I once had a very bad dental hygienist. I didn’t know she was bad, mind you. She was a very nice lady and I liked talking to her. And if sessions in her chair were really uncomfortable and ended with sandblasting my teeth with a saltwater solution that left me nauseated, well, I figured that was my fault for having bad teeth. It wasn’t until I had minor dental surgery and then had my teeth cleaned at the periodontist’s office that I realized my mistake. Even so, it took me another few months to finally get switched over to somebody else. It just seemed so disloyal somehow.
The same thing sometimes happens to me with series. I read the first book in a series and, unless it’s truly awful, I feel sort of honor-bound to keep going even if I’m not exactly enjoying myself. I’ve already invested time and energy in the series, you see. It’s hard to back away.
But sometimes a series just seem to fall apart the further along it goes. The problem comes, I think, in the fact that series are purchased by publishers on the basis of book number one. But the other books in the series may not have been completed when book one is sold. Thus books two and three and, possibly, four have to be written in far less time than book one so that they can be published quickly after book one comes out. Sometimes this works fine because the author has a handle on what she wants to do. But sometimes it’s a disaster. You notice the quality beginning to fall off after the first one but you keep hoping she’ll pull it together in book two. Or maybe book three. But all the time you’re slowly forgetting what it was about the first book you really liked.
It’s hard to say how far I’m willing to go before I give up on a series. Usually I’ll read the first couple of books just to see how things work out. And if book two is decent, even if it’s not as good as book one, I’ll go on to book three. But if book three isn’t back to book one’s standards, I’ll probably decide that’s it and drop the series altogether.
The obvious solution to this problem is to allow authors enough time to make sure each book is up to the standard of the previous one. But we readers are demanding creatures. We want the next book right now, not next year. And then we’re snotty if the next book isn’t as good as the last one.
Maybe I need to work on my author loyalty. After all, I stuck with my lousy hygienist for years. Surely I could give an author the leeway of an extra book or two. After all, she wrote a really good book at the beginning. Maybe she can pick it up at the end.