If you’re uncomfortable with the plural of series being series, you are not alone. The lack of an apostrophe or anything to denote plurality makes me quite annoyed and yes, I am fun at parties. Any of you who have read more than one or two of my book reviews will probably know that I tend to read (and recommend) series of books rather than single novels. This is one of those preferences so wired in that at first, I didn’t even think to explain it like I have my predilection for fantasy or slight bias against fantasy’s slightly more reputable sibling, science fiction1.
The reason is fairly simple: I read primarily for character development. Maybe it’s because in real life I’m not great at interpreting or navigating interpersonal relationships and I think reading about the ways a character grows as a person might teach me how to do the same—
Welcome to adjectiveplusnoun, where I get deep fast and unexpected and ignore sexual innuendo because what are you, twelve?2
—Or maybe it’s just because I love witty banter and the ways a nuanced alternate world effects the lives of ordinary people. To me, though, there’s nothing more disappointing than falling in love with a book and finding out it’s all there is. Liz William’s Poison Master single handedly made me interested in alchemy, may have got me started reading steampunk, and absolutely crushed my twelve-year-old spirits because there was no sequel. Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate came when I was already firmly on board the werewolf novel train, but I was still devastated when I realised there wasn’t going to be any more books where for once (for once!) the girl was the monster, and her love interest was the fleshy, fragile human who didn’t quite approve.
I got sidetracked by that more than a decade old indignancy (is that a word?) there, but my point is this: art is amazing! Books are one of the best ways to create a world, and fill it with characters that express an idea or reflect your worldview in a way more nuanced than any political party, slogan tee or highly specific gif set ever could! When you find a world or characters that speak to you, that’s more precious than gold, and finding out that you can only revisit that world in a (necessarily, but tragically nonetheless) limited way as dictated by the confines of a single novel is like, really sad man.
So I like series, because they allow different characters to shine. They allow authors to grow and understand the world, and reflect that growth in the world of their characters or alternate reality. And most importantly, I like series because I’m a greedy, lazy creature who always wants more of a good thing. Hey, look on the bright side: if you take any of my book recommendations, you can probably safely assume that there’s more where that comes from.
But if anyone’s still reading this, I am genuinely interested to know if you prefer series to standalone novels, or if you’re a fence sitter who prefers standalone novels with adjacent characters set in roughly the same world, in the vein of Diana Pharaoh Francis’s Crosspointe novels, pretty much any regency romance novel ever made, Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter and Psy Changeling series, or to a lesser extent Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and Raymond E Feist’s Midkemia Cycle.
I got a bit carried away with the examples there, but I wanted to give some examples of the standalone3 novels that I would recommend, other than the two I mentioned earlier (Blood and Chocolate and Poison Master).
1 I have a few theories as to why science fiction gets more literary and intellectual credit and is less embarrassing to be into; and while it might come down to good old fashioned sexism (science fiction being seen as a more masculine genre than fantasy somehow, even though Mary Shelly arguably wrote the first sci fi novel) I feel like it’s more likely that sci fi uses tangible possibilities (realism of sci fi varies, but at the end of the day we have space travel, we don’t have dragons) to explore abstract concepts; whereas fantasy makes no such nods to reality. Fantasy is symbolism and human values writ large using ancient expressions of the way we understood the world (gods, myths and monsters), and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While at it’s best sci fi examines humanity at its core, and tries to predict where we’re headed and if we want to end up there; at it’s worst, it’s fantasy for people who are scared of big ideas
2And really hope that’s not what she said, ba dum tsh
3And yes I know very few of those stand alone in truth, but the whole ‘series in a series’ thing that Raymond E Feist and Terry Pratchett both do so well doesn’t have an actual name that I’m aware of and I was trying to think of examples of stand alone books I like so I don’t seem biased, okay? Geez