Mon
May 2 2011 5:00pm

This is the End: Why I Won’t be Buying Charlaine Harris’s Dead Reckoning Tomorrow

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine HarrisIt’s hard to imagine that after a decade, I’m giving up on a series that I’ve long adored, one that helped open up an entirely new avenue of reading for me.

And yet, when Dead Reckoning goes on sale tomorrow my long-time May tradition won’t come to pass. It’s not that I plan to wait for the the 11th book in Charlaine HarrisSouthern Vampire Mysteries to be released in paperback, it’s that I don’t plan to buy it at all. Sigh.

None of the books in the series sit on my all-time keeper shelf, although Dead Until Dark, Club Dead, Dead as a Doornail, and From Dead to Worse came closest. I even liked 2009’s Dead and Gone well enough, but 2010’s Dead in the Family put a nail in Sookie Stackhouse’s coffin, in part because Harris’ cast of characters (human and “monster”) has grown too unwieldy.

I think Harris has been forced by her own success to up the ante and grow Sookie’s world ever larger in a manner similar to romantic suspense authors fifteen or so years ago when their violence became ever more gruesome.

But it’s not just that. Reading genre fiction for me is like a journey. When I started reading romance, it was only historical romance. When that got a little stale, I added contemporaries. A couple of years after that I started to read category romance, and then trad Regencies. For a long while this mix satisfied, but staleness eventually began to set in again when I had the good fortune to discover and glom onto urban fantasy.

Sookie, Anita, Merry, and Riley satisfied me...and then I read a book that upped the ante. It was Lori Handeland’s Any Given Doomsday (which I wrote about a few weeks ago in the first of my two “savant” pieces). I described to customers at the bookstore the addition of demonic elements, of biblical and Native American mythology, as “urban fantasy on steroids.” Ever since, reading regular urban fantasy hasn’t quite been the same. And though a sub-plot in many of the Riley Jenson novels—my favorite urban fantasy series until Handeland's came along—involved creating a race of super preternaturals, it too lacked the wow factor of a good old-fashioned apocalypse. Richard Kadrey, Lori Handeland, and now Jennifer Lyon do for me what Charlaine Harris no longer can.

Treachery in Death by J.D. RobbGiving up on this long-running series isn’t something I take lightly. Earlier in the year I thought I’d be giving up another, even longer-running series—J.D. Robb’s In Death series—but Treachery in Death was good enough to take it off the hit list, and frankly, I’m glad, because seven of the books in that series do sit on my all-time keeper shelf.

It’s not as though any of Robb’s books were bad, but they weren’t necessarily great or even really good any more. I’m the type of person who’d rather cut her losses and get out before a downward slide than stick around and watch it. Last fall I recommended Indulgence in Death with some exceptions, but noted that the series seemed at a tipping point.

That was before Possession in Death came out in The Other Side, Robb’s annual anthology with some of her closest writing pals. I liked it less, found it barely above average, actually, and noted on my blog that I planned to give her one more chance to win me over. She did with Treachery in Death, saving me from what would have been an actual period of mourning over the loss of Eve, Roarke, Peabody, and the rest.

LostGood thing, too, because last year was tough enough. I started pre-mourning LOST when the first of the final season’s 18 episodes aired. Doc Jensen’s weekly analytical extravaganzas on ew.com only made things worse. Unlike many, I liked the finale, and a year later, the only protected hours of programming on my TiVo are the pre-finale wrap-up, the finale, and Jimmy Kimmel’s post-finale show.

LOST was more or less a solitary experience, while The Sopranos was something my husband and I shared since the first episode in 1999. Although the finale aired almost four years ago, I will never forget the surprise ending, when I yelled “what the fuck?” and grabbed the remote to make sure our satellite hadn’t gone out at the Worst Moment Ever. I soon realized David Chase had purposefully ending the series by cutting to black.

Mad MenInstead of sharing in the outrage over Chase’s handling of the final moments of his show, I had a similar reaction to it as I did to the final episode of LOST...and it’s how I’ve approached Mad Men since downloading a free iTunes preview of it a month or so before it debuted on AMC.

As a viewer or reader of their entertainments, I’m along for the ride and I’ll follow the producers/writers for as long as I choose to...or until they choose to fade to black. It’s their vision, and I either choose to take part in it or I don’t. If they start to lose me as some point—for some reason—I grant them a grace period to once again woo me. Sometimes they succeed, as Mad Men did with The Suitcase, what I consider the best of the series’ episodes in a less-than-stellar season. J. D. Robb did it with Treachery in Death. But I won’t be there for Charlaine Harris’ Dead Reckoning. I’ll miss my May tradition; hopefully another one will soon replace it.


 

Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.

