SBD: breaking up with series

For today’s SBD, I’m going to comment on a post currently enjoying a lot of attention over at Smart Bitches:  breaking up with a series.  When do you do it? Why?  Lot of comments over there about which series readers have abandoned and why.  And it seemed like a very timely post for me, since the two books I read last week are the most recent installments of series that I’m now giving up on.

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris.  Robin/Janet wrote an insightful review of this book over at Dear Author, and I agree with a lot of what she said but not necessarily all of it.  Here’s the thing, though:  I’ve lost the plot.  I’ve lost the point of this series.  In the last few books, especially this one, I have found Sookie to be a less and less sympathetic narrator, which is a big problem, since the stories are told in first person.  Her naivety (maybe that’s not the right word?) toward the supes is an example of this.  Because they have some superhuman power, she seems to think they should have no problems or could never be at a disadvantage.  Which seems rather ridiculous, given the events of the earlier books; their powers have quite obviously not protected them from bad things happening.   And Sookie judges them by a sliding scale of humanity — because weres/shifters are more "human", the standards she seems (to me) to hold them to in interpersonal relationships and interactions are higher than those of the vampires.  Also, I think she’s rather judgmental about the humans in her community for all that she pretends not to be, and her constant measuring of herself as a good christian grates on my nerves.

Probably I could get over this if I felt really invested in the world that Charlaine Harris has established.  But I don’t trust Harris as an author.  This distrust is threefold.  First,  her willingness to kill major characters without warning and for no real purpose (not even plot advancement, see A Fool and His Honey) makes me unwilling to really invest in any of her characters.  Second, while I appreciate that she is willing to examine the very precarious and fragile position of women (physically and financially) in society, I find her willingness to visit brutality on her protagonists to be a little disturbing.  Every one of her narrators has been assaulted in one way or another, usually on the page or as shown in flashbacks.  And third, given the way a couple of her other mystery series have just…stopped, I don’t trust that this series will be wrapped up in a satisfying way.  In fact, given the UF/paranormal popularity, along with the show, I’m afraid that the series may (already has?) become a cash cow that never ends in any good way. 

Lover Avenged by JR Ward.  The last couple of Black Dagger Brotherhood books have been not very good, but I was still hooked on the crack.  But the move to hard cover and the marketing sleight of hand (is it romance? is it urban fantasy?) helped me detox.  I read, or rather skimmed, this latest installment and can say that the enchantment is definitely over.  While this book is marginally better than the last, I get the feeling that Ward has gotten "Too Big" to be edited, or to be told when she is wasting words, paper and time.  I could (and did) skip 20 to 50 pages at a time, and had no problem picking up the threads of the plot.  More than 100 pages could easily have been trimmed from this book without doing any damage to it; in fact, it would have improved the narrative immensely.

Also, drug dealer as a hero?  Eh, sorry, I’m not buying the bullshit "he did it for his family" line.  Having said that, turning a badass into a "you hang up, no you" weenie?  Ugh. I suppose it was a good thing that the so-called romance of the book only took maybe 10% of the story space.  Incest, skanky villain sex, the description of graphic torture, demolition/revision of a previously settled character, assassination of another character, and repetition of plot points followed. 

Another thing:  WTF is up with her world building and theology?  I don’t get it.  I thought the Scribe Virgin was the creator of their race/species, and the deity that ruled their world to the exclusion of all other religions.  At some point, though, she acquired a "Father".  In the last book, Lassiter, a fallen angel, appeared.  And he appears to belong to the christian religious pantheon, since he jokes with another character about not being christ.  So my question is, is the Scribe Virgin and the entire vampire religion just a sect of christianity?  Does it coexist?  [I thought most religions argued that their god was The One God.  No?]  Which also makes me wonder:  is Lassiter the Fallen Angel series bait for Ward’s new series on fallen angels?  [Not that I really care about the answer, because I’m not planning on trying that series.  Just curious.]

With Ward, again, I don’t trust her as an author to use the rules of the world that she established in order to tell a coherent story that is part of an overall series arc.  She has exploded her own world building and mythology in earlier books.  And I’m uncomfortable with her excuse position that she is merely the scribe and that this is how these characters (who appear to her) are acting.  That smacks of a lack of accountability for the story she is writing, and is a wishy washy way to explain inconsistencies in the books and what appears (to me) to pandering to fans and/or critics.  For example,  Butch and V had no sexual tension, or so she said after the third book.  But the party line changed after the next book.  Why?  Could it have been because the discussion of the homoerotic undertones of their interactions were widely discussed? 

Both books were follow ups to less than stellar earlier books in the series, and they were improvements over the last installments.  Since I gave these authors one more chance in terms of my reading time (but not my reading dollar), then why am I breaking up with them?  Like I said, it all comes down to trust.  And I no longer trust either of these authors to tell me a satisfying story.




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4 responses to “SBD: breaking up with series

  1. I’m so annoyed that the BDB series has fallen off the rails. And part of it is the fact that many of the problems could be caught by tighter editing. So really, there’s a whole team of people producing a book so thick I have to pay the equivalent of 2 hours of work to buy it.

    • The need for better editing has been *very* noticeable in the last couple of books, I think.
      Sometimes I wonder if authors, especially authors who transition from paperback to hardback, feel pressure to write longer books in order to make the format change “worth it” to readers.

  2. Hmm, both series I haven’t really started yet…I have read Sookie #1 and I have up to 7 in TBR but haven’t read. Plan to.
    J.R. Ward. I had never had the urge to read this until someone on twitter was CRACKING ME UP while they read Lover Avenged and tweeted all the product placements in the book (Cottonelle!) When you’re dropping brand names for TP, it’s kind of crazy and now I must read it. I’ve been conned into starting the series – I just got books 1 & 2 (yesterday actually).

    • I enjoyed the Sookie series for the first four or five books, and would say they are worth reading. The last few have interested me less, in part because the plots felt a little cobbled together and not very smooth, but also because I’ve lost of the thread of the series. Others still love the series, though, so I may just be suffering from ennui.
      The first three books in Ward’s BDB series were good, and seemed different from a lot of the other paranormal romance being published. The product placements, slang, names and cultural appropriation were things I could overlook, because I was sucked into the story telling. My tolerance has diminished because of: 1) increasing name dropping; 2) repetition of characterization; 3) wishy washy heroines; 4) head hopping — I counted 9 POV characters in the last book; 5) the destruction/undermining of the original worldbuilding; and 6) false advertising — don’t label something as romance then change it to urban fantasy once you’ve hooked the romance readers, and don’t tell me that having 10% of the page space devoted to the ostensible couple’s HEA makes the entire book a genre romance novel.
      Obviously, there are many readers who disagree with my opinions about this series, since it hit the bestseller list even after switching to hardback.

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