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Old 06-13-2018, 01:32 PM   #16
ZodWallop
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Ah, you see, I would have used this as an example of a series going downhill after the first book or two (not to mention taking the rest of his work with it). When he wrote the first one he was young(ish) and cared what his editors told him, by the time he really started writing the rest of the series ... no idea, but I didn't like it, and there was just so much of it not to like.
When he wrote the first stories, he was young. He started writing them in 1970, though he didn't start publishing them until 1978.

At any rate, I've heard several people claim King went downhill after the publication of The Shining or The Stand or whatever early book of his they really liked.

I disagree, but to each his own.
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Old 06-13-2018, 04:46 PM   #17
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Stephen R. Donaldson's Gap Cycle. The fact that this springs so quickly to mind tells you that it is exceedingly rare.
Interesting. I haven't read those. I've read the Mordant's Need series, which I liked and the first six of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which started off interesting, but had become unreadable by book 6. It's not a coincidence that I never bought any Donaldson ebooks to replace by paper copies.
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Old 06-13-2018, 05:03 PM   #18
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I would say that the writing improved with each book in the Harry Potter series. Rowling's writing in the more recent Cormoran Strike series is top-notch. It seems that being fabulously wealthy has given her the opportunity to hone her craft, and she put serious effort into it.
Another just like that is the Outlander series. The first book was so bad I stopped reading about half way through and started in the middle of the second, then went back and filled in the skipped parts. I’ve never done that before.
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Old 06-13-2018, 06:09 PM   #19
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Just as with the Gap series, sometimes a writer develops a story and then decides to revisit that universe and only then comes up with a major arc. That happened in Peter F. Hamilton's Misspent Youth. Not a great novel but the followup was a very memorable epic called the Commonwealth Saga.
This IMO can be a deterrent, as well. I really *liked* the first few novels in the Dresden Files series. I was specifically interested in the idea of a "wizard PI" series, where each book could be more or less standalone. Once he started adding what I call "the huge fantasy arc" in book 4, I became more and more dissatisfied with the books.

I picked up Kristine Kathryn Rusch Retrieval Artist series with the same hopes - mostly standalone mystery series, set on the moon. And it mostly was, although like some mystery series, they did build on each other and it would be harder to treat them like true standalones. Then she wrote the "Anniversary Day saga" - 8 flipping books with an overall "evil warlord" type of arc. I hate those types of stories. I read the books, and enjoyed them although to a lesser degree than the others, because I'm hooked on the characters. But I'd have been happier to just have some more mysteries for the hero to solve.

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Interesting. I haven't read those. I've read the Mordant's Need series, which I liked and the first six of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which started off interesting, but had become unreadable by book 6. It's not a coincidence that I never bought any Donaldson ebooks to replace by paper copies.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were the first fantasy books I ever read. I loved the first 3, wasn't as pleased with the 2nd 3, and own, but still can't force myself to read, the last batch (I think there were 4 in the last "trilogy"). Thomas Covenant was such a unique type of character to me (I mostly read romance and mystery novels, and hadn't discovered urban fantasy until a couple decades later). I liked Mordant's Need as well, but hated the first Gap book so much I never went back and tried to read the rest of them. The only other "epic" type fantasy I read was Jordan's Wheel of Time. I got impatient with doorstopper books that covered only 3 days of time, and gave up on those around book 10 or so.

Last edited by FizzyWater; 06-13-2018 at 06:12 PM.
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Old 06-13-2018, 10:05 PM   #20
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When he wrote the first stories, he was young. He started writing them in 1970, though he didn't start publishing them until 1978.

At any rate, I've heard several people claim King went downhill after the publication of The Shining or The Stand or whatever early book of his they really liked.

I disagree, but to each his own.
Saying he wrote in 1970 and published in 1978 may be strictly true, but it would be naive to expect that it did not get touched between 1970 and publication.

Marking a downhill (as per my own tastes in reading) is very difficult with Stephen King; he has always been one of those that I had very mixed responses to. When he was on form (to my tastes) he was very very good, which is why I kept coming back for so long. By the mid-to-late 90s it had gotten so that I was no longer rushing out to get his latest book, and by mid 00s it got so I was only buying selected books. And now it's rare I buy any of his at all. If you look at the publication dates for the Dark Tower series you will see some correlation there. I admit that correlation does not necessarily mean cause, but Dark Tower was certainly not something that helped his cause with me.