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25 comments
Tiah
1. Tiah
I have given up on purchasing this series as well, I still read them from the library though. I just got burned out on it. Between the books and the show I think I over did it. I just don't get as exicited for their release like before.
Tiah
2. bungluna
I'm still happy with my Harris experience, but I too have had to cut my losess with several used-to-be favored series. It is, for me, a painful process to abandon once loved characters. My sincerest condolencias.
Tiah
3. ReaderCarolyn
Dropping a series, whatever form it's in, is a difficult decision for me. I'm very willing to go along for the ride and trust in an author's vision. It can't be easy to keep writing a series, doing all it takes to keep things interesting and fresh. However, I'm not wasting my time anymore on something that's just not doing it for me. I've dropped several in the past year and felt so much better. A couple of authors have been living on the edge only to redeem themselves. I WANT them to because I wouldn't have read (or watched) that far if it wasn't something that touched me in some way.

As a sidenote: As much as I enjoy Nora Roberts' books, I've been getting more and more bothered by the fact that everyone, unless they have a distinctive accent, has that same cadence of speech that she writes her narrative in. They're great stories, but now when people talk, all I can pay attention to is when they fall into that NR rhythm. Maybe it's just me.
Tiah
4. booksNyarn
This totally strikes a chord for me. I have found myself skimming though the last couple of these for similar reasons. Also, if you had been a fly on the wall for some of the discussions I have had with colleagues about Anita and the tipping point there...I keep going back, but wonder why each time I finish the latest book.
Tiah
5. tgentry90
I've read a few of the Sookie Stackhouse books & I enjoyed them but found that they were not books I HAD to read like a couple of other series I like. One series that is getting kinda tired for me is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I love this series & think it is hilarious but after reading 16 books (17th due out in June, I think), I find myself wondering how much longer it will go on. If you're familiar with the series, then you know there is the Stephanie/Joe/Ranger love triangle. I've read that (look out Ranger & Joe) a 3rd love interest will be introduced in the 17th book. I'm thinking that might just be too much for me. 16 books is plenty enough time for Steph to decide who she wants to be with. She's being really selfish by stringing them both along. She needs to put her big girl panties on, make a decision & settle down already. And yes, I know it's not reality but it still bothers me! I haven't decided yet if I'll read the 17th book or not.
Evangeline Holland
6. EvangelineHolland
I fully commiserate with your angst. I left the Southern Vampire Mysteries behind with book 9, after hating it and book 8. For old time's sake I purchased bk 10, but I got to page six before remembering why the series lost me. However, I still adore True Blood, and hope that once Harris ends the series, Ball & Co will feel free to do what they like with the characters and the plot!
Laurie Gold
7. LaurieGold
Carmen and Carolyn, I'd love to know which series you gave up on, and for how long you followed them. BTW, Carolyn, I don't have that experience w/NR. Interestingly enough (and I have a short personal blog that hits on this tomorrow), the dialog in her J.D. Robb books really comes alive for me.

Kristi, I whipped through the first seven Anita Blake books years ago in about a week. I enjoyed them well enough and they were among the books that got me into urban fantasy, but I never picked up another. OTOH, I like LKH's less-well received Merry Gentry series and continue to read it.
Carrie Strickler
8. DyslexicSquirrel
I think the only series I have dropped to date (author, actually, if I'm being honest becasue I haven't read anything by her in years) was Christine Feehan's Dark series. It got stale after maybe the sixth book and by the time I go to the tenth or eleventh, I couldn't take it anymore. It's not that she's a bad writer, by any means, but I got a bit bored reading the same paragraph about the Carpathians over and over, book after book. Plus, she tends to use certain words...a little too much. ):
Tiah
9. bungluna
I stopped reading several series lately. Three stand out in the UF genre:
- The Fallen Angels one by JR Ward
- Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter
- The Midnight Breed by Lara Adrian

I'm a readaholic and follow something like 23 series as well as all the wonderful stand-alone books out there. I lose interest and wander back with many series, but these three I'm done with.
Tiah
10. torifl
I can totally relate. I gave up on Feehan's Carpathian and Ghostwalker series a while ago. I felt like I was reading the same story over and over only with different characters.
Tiah
11. Lorrilyn Jefferies
I concur with the general concensus here; some authors have, for whatever reason, overdone their "series" ad nauseam. The J.D Robb 'in Death' series are hackneyed and predictable--sorry, Nora. I feel the same about Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series--trite, predictable, far-fetched and overdone.
Tiah
12. Nono Nora
I agree with ReaderCarolyn. All of the characters in Nora Roberts' books, no matter which in the multitude of series, have/use the same cadence and colloquialisms-- "she all but ran to him", "he all but died trying", "they all but couldn't stand to read it anymore." I used to admire and envy her prolific writing ability--now I just see it as quantity not quality.
Carrie Strickler
13. DyslexicSquirrel
@bungluna: I stopped reading Lords of the Underworld also. I forgot about that one.
Dawn Vaeoso
14. drmgrl99
I too am an avid reader and have over 2000 books ebook & print. I wanted to quit at book 9 but I just can't seem to stop. When I was at RT this year I spoke with a few authors and one of the main things I said was PLEASE STOP at book 10 NO MORE do a spin off or something. this book 17 crap is killing me, especially when you have to wait a year for it.
My sister and I got the new Sookie bk 11 and from what shes said so far "it's ok". Well happy reading and thanks for the heads up.
Laurie Gold
15. LaurieGold
I'm still doing the LOTU, but not at a breakneck pace. Generally when I like a series, I make it a point not to read too many in a row. I broke that rule when I read about fifteen In Death books one after another, and when I discovered LOTU, I read about five or six, forgetting to stop. I'm still doing the series, just much more slowly.

