There’s a fair bit going on in book land lately.
First up, the first trailer for Shannara dropped this weekend. As a massive fan since I was 17, I’m hopeful about this. It looks decent. The trailer shows some features that seem more sci fi, and I don’t remember any hints of the apocalypse in the second or third books, so I’ll have to go back to those two in particular. I know there’s at least one area in the first book that they have to traverse, and it’s a ruined city of the old world. Shannara was always post-apocalyptic fantasy, and it started out in the 70s, so it’s not like this is much of a spoiler, at least not for anyone who’s read the books before now. And then in books 7-9, well, that stuff’s really PA. I’m going to read 2 and 3 again to brush up on Terry Brooks. It’s a pity they’re not starting with the urban fantasy series The Word and the Void (also a spoiler if you haven’t read Armageddon’s Children and the following books) but since I started with Elfstones, their starting with Elfstones too tickles my nostalgia bone (somewhere between my funny bone and my shame gