I thought this week’s subject was interesting in that I had never really given thought to my favorite book series. When it came to series, I had only been thinking of how many books I wanted in my particular Land of the Blind series.
After reading CJ’s blog, I began thinking that maybe I shouldn’t get ahead of myself with a long series of books. I certainly don’t want my books to take off on an outrageous tangent like the Anita Blake series or become completely over the top like David Weber’s Honor Harrington series (although Weber sort of redeemed himself with At All Costs).
When I think back, I realize that I really got into reading through series. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy; Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, 2010, 2061; Ian Fleming's James Bond; Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and John Carter; Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason, etc …
Series today can't hold a candle to those originals. Those originals held your interest and made you salivate in anticipation of the next book.
Today's stuff, like Anita Blake and Twilight start off good and then get off the beaten track as if their authors have run out of ideas and are just experimenting. Even the better writers have gotten long-winded and silly, like Brian Lumley's last Necroscope series (Harry Keogh died, but now his sons carry on the series that will never end).
I've learned the hard way to read the first book and skip the rest of a series, where, in the past, I got the sequel automatically. A prime example is one of my all-time faves – Marion Zimmer Bradley’s classic Mists of Avalon. So far, I haven’t bitten on any of the sequels by Bradley or by Diana L. Paxson (when Bradley passed away in 1999).
I don't want to relive my childhood, so I haven't taken advantage when I've seen the Harry Potter books at Goodwill. Likewise, I won't do it if I see Stephanie Meyers' Twilight Saga because I don't want to be a 40-something trying to be a "tween." (And because I want my monsters and bogeymen to remain monsters and bogeyman, not tween heart throbs).
I also want book series that don't strain credibility. If you've ever read the Mack Bolan series by Don Pendleton (and a slew of ghost writers), you'll understand. Over the course of 100-plus books with Mack Bolan, Phoenix Force and Able Team, I got tired of Pendleton and company trying to find new ways to kill bad guys -- for example, one of the Bolan books described a terrorist being garrotted so hard that he was decapitated and his last act was to boot his own head into the gutter. Obviously the producers of Saw and Friday the 13th were inspired by Pendleton.
So, what whets my appetite? What satisfies my craving for mental stimulation (besides Wicked Writers)?
The classics, baby, the classics.
And the winners are:
J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and C.J. Cherryh.
I want my stuff to be as exciting, suspenseful and character-driven as anything by those three.
I crack open their books over and over again until the pages are so dog-eared that not a single page is left untouched.
Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy (along with the prequels The Hobbit and The Silmarillion) has action, romance, strong characters, suspense and excellent plotting. It should be required reading for all fantasy writers (and all writers in general if only to show how to create and sustain believable fictional worlds).
Cherryh's Chronicles of Morgaine -- Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan, Fires of Azeroth and (in my opinion, the best of the series) Exile’s Gate. Stephanie Meyers and Laurell K. Hamilton could learn a thing or two about romantic angst from the friendship and companionship between Morgaine and Vanye.
Of course, Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories and books speak for themselves. I will read and reread them all day long.
Close behind those three are other authors of a by-gone era -- Jules Verne's Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea & Mysterious Island), Octavia Butler (Lilith's Brood), George Schuyler (Black Empire, Black Internationale), L. Ron Hubbard (Mission Earth dekology), H. Rider Haggard (King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quarterman), and Fred Saberhagen (Berserker series).
If you want the best series, find the new stuff that can stand with the classics, like Koji Suzuki's Ring Trilogy. You'll know them. They'll be the ones not gathering dust on the shelves because they'll constantly be on and off and back on your nightstand or coffee table.
[caption id="attachment_2705" align="alignleft" width="150" caption=""Ring" trilogy"][/caption]