For historical authors three or four is a good stopping point for most, although some (MJP, Quinn) can handle more. The Riley Jenson urban fantasy series was good 1-8, the final, 9th book had a sagging middle but ended well, thank god. I thought the Merry Gentry series should have ended one before it currently stands. Don't know if more are planned, but as a general rule ten is probably more than enough. I wish basic story arcs of a reasonable number were planned and adhered to for the most part.

That said, it also depends when you come into a series. I didn't start the Christine Feehan series until very, very late, and I've liked the books I've read, but didn't actually go back to the start and simply have been reading them where I got in.

An "okay" Sookie book? Not good enough, is it?
Tiah
16. Jackie 46
I did read "Dead Reckoning" last night and was so upset when I finished I had a hard time going to sleep. You made a wise decision, but I think I will buy the final two novels just to see were Charlaine is going. I think I sometimes forget Bon Temps and its inhabits are fictional.
Tiah
17. Lupielupa
I read Dead Reckoning yesterday and was very disappointed. I hate when authors end a book in a series with a to be continued attitude.LKH did it and now Charlaine Harris. The very idea that it is a series means it will be continued, give us a decent ending, some sort of identifiable resolution.
Christiana Tegethoff
18. HauntedAngel
I must admit, I love certain series, and hate others. I enjoy Charlaine Harris' stories, but have never liked this series. My introduction to the whole True Blood world, came in the form of Dancer's in the dark in the anthology Night's Edge. I loved that story, and so I started reading some other short stories from the series in Anthologies. The first thing that I noted was I wanted to strangle Sookie. Feeling that way with just a short story containing Sookie, I couldn't bring myself to buy any of the series books, I knew I'd end up throwing the book at something, and that just wouldn't have been good. On The other hand, If Charlaine Ever decides to do another story about Layla and Sean, or better yet her brother's story, I just might have to pick that up.
Tiah
19. BrooklynShoeBabe
I felt the same way about the Robert b. Parker's Spenser' series. I read a great many of them, but I stopped going out of my way to be the first on the hold list on the library. There were so many novels that I confused the plots and titles. However, I will pick up one when I'm in the mood and be totally pleased with it. I used to be a huge fan of The Simpsons, but around season 7, it just lost me and haven't looked back. I felt sad because it was like a very bad break up.
Tiah
20. lindalonetto
omg!i really can relate to all you guys(or some)sookie ,i still buy and have all but this may be it.eric has done all,if not more,that bill did yet him she sticks with(until now)sick of this as with evanovich.give me a break how can you even have a relationship or consider forever with a guy that's vocabulary consists of"babe"love eve/roarke and do not get tired of their escapades.also love christine feehan's dark series and lora leigh breeds.have any of you read the hunger games?really good and different approach.thx for letting me spout off my 2 cents oh in case you were wondering am team joe morelli.
Tiah
21. richcraft
I had to agree with you about Sookie stories. I gave up after the last one (Dead in the Family). At some point in an author's career, it's time to come up with new ideas
Tiah
22. Vassiliki
I felt this way about Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. The last one I like was Number 8 but I didn't give up reading the series until Number 10. I have no idea what has happened in the last 5 books.
Sandi Logsted
23. sandlog
Reading these comments, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. I have probably read all the series mentioned in the comments, with the exception of LOTU, and like most of you, probably kept reading a little longer than I should have. Especially when you consider that a lot of these series have been going on for 10 years or more. I truly have come to welcome the authors who know when to end a series, maybe even leaving the reader with a little bit of longing for the series to continue- what's the old adage- always leave them wanting more? (Can anybody say thank you to Rachel Vincent & her Alpha series?)
Tiah
24. Jennifer R
I am not giving up Sookie, but she is on the "wait until paperback" list. Then again, almost every series I read these days is on the "wait until paperback unless it looks really really really supergood, I don't need another $28.99 brick around the house" list.

The more times I see discussions like this, the more I think that maybe almost EVERY series starts to piss people off or lose its flavor somewhere around the 3-5 book range. After about book 5 it seems like a hatedom or "I'm so bored of this, it's the same as what I liked in book one" or "Now she's boffing four guys at once and somehow I find this boring" erupts.
Tiah
25. Missy K
Well, I guess I have a different opinion on these...I love Janet Evanovich's whole series (and yes, I preordered the 17th one! lol) and still read, and enjoy, Charlaine Harris too (I just finished her latest one and can't wait to see what happens next). I love all of the JD Robb books, and Lara Adrian's Breed series too...I always preorder those! I really enjoy all the long series books, and those are probably my favorite kind. I finished reading a trilogy by another author and wished there would have been more...oh well!
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