all bumptious and chatty.

    That said, I think I rather liked River in the Sky, as compared to some of the other later books in the series. Like Guardian of the Horizon, which I just pretend never happened.

  4. I have pretty much quit reading the Amelia Peabody books too. But I'm still reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels; he's done an amazing job at changing the series and keeping it interesting.

  5. You probably won't be surprised that I'm going to mention the Mary Russell series as one that has held up into the double digits (with book 12 coming this year). Laurie King does a nice job trying different styles and settings with the characters to keep it fresh.

    I agree with Chris about some of the later Dark Tower books, although I did like the way the series ended, and the new book is great. Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events got a little tedious toward the end. I felt like the story was collapsing under its own weight, and the narrative schtick got old.

  6. Alexia - I think that might be one of the things that has gone wrong with this series. Instead of moving forward, some of the recent books are "fillers" -- books that happen within the existing timeline. This means that they really don't advance the story or change the characters at all.

    Chris - I went into my LibraryThing account to see if I had read any other series that were this long and there weren't. I have a couple that are around 7 books and I've read almost all the Poirot and Marple books but they aren't in series, per se. At least with Harry Potter, they got older and more mature. Imagine if book 8 was "oh, I wanted to tell more of what happened that summer after third year" -- that's what this book I just read was like. ;)

    Jenny - I liked it but didn't feel like it added much to the series. Ramses and David off on an adventure, Nefret cranky at home, Peabody and Emerson get into scrapes as well. Same-old, same-old. I think I'll just start rereading the early books again. :)

    Jean - Yes, Discworld might be the ultimate series because he set up early that it would branch out and try different storylines, different settings and different characters. I'm still slowly working my way through it. I think I've only read 3 books so far but I should pick up more this summer!

    Teresa - I promise that I am going to start the Mary Russell series this year! Now that I'm caught up with this one (and unsatisfied), I'm ready to start something new and fresh! And I think I stopped reading the Lemony Snickets after about book three or four even though we own through nine, I think. I'll probably finally make it through the whole series when Z gets interested in them.

  7. Long series likes this are hard. You do get tired of them. The longest series I've stuck with is the Kinsey Millhone books by Sue Grafton (she's going through the alphabet) and I have to say it is losing its lustre this far in. Still, I'm invested in it so I'll continue until the end.

  8. Jenners - I think the thing with this one too is that most series I read quit before they get this long -- the author loses interest or finishes the story or whatever. That's much better than the reader losing interest! :P

  9. I felt this way about some of the later books in the Falco series, which ended at book 20. (Unless Davis decides to go back and write more, but I doubt it.) I think it's easy to continue on with a successful series past its prime. I'm sad that's happened with the Peabody series, but not surprised. Sometimes... it's just time to move on :-)

  10. Aarti - I have to admit that I'm a bit loath to pick up a book in a series that is too long because my excitement about the new-to-me series probably won't mesh well with the let down as I go through the series and the quality drops. Yes, sometimes moving on is the best option!