Here's a thought that occurred to me, while I was working my way through the corrections and editorial suggestions for the sequel to Stealing Light: who reads a sequel without reading the book it's a sequel to?

There's a certain degree of infodumping in the new book, designed by me as a kind of 'reminder' of what happened in the first. Most of it happens in the first chapter. Pan want me to be sure people know what's going on if they haven't read Stealing Light. But here's the thing ... maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine picking up the second, third or whatever book in a series without reading the first one. I therefore assumed that if anyone was picking this up, they'd be picking it up after having read Stealing Light.

So does this mean that lots of people out there will read a series of books in any old order? I'm not saying it's always a bad idea - I like George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books, which have a chronological order, but you can pretty much jump in anywhere and have a pretty good idea what's going on. But I can think of quite a few series of books I really wouldn't want to read out of order.

The only time I remember doing so is Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Realtime, which turned out - I hadn't known this when I picked it up - to be a sequel to another book called The Peace War. I could read Marooned fine without having read The Peace War, but if I'd known I think I'd have hesitated.

Just wondering.


Unknown said...

I almost always refuse to read a book in the middle of a series. I need the first book to know what is going on. However, if there is a "loose" series where the books are in the same universe, dealing with the same characters, but are each stand alone, then I'm okay with skipping around.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same, it just seems to be counter-productive to read a book in the middle of a series without reading the ones that came before. I also like a little bit of info dumping, just to remind me of what went on - it's easier to read and extra few pages over the course of a novel to give some back story rather than try and make time to read the previous book(s) again.

Anonymous said...

As a young lad I read Dune Messiah before Dune because it was from my local library and I didn't know at the time it was a sequel.
I had no problem with it but it kind of spoiled the sand-worm revelation when I eventually read Dune, though.
I also accidentally read one of Harry Turtledove's American Empire books out of order. He tends to repeat stuff so that the "new" book makes sense if you haven't read previous ones so when I read the "older" one I kind of knew what was coming; but not all the detail.
I wouldn't do it deliberately.