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Old 09-02-2010, 01:10 AM   #1
ficbot
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Series which don't have to be read in order?

I have the complete JD Robb series and feel like they benefit from being read in order. And I am only missing two int he Sue Grafton series since my usual haunts don't have them. Even though I have no plans to re-read the series at this exact moment, it really annoys me that those two are missing!

On the other hand, I just got a bunch of Agatha Christie ebooks from the library and those are pretty much stand-alone. I have read several, all out of order, and don't feel I missed anything. I also have done the pick and chose with Terry Pratchett's Discworld (liked Mort, got two other Death books, and have mostly avoided the other ones) and feel fine about it I don't feel I was lost at all reading Mort bust because it wasn't book number one.

I am curious about other series books which you don't have to read in order. My public library just got a bunch of mystery series where they seemed to pick them randomly and the first book was not among the pickings. So, with something like the 'Rizzoli and Isles' series, which is very popular right now, there are a handful at varying points on the most recent entries of the numbered list, a few from the middle, and I think the earliest is #2 or 3. Will such books be less enjoyable if you didn't read the first? What series do you think should be read in order, and whhich ones have you enjoyed where the order doesn't matter?
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Old 09-02-2010, 02:11 AM   #2
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Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series can be read mostly standalone, with only a few books in "mini-series" within the series which work better if you've read the previous. This applies only to the ones she wrote herself, and not the posthumous co-author collaborations. This is nice, as it allows one to cherry-pick the best books, and skip the distressingly frequent lower quality ones.

Same as for Mercedes Lackey, both in and outside of Valdemar. Though for the Valdemar books, you kind of have to start with the first book of any given "set". And you may be mildly spoilered for the fates of the lead characters of any preceding "set" if they happen to show up in the one you're reading.

Steven Brust's excellent Vlad Taltos fantasies can be read in practically any order after the first book. They're mostly not written chronologically anyway, but it helps to read "Teckla" before any of the stuff set after Vlad leaves the city, just so you have an idea of what causes him to leave in the first place.

Katherine Hall Page's Faith Fairchild cozy mysteries can be read in practically any order. They're all kind of same-y anyway, or at least that's the impression I got after reading five in a row.

Most cozy mysteries are probably like that, though with some that have gradual important relationship developments over time, it's probably best not to read books too far apart in the series back to back. Some of the historical sleuth stuff, too.

I think there's a medieval series by Katherine Hall Frazier (or a name something like that) which can be read standalone as I never got any significant references to past books or emotional/character developments when I read the one of hers that I tried. And a series with Queen Elizabeth I as a sleuth, done by an author whose first name I think is Karen which was pretty much just like that, too.

I would dearly love to recommend to you my favourite Benjamin January mysteries, by Barbara Hambly, set in antebellum New Orleans from the viewpoint of a former slave trained as a surgeon who works as a musician for his living. Alas, they really do have to be read in order for the best effect, though if they turn up at all in your library, I'd say go for it anyway; they're good enough to be worth reading in any order.

And while I don't think they're likely to turn up as e-books any time soon, Elspeth Huxley (of Flame Trees of Thika fame) wrote a trio of detective novels set in a faux-Kenya with Canadian Inspector Vachell, who is notable for having what would normally be his supporting cast completely replaced for every book. No recurring characters, no mention of past cases/situations/places. At all.

Except for the bit where he was a Mountie for awhile before being put in charge of the faux-Kenyan police.

They're still pretty entertaining reads, though, allowing for the fact that they were written in the 30s (and got reprinted in the 80s/90s).
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Old 09-02-2010, 04:19 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by ficbot View Post
On the other hand, I just got a bunch of Agatha Christie ebooks from the library and those are pretty much stand-alone.
Most of Agatha Christie's books are indeed completely standalone, but there are exceptions. In a number of her "Poirot" books, Poirot discusses his earlier cases, and gives away their solutions, and in the "Miss Marple" books, "Nemesis" is a (loose) sequel to "A Carribean Mystery".
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Old 09-02-2010, 01:15 PM   #4
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Only my opinion, but most mysteries can be read stand alone.
Many have ongoing characters but the best only have vague reference to earlier books so as not to spoil them.
I have read literally thousands of odd series books without feeling I know the ending to a previous book in series.
I love it when I can read them in order, but that generally I am thrilled to find a book by a favorite author I haven't read before even if read many after it.
For example: knowing Robert B. Parker's Spenser's romantic future doesn't detract from the pleasure of reading his first few books. In fact the first introduction of familiar characters kind of fills in the blank.
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Old 09-02-2010, 02:20 PM   #5
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There's always Star Trek novels, which if know the series don't need to be read in order
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Old 09-02-2010, 06:16 PM   #6
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I don't know, mystery series with a recurring main character (detective and friends), you can read out of order without missing much about that specific mystery, but you sort of miss the development of the detective as a character.

In some ways, some are almost like soap operas. A lot of historical mysteries are at least.

OTOH, something like say, Chandler's Marlowe doesn't really matter much. I'm not sure they were really in a series, just books with the same main character. And then you have Ngaio Marsh's stuff. While her detective, Alleyn gets married and have kids, it's sort of in the background, mostly.
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:05 PM   #7
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I like the idea of reading things more-or-less in sequence because of the additional depth about traits of the core characters you can discover in the same order that the author did. Parker's Spenser, Christie's Poirot, Doyle's Holmes and Rankin's Rebus are enriched as the author's themselves, over many years and creating tales, reveal back-story and motivation that isn't there in the first outing; and other details which appear in short-hand in later books.

But this implies the author is challenging him/herself as well as the reader ... and certainly not every author is capable of this. Elizabeth George's Lynley, yes; but Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone? not so much.
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Old 09-03-2010, 11:02 AM   #8
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Not really a series, I guess, since there are only 2 books, but Stephen King's 'Desperation' and 'The Regulators' are companion books and can be read in any order.
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Old 09-03-2010, 12:14 PM   #9
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Iain Banks 'Culture' books - well written space opera stuff.
Tom Clancy's 'Jack Ryan' series - work as stand alones
William Gibson - the 'Sprawl' and 'Bridge' series of cyberpunk
Larry Niven - 'Known Space' lots of sub series in this one - the Gil the Hand ones work out of sequence but Ringworld doesnt
Jack Vance 'Dying Earth' - classic fantasy books - read in any order
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Old 09-03-2010, 12:51 PM   #10
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I always say if you don't know there are other books in the serious you can read them in any order you like!
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Old 09-03-2010, 08:57 PM   #11
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Series Order

I am crazy about reading books in the series in the correct order. I won't start a series if I can't get all of the books and read them in order. Some of my favorite series are not in ebook or only have one or two books in the series in ebook. I don't know who decides how many books go into ebook form but for me it drives me crazy if I can't get all of the books.
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Old 09-03-2010, 11:28 PM   #12
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Old 09-03-2010, 11:30 PM   #13
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Ed McBain's "87th Precinct" novels are set in the same world, but are self contained though they may contain spoilers by referring to events in earlier books.
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Old 09-03-2010, 11:37 PM   #14
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I would recommend Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series. They can be read in pretty much any order. Even the first book in the series reads like a book in the middle of it.
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