Thursday, January 27, 2011

Random Musings-Series Taken Over by Other Authors

So recently there has been a lot of buzz over whether there will be a 4th book in Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy. I recently read on New Dork Review of Books of rumors being confirmed that Larsson's partner, Eva Gabrielsson, plans to finish the fourth novel he was working on when he died. It got me thinking-are series better when they are taken over by other authors? It makes me wonder if someone else who didn't originally conceive of the idea could bring the same kind of magic to a series as the original author.

I confess I have my doubts. I think back to my high school days and the discovery in my junior year of the wonder that was Gone with the Wind. Imagine my delight when I discovered that there was a sequel floating around out there authorized by Margaret Mitchell's estate. Then I read it. The whole thing was just off. I kept thinking throughout the entire book that Scarlett would NOT act/think/feel that way and the loss of character integrity ruined the whole book for me.

In high school I also read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley which I LOVED. I immediately picked up Lady of Avalon which was written with Diana L. Paxson and really enjoyed this one too. A couple of years ago, remembering how much I enjoyed the previous books I had read in this series I picked up Priestess of Avalon. It was not even close to being on the same level as the previously mentioned books. Again, it got me thinking if this was because Lady was written before Bradley's death and Priestess was after.

Now being the neurotic reader that I am, I try to collect as many in a series as I can before I start reading the series. Among the other series on my shelves waiting to be read:

The Dragonriders of Pern series which started with Anne McCaffrey and are now mostly being written by her son Todd.....

and the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan which is now being written by Brandon Sanderson.

When I finally do get around to reading these, will the later novels written by new authors be on the same level as the works by the original author? I hate to judge all series by my experiences with the few I've come upon in this scenario, but I'm curious-what other series have you run across that have switched authors mid-series and do you find that those novels are of the same quality as the older ones in the series?

I can't imagine how difficult it must be for an author to jump on board and write a novel in a series that was not their brainchild, their baby, their ah ha moment that kept them awake at night building the world in which their characters would live. If I were in that situation I think I would go mad with worry that I would somehow not please the fans of the earlier books. I cannot help but feel that in some instances the series should have been done when the original author passed on or decided not to write it anymore. Thoughts?


  1. Personally, I feel that if the previous books actually had an ending (or at least one that would be satisfying to the readers) that it is okay if they aren't finished. In the case of most of the books you've listed above, I'm not sure if that is the case or not!

    But for the Wheel of Time... I would have gone crazy without it! And I think it helps that Robert Jordan was preparing for this and left tons of detailed notes. To be honest I hardly notice a difference between the two. They are the same characters and it is the same story, and I'm really glad that another author has picked up the torch to complete the series. I can't speak for others though, since I haven't read them :)

  2. The additions to THE WHEEL OF TIME work well. You can notice some differences (moreso in Book 13 than 12, but 13 apparently has the least amount of Jordan-written material in it) but the spirit is the same and the characters ring true.

    On the other hand, if you ever venture into the DUNE series I can cheerfully recommend avoiding everything not written by Frank Herbert :-)

  3. I don't think you'll be disappointed by either.

    The nice thing about Pern is that with its long history, there is always a new story to be found. Rather than build onto the tales of F'lar and Lessa's time, or Moreta's, or the beginning of Pern, Todd chose a point in time that hadn't been written about yet and populated it with his own cast of characters. They feel just as much a part of Pern as anything Anne has written. Todd's writing isn't as beautiful and rich as his mother's, but he can still tell a good story.

    As for the Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson has done a fantastic job. He loves the series as much as any fan, and he is determined that the series comes out right. He follows Jordan's notes closely. While he doesn't focus as much on description as Jordan did, he is dedicated to making sure each character sounds genuine. I loved the two books he's written so far, and I'm sure the final book will be all we hope it will be and more.

  4. Caitlin-I suppose the upside to continuing a series after the original author is not being left to wonder how it all ends :)

    Adam-Thanks for the heads up on Dune. I am sure I will try it out eventually.

    Jennifer-I figured the Pern series might be ok with Todd writing because he grew up with it. One thing I did learn about this series though is don't start with a random book. I tried Renegades of Pern before any others and was really confused.

    Glad WOT and Pern sound like they are safe bets :)

  5. This is something that had been on my mind over the weekend too after hearing of the death of an author whose series I am reading.

    There is probably a bit of a difference with books like Scarlett because it is questionable whether the author meant for their original book was meant to be continued or not, or whether it is the estate trying to extend the series instead. Rhett Butler's People was another book that was authorised by Margaret Mitchell's estate.