This thread is talking about first books of series, but I tend to think about authors rather than a series. When I find an author I like, I keep looking at their work, and if they've been very good on some occasions they get a pass for being bad (to my tastes) on others - as King did over a few decades.
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Old 06-14-2018, 09:07 AM   #21
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This IMO can be a deterrent, as well. I really *liked* the first few novels in the Dresden Files series. I was specifically interested in the idea of a "wizard PI" series, where each book could be more or less standalone. Once he started adding what I call "the huge fantasy arc" in book 4, I became more and more dissatisfied with the books.
That is too bad. I've only read the first novel so far in that series. That is why I stopped reading the Inspector Lynley mysteries and watching Longmire. They abandoned the mysteries for long arcs and melodrama.
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Old 06-14-2018, 03:01 PM   #22
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This thread is talking about first books of series, but I tend to think about authors rather than a series. When I find an author I like, I keep looking at their work, and if they've been very good on some occasions they get a pass for being bad (to my tastes) on others - as King did over a few decades.
Me too. When I read a new-to-me author, I mentally put him or her in one of three categories--never read again, give another chance, read more for sure. Once an author is in that last category, it takes several clunkers for him or her to be dislodged.
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Old 06-14-2018, 06:29 PM   #23
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The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were the first fantasy books I ever read. I loved the first 3, wasn't as pleased with the 2nd 3, and own, but still can't force myself to read, the last batch (I think there were 4 in the last "trilogy"). Thomas Covenant was such a unique type of character to me (I mostly read romance and mystery novels, and hadn't discovered urban fantasy until a couple decades later). I liked Mordant's Need as well, but hated the first Gap book so much I never went back and tried to read the rest of them. The only other "epic" type fantasy I read was Jordan's Wheel of Time. I got impatient with doorstopper books that covered only 3 days of time, and gave up on those around book 10 or so.
Sounds like I'm an exception but I really enjoyed the 2nd trilogy of Thomas Convenant books, more than the first. (I've read the first book of the third "trilogy" but it didn't grab me enough to move the rest up my TBR list.) I HATED, absolutely HATED the Gap series. I read the first two just out of respect for the author and couldn't force myself to finish it. That was 30 years ago, so maybe I'd have a different take. I'm not motivated to try though.

One series that got better for me was the Deryni books, by Katherine Kurtz. The first trilogy (and especially first book) really shows her inexperience as a writer and world builder. The subsequent two trilogies are some of my favorite books ever.
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Old 06-14-2018, 07:36 PM   #24
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Sometimes the first book in a series is the best; the author used up most of his material. Sometimes a series improves on a good beginning as they author finds his groove. But virtually all series which are not wrapped up in good time end up deteriorating in the long run and the reader wishes the author had been able to let it go before everyone got tired of it and a good experience turned stale.
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Old 06-15-2018, 02:20 AM   #25
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Sometimes the first book in a series is the best; the author used up most of his material. Sometimes a series improves on a good beginning as they author finds his groove. But virtually all series which are not wrapped up in good time end up deteriorating in the long run and the reader wishes the author had been able to let it go before everyone got tired of it and a good experience turned stale.
I agree with you on this one.
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Old 06-15-2018, 02:23 AM   #26
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Me too. When I read a new-to-me author, I mentally put him or her in one of three categories--never read again, give another chance, read more for sure. Once an author is in that last category, it takes several clunkers for him or her to be dislodged.
That's my experience as well. The later category tends to go from "wow that was great" to "nice solid read, but not something I would stay up all night reading".
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Old 06-15-2018, 09:59 AM   #27
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Great topic. I think the Terry Pratchit (sp?) series Discworld is one that they get better as you go along. Or so I hear. I'll never know because I didn't like the first book.

I MIGHT have pressed on if the second book was supposed to be a lot better. But I hear things like "oh, it's in book 6 that..."

So no...not going to ready 5 books in hopes that the 6th book gets really good.
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Old 06-15-2018, 10:00 AM   #28
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The two I can think of right off are Discworld and the Dresden Files.

For Discworld, the first two books are ok but not great. Even the author said to start somewhere else. The first book in any of the other sub-serieses makes a better start.
Funny, before reading your reply I wrote about Discworld which I didn't like the first book...but fans of the series say "in book x it gets good" and the x changes but is never book 2
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:49 AM   #29
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Great topic. I think the Terry Pratchit (sp?) series Discworld is one that they get better as you go along. Or so I hear. I'll never know because I didn't like the first book. [...]
I think this makes a useful point. There is a difference between finding a first book okay and wondering if things get better versus actively disliking the book. It's reasonable to suppose that an author might get better, but they are unlikely to change voice/style entirely.

So, yes Pratchett gets much much better, but if a reader finds nothing appealing in the first book I wouldn't insist they continue. However much better he got, he still sounded like Terry Pratchett.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:53 AM   #30
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Funny, before reading your reply I wrote about Discworld which I didn't like the first book...but fans of the series say "in book x it gets good" and the x changes but is never book 2
Book 2 is just a continuation of book 1, that's why it is never book 2.

As for where to start, there are several sub-series within Discworld that are great reads. I think the two best starting points are Guards! Guards! (City Watch sub-series) or Equal Rites (Witches sub-series) but you can really start with the first book in any of the sub-series.

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So, yes Pratchett gets much much better, but if a reader finds nothing appealing in the first book I wouldn't insist they continue. However much better he got, he still sounded like Terry Pratchett.
I agree with this too.
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