To Series or Not To Series?

The Gunslinger, The Dark Tower Book 1 by Stephen King
Gregor the Overlander, Book 1 in the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins

Writing a trilogy, or a longer series, is obviously a big boon for an author. You get a long contract (I presume), built-in recognition of characters and plot, a chance to expand on a consistent idea--rather than coming up with a new one, and you get to tell a much longer, more complete tale. Best of all, your readers hungrily eat up all the new books and you get to dance a little jig next to your writing desk every couple of years. Awesome, right?

Just have to do that one thing--hook the readers. Conveniently, I recently finished the first book of two different long series (serieses?) and I can tell you if they are hook-worthy...or not.

First up is The Gunslinger. I mean, this book would have to be complete and total unreadable garbage for me not to want to read the whole series. What I’m saying is, writers with this kind of swagger kind of get a free pass. And you already know before starting you’re going to like the first book enough to move on. I will say The Gunslinger falls short of being spectacular, but it’s certainly great enough to hook me. A couple intriguing points about this one:

1 - King wrote this first book in his early 20s but took a LOT longer to finish the series. It should be fascinating to see how the characters and story age/move King was aging and moving along while writing. When he started this series, he wanted to do a “Hobbit-esque” epic adventure story, but set it as a fantasy western modeled after “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Whoa that’s a heavy undertaking, yet I’m confident this particularly genius writer was able to pull it off.

2 - The Gunslinger is a bit naughty. The sex scenes aren’t overly graphic, but the hero of the book is certainly willing to lay with the ladies. Be they bartenders he meets along the way, or spiritual witch-like fortune tellers he stumbles upon in the woods. Maybe this reflects a bit about Mr. King’s life back in the late 60s, early 70s, who knows?

So that being said, plus the mild violence in the book, make this for adult readers only--college age or higher. It’s a fairly complex story too with some flashbacks and a strange future world where most of the story begins. The last bit of the book goes off on a major philosophical tangent and I had to read each section a couple times to make sure I knew what King was trying to say.

Next up we have Gregor the Overlander” (by Suzanne Collins writer of the INSANELY popular and successful Hunger Games series). This one was a little uneven for me though I realize it’s not exactly intended for adult readers. I didn’t like how it started, but once Gregor gets into the Underland (a vast city that exists in the core of the earth populated by strange humans, giant bugs, rats, and bats) the story gets much better. Miss Collins does a fine job of describing the cockroaches, rats, and bats in the story and for me, they all turn out to be the real heroes. I found myself not caring all that much about Gregor, I was more interested in the talking, intelligent critter side characters. Our 10 y/o daughter is also reading this one (for a book discussion group in school) and I have a feeling she will love it as it’s finely targeted to boy or girl readers of her age. I bet the rest of the books from the series will make their way here from our local library and I’ll likely read them when they do. If they are all like this first one, they’ll be quick reads packed with action and full of unique, fascinating creature characters.

Oh, one final thing regarding my interest in The Dark Tower series--since those books are all fairly old, I’m going to challenge myself to find the rest of them at random bookstores and at Half-Price Books. It will be my own small epic quest to complete the tale of the Gunslinger and The Man in Black by finding them scattered about Kansas City and other cities I visit. I’ll keep you all updated on how my search goes.

Happy Reading!