Posted by Jarsto in Reading
August 4th, 2008 | 4 Comments »

I finished reading a trilogy last night. To be precise the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson. I read the First Chronicles (technically just called the Chronicles) quite a few years ago, and started looking around for the Second Chronicles shortly after. Unfortunately my local bookstore only ever had parts of the First Chronicles in stock. And for some reason this never made it onto my online purchase lists.

Fast forward now to 2005, suddenly the First Chronicles were no longer the only thing in stock at the bookstore. Now The Runes Of The Earth, part one of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, had appeared. Still nothing from the Second Chronicles, and without reading those I wasn’t too interested in the Last Chronicles. Fast forward another 30 months or so to June of this year (or there abouts). Suddenly the Second Chronicles were there. Not piece by piece, but as a complete trilogy in a one volume omnibus.

After hesitating for a few moments (pondering my budget) I decided to go for it. For three books it actually wasn’t expensive, and I’d been looking for it for so long it would felt churlish if I didn’t buy it. Of course I didn’t have time to read it when I bought it, so I put it on the shelf along with the other books waiting for me to get around to them.

Fast forward again, to last Wednesday. I wasn’t feeling too well, and because it was quiet had the chance to come home early from work. On impulse I got the Second Chronicles down from the shelf they were on and started reading. Before the end of Thursday morning I’d finished Book One: The Wounded Land. I was home, not feeling well, again for most of Friday and managed to get through some 75% of Book Two: The One Tree.

Saturday I finished Book Two and started on Book Three: White Gold Wielder. That left me plenty of time on Sunday to finish Book Three. Though I held back for quite a while because the Chronicles, while well written, aren’t what I’d call light reading. Donaldson’s style sucks you along into a world where Despair is the main enemy, and pulls you in so deep it’s almost painful at times.

All of which brings me to my present dilemma: The Runes Of The Earth came out in 2004, and the second book of the Last Chronicles – Fatal Revenant – appeared in 2007. But, if Wikipedia is to be believed, the Last Chronicles are actually going to be a four part series (at least) with the final book not expected before 2013.1

So the old dilemma of any series, particularly series not meant to be read as standalones (which the Chronicles have never been so far) raises it’s head again. On the one hand I’m tempted to jump in, to see where things will go after the end of the Second Chronicles. But at the same time, do I want to start something now I won’t be able to finish until 2013 at the earliest. There’s no way to say for certain what I’ll do over the next few years, but right now chances are I’ll wait, there already too many books I’m waiting for, some from series that are much better standalone reads than I’m expecting here.
1 Here to be exact

4 Responses to “The Series Dilemma”

  1. Starstuff Says:

    Just do it the “Harry Potter Way” – the way I read the Harry Potter books. When I graduated from the German gymnasium (after 12th grade) my mom gave me the fourth book of HP which had just come out. I went through it in about two days, then got the first three volumes and went through them in two days as well.
    And then came the waiting. And waiting. And more waiting. And every time a new HP was released, I was the first in the book store and got my copy (which was quite easy as not many people wanted to read that in English).
    But before I started each new volume, I actually read the volume that came before it to get in the mood and to draw out this wonderful exciting experience of reading a new book.
    And before the very last HP book, I actually re-read the entire series before finishing the “saga”. It was quite an experience, reading all those books back to back and it has become my favorite way of reading book series since.

  2. Jarsto Says:

    I’ve use the “re-read the series” trick myself in the past, and it does work to get you back into the world. But the main reason I think I’m probably going to hold off is sort of the reverse side of that. Reading Donaldson’s work pulls me so far into his world that I’d hate finishing a book and not being able to move on to the next part instantly.

    Unlike HP, to take your own example, there isn’t much of a resolution at the end of each individual book. It’s closer to one book in several volumes, than to several books all part of one story.

  3. Starstuff Says:

    Oh my, I would hate that! That’s like reading a book that gets taken away from you just when it gets interesting and you can’t finish … *shudder*

  4. Jarsto Says:

    Yup. That’s why I’m pretty sure I’ll be waiting until the whole thing is finished/published before I start the series. And it’s not like I’m going to run out of stuff to read any time soon (especially not as I keep adding books at least as fast as I’m finishing them). So there should be plenty to keep me occupied while I wait.

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