As a part of Project Shelving I’ve been getting more severe with book series. Sci-fi loves a series. Known worlds and characters guarantee sales, and tap into the deep-rooted completist gene we know so well around here. Can we get by knowing that the story we loved in what is now part one now carries on into parts 2 to six. Maybe that mysterious origin/object/event will be finally explained in book 4/5/63. Over the last few years I’ve been consciously re-reading these and fighting the completist gene. Holding onto part one, as it’s very good, and ditching parts 2-6 as they are not. I am here to hopefully provide a counter to that completist gene, and reassure you that in these cases clearing those shelves is the right thing to do. Or you can safely stop at the end of the first book.
Your suggestions please for series where the start should also be the end – interested in fantasy, crime etc – not genres whose series I know well.
Rendezvous With Rama – the original AC Clarke novel is full of mystery and understatement, the three sequels written with (by) Gentry Lee get progressively longer and less rewarding. A case of the more you know, the more boring it gets.
Ringworld – though Niven’s no-one’s idea of a great writer, his incredibly influential BDO is brilliantly explored in the original novel by an engaging cast of characters. Over three sequels this cast of characters return again and again to Ringworld, have inter-species sex (a big thing for Niven) and bicker. To no great end.
Ender’s Game. A super young adult scifi novel, followed by a perhaps even better and very subtle novel Speaker for the Dead. Alas the chronicles of Ender don’t Ender but go on and on in two spectacularly boring further sequels, and a load of prequels that are desperately unnecessary.
Foundation. One of the original sci-fi novel series, Asimov’s gentle and humane future history has spawned two sequels to the original trilogy, two prequels and some ‘from the universe of ‘ novels that are pretty much homeopathic in their distance from the originals. Never strong on plot or action, the prequels virtually grind to a halt in their desire to set things up for, but not conflict with, the original.
2001: Unlike with RWR, Clarke did write the three sequels. Like with RWR the props – monoliths, enigmatic messages, bemused astronauts, cosmic events are moved around to progressively less effect.
Dune. Ah Dune. The most completely original and loved sci-fi of all time – discuss. Can the same be said of the five sequels written by Herbert, and the prequels and further adventures written by his son, perhaps the Jordi Cruyff of science fiction.
Whereas..Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, Alistair Reynold’s Revelation Space quartet, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and (a little more genretastic) Peter F Hamilton’s Nights Dawn trilogy I can all thoroughly recommend because it’s clear from the outset that these were written as series and the story sustains all through. Mars may get a bit too talky in part 3.
Never go back they say, and with Clarke, Niven, Scott Card, Asimov and their sharecroppers it’s clear that sales and perhaps an easy write were the motivator and that tying up some loose ends was not enough in terms of action for 400 more pages.