Booking Through Thursday: When Series Jump the Shark

Booking Through ThursdayThis week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt concerns series books: “If you read series, do you ever find a series ‘jumping the shark?’ How do you feel about that? And, do you keep reading anyway?”

I have found that if the early books in a series grab me, I am much more forgiving of later lapses. I really loved Anne Rice’s first two Vampire Chronicles books, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. I didn’t like Queen of the Damned so much, but I understood its importance in terms of the Rice vampire mythos. I did enjoy The Tale of the Body Thief. As the series continued, I liked each book less and less. I didn’t like The Vampire Armand much, I never finished Blood and Gold, Pandora was only OK, and Memnoch the Devil remains the only book I’ve ever thrown across the room. Still, I kept trying for a while, you know? Because I liked some of the earlier books so much. I read Merrick and I tried Blackwood Farm. Finally I had to admit to myself that I just didn’t like the books anymore, and that trying to recapture what I felt about the first couple was pointless: she had clearly moved in a different direction, and it wasn’t one I was going to enjoy.

I had a sort of similar reaction to Stephenie Meyer’s books. I know it’s not cool anymore to admit you’ve read them, but I’ll cop to it. I will even admit to enjoying the first book a lot. The second less so. The third even less. The last one was frankly really awful and extremely weird. Vampire babies, vampire Bella is somehow more remarkable than everyone else (Mary Sue much?), weenie pedophile Jacob, weird abusive sex. Nope. Totally jumped the shark. And I can say honestly that if Meyer has plans to extend the saga with a fifth book, I won’t read it. Breaking Dawn was a shark-jumping moment if ever there was one.

In both cases, I kept up with books in series, despite declining quality, because I had truly liked the first or first couple of books. It is hard not to feel a little betrayed by the books. It’s hard too not to feel a little angry with the author who had previous given you so much pleasure. However, I am clearly forgiving past the point of rationality, especially as illustrated in Rice’s case, and I will read an entire series if the payoff in the first two or so books was good. I have read all of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next and Nursery Crime books published to date, and I loved them all. My favorite series, Harry Potter, just got better and better.

One of these days, I’m going to try to finish Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The first four books were rewarding. I never finished the fifth, and haven’t touched the others. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sort of Pavlovian reaction to one of her book covers.

If you look at it from a behaviorist perspective, I have clearly been rewarded by enough series books to have learned to stick it out. However, it seems to take me a long time to stop expecting that reward. And you know, sometimes, I just have to finish a series to know what happens. Lately I have been telling myself life is too short to read bad books. And I have been sticking to that axiom, for the most part. A series is a commitment. It’s more than slogging through a few hundred pages. It’s a relationship with an author and her characters. And like many relationships, it can be hard to let go and figure out when breaking up might be the healthiest thing.

8 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: When Series Jump the Shark

  1. I think I quit the Anne Rice Vampire series with Queen of the Damned.

    And I'm not afraid to admit I got sucked into the Twilight series (though I blush a little bit) … but I kind of liked Book 3 best and thought Book 4 was just freaky.

    I'm with you on the Harry Potter books. She seemed to have a fully realized vision from the start, and I think that helps.

    Some series I'd like to see die: the whole Stephanie Plum thing, Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series, and anything that James Patterson starts!

    1. Eclipse wasn't bad. I gave it four stars, which on my scale, definitely means I liked it. I haven't read the others you mention, but I now consider myself duly warned.

  2. I thought of Anne Rice straightaway too. The difference with me is that I never liked the books all that much to start with, so by the time I got to Queen of the Damned I gave it all up forever.

    1. I could see how that one might turn you away. But I truly did like about three of those books, and I liked parts of The Witching Hour, too. I saw a student was reading it once, and knowing my own complicated love/hate relationship with that book and that author, I asked her what she thought of it. She kind of cocked her head and thought for a minute. Then she said, "I think Anne Rice writes really well when she's writing about the past, but not so much when she's writing about the present." Bingo. That encapsulated something I couldn't articulate beforehand about Rice's writing in a perfect little nutshell.

  3. I read Twilight and enjoyed it, but not enough to continue with the series. I also loved the first four books of the Outlander series and keep telling myself I need to get to the fifth, but haven't taken the time yet.

    For me, the Stephanie Plum series by Evanovich jumped the shark many books ago.

    1. I know what you mean about Twilight. You didn't miss much. That was the best one, in my opinion. I have been the same way with Outlander. It's took so long for the fifth one to come out! I am going to try to listen to them as audio books in the car. I haven't heard of the Stephanie Plum series.

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