Saturday, October 04, 2014

Shadow of Night

This month I'll be reading 8 books, I hope! This ambitious undertaking is necessitated by next month's even more ambitious undertaking: to write 50,000 words of a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month. To stay on plan for the book-a-week challenge, I'll need to bump November's books into October, so that I may devote all of November to writing a novel for which, at this point, I have neither characters, plots, themes or ideas of any sort.

First up was Shadow of Night, the second volume in Deborah Harkness' All-Souls trilogy. I didn't like it as much as the first, but as I've invested so much time in these characters, I'll undoubtedly read the final book to find out how the saga ends, even though I've had enough of witches and vampires already.

So much contemporary popular fiction is presented in the form of a series, and the most common variant of that seems to be the trilogy. I don't know if this trend is reader-driven or publisher-driven. (I suppose I could google it, but I have a bad cold and can't summon enough energy right now to read the answers). If readers are responsible for the situation, it must be because they are reluctant to let go of enjoyable characters and make-believe worlds (the fantasy/paranormal/sci-fi genres accounting for a disproportionate share of the trilogy scene). Publishers, of course, are usually eager to cash in on reader preferences. I wonder how often a publisher says to a writer, "hey, this is a good story, do you think you could stretch it to three books instead of one?" If this is happening, I would like to beg publishers to reconsider. Few stories are worthy of extended treatment. My judgement of Deborah Harkness' trilogy, now that I'm two-thirds finished, is that it would have been better as a single volume. Give me one excellent 1,000-word novel instead of three mediocre 500-word novels. (J.K. Rowling and Diana Gabaldon, you are exempt from this rule).

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