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Old 06-11-2018, 04:25 PM   #1
pwalker8
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Think about it

Ok, the title is a bit of a bait and switch. I tried the first book in a couple of apparently popular series, Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo and Rookie Privateer by Jamie McFarlane. They were ok. Didn't keep me up all night reading, but I got through them and they had their moments. A lot of people really seem to like them.

When I started to get the next book in the series, I sat there looking at the buy button for a few seconds and it dawned on me. If I have to think about if I want to get the second book, then odds are pretty good that it's time to move on to something else. If I'm ambiguous after the first book, then odds are pretty good that it's not going to get a whole lot better.

Anyone have a series where book 1 was just ok, but the series got better?
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Old 06-11-2018, 05:04 PM   #2
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If book one is only OK, then I'm not likely to bother with book 2 and on as there's plenty else to read, especially if I'm being asked to pay money for it. I might consider it if it's free (or part of a bundle with sufficient other books of interest to me that it's effectively free).

I might reconsider if the book is a first book by a new author on the grounds the author may not be writing well yet. If it's an established author, then almost certainly not.
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Old 06-11-2018, 05:31 PM   #3
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Anyone have a series where book 1 was just ok, but the series got better?
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.

For the Dresden Files, the series really picks up steam around book 4. Again, the other books are ok and very readable but not great.
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Old 06-11-2018, 06:02 PM   #4
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Anyone have a series where book 1 was just ok, but the series got better?
Stephen R. Donaldson's Gap Cycle. The fact that this springs so quickly to mind tells you that it is exceedingly rare.
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Old 06-11-2018, 07:32 PM   #5
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Quite a few.
The first was by a Rookie Author.
A bit later, they got their Author chops.

Then either the fans or the publisher kept saying "One More" and the (IMHO) the shine is coming off the story line.

Lissanne Norman's Sholan first book had some consistency flaws. Books 2,3,4 settled down. Then... too many sequels
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Old 06-11-2018, 08:10 PM   #6
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I've only read series that got worse after the first three books, and sometimes sooner. If the very first book in a series leaves me cold, I move on. I do try to finish every fiction book I start, but series take up a lot of reading time, so I'm more willing to drop out when they stop entertaining me. (Not counting series that consist of standalone books, like Jack Reacher or Brother Cadfael.)

Dazrin mentioned the Dresden Files. I have the books, but haven't gotten into them yet because a friend said the same thing Dazrin mentioned: the first few books are the author trying to find his voice, as she put it, and then the series improves dramatically. I haven't found the motivation yet to slog through three or four books before the series "really" starts. But one day!
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Old 06-11-2018, 10:11 PM   #7
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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.
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Old 06-12-2018, 04:30 AM   #8
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Some great examples in here already. Discworld didn't really hit their stride until about book eight, I'm told it's similar with Dresden but haven't gotten that far yet. And I agree that the J.K.Rowlings Harry Potter books just kept getting better. I'd say this holds especially true for self-published books (there could be some bias creeping here), which means the "first book is free" thing often doesn't help as much as it should.

If I sat and thought about it long enough I'd probably come up with a matching set of series where things just went downhill after a mediocre start ... but such books are so forgettable that, well ... you know, I don't remember them.

What I would say is that once you've read the first you are probably better placed to interpret other people's reviews. If many others say things get better, well that sounds promising. If subsequent reviews only say the book is as good, or not as good as the first, then you know not to bother.

Donaldson's first Gap book was - I think - a bit different to the other examples. It was very well written - so well done it really puts you off - so there was no doubt the rest would be as eloquent, the question was only whether you could stomach them. It turns out to be an amazing journey, one huge novel spread over 5 (4 in some ebook editions) novels. As ZodWallop said, such a situation is quite rare.
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Old 06-12-2018, 06:06 AM   #9
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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.
I read this quite a few years ago, but wasn't there an afterword in the first book (or a foreword in the second, or something like that) where he explained how he initially wrote the first book as a single story, and only understood why he wasn't satisfied with it when he committed to writing a whole series after it?
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Old 06-12-2018, 10:05 AM   #10
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I read this quite a few years ago, but wasn't there an afterword in the first book (or a foreword in the second, or something like that) where he explained how he initially wrote the first book as a single story, and only understood why he wasn't satisfied with it when he committed to writing a whole series after it?
Yes, the first book was originally intended to be a stand-alone novella, then he got much grander ambitions.
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Old 06-12-2018, 10:16 AM   #11
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Anyone have a series where book 1 was just ok, but the series got better?
Another one: Stephen King's The Dark Tower. The first novel/set of stories, The Gunslinger, was written when he was young. By the time he really started writing the rest of the series, ten years later, he was a much better writer.
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Old 06-12-2018, 04:08 PM   #12
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If the first book I read was so-so (not great but not terrible), I might read the next one if I could get it from the library and didn't have anything better ready to go. For example, if I'm next in line for a really good book on hold at the library I might read a so-so but available book while waiting.

If I thought the first book had problems but I didn't absolutely hate it, I would look for reviews of both the book and the series. If other people thought the first book wasn't very good but subsequent books got better I might try the next book.

If reviews indicate lots of people liked the book I didn't like, and that the rest of the series was similar, I would figure I just wasn't the intended audience and would not continue.
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Old 06-12-2018, 05:59 PM   #13
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I feel this way about most of the many-volume mystery, crime or thriller series I read. Examples are James Patterson's 'Women's Murder Club,' his 'Alex Cross' series, David Baldacci's 'Camel Club,' or Michael Connelly's 'Bosch' series.

I do not know for certain it is the writer's voice improving and using their characters better or if it is just me investing more in the characters. First books in long series have to lay a lot of groundwork that can be condensed or skipped in later books. Seems more common than the OP was thinking, at least in the genres I mentioned.

I do not see this as much in my SF or fantasy reads, maybe because the author is laying their mind-bending ideas on us in the first book and it is not quite as amazing to see them again, or revisit that fantasy world, in later books.
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Old 06-13-2018, 02:34 AM   #14
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Another one: Stephen King's The Dark Tower. The first novel/set of stories, The Gunslinger, was written when he was young. By the time he really started writing the rest of the series, ten years later, he was a much better writer.
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.
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Old 06-13-2018, 10:36 AM   #15
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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.
Yes both that and the Dark Tower (which you reference in another post) are great examples.

The Malazan Book of the Fallen has a pretty mediocre first novel (Gardens of the Moon). When I recommend the series I suggest Midnight Tides since it takes place centuries before the main story and was written later on in the author's career. It gives a better sense of the style and tone of the series.

I almost never got into Neal Asher because Gridlinked (the first novel in the Agent Cormac series) is not that great. Not only did he greatly improve by his later novels, but his editor hacked the ending of Gridlinked into pieces. Her criticism was that it was a Scooby Doo ending where Cormac monologues how he figured everything out. Instead of having Asher thoroughly revise the entire novel to make the resolution more organic, she simply cut it out and published it as! Just terrible!

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.

First novels are commonly poor examples of a series. If the writer is young and inexperienced there first effort will not reflect their mature writing style and tone. They can be too easily influenced by an equally inexperienced editor and produce something generic or poorly written. Sometimes the writer only becomes invested in that universe and characters later, after the first novel.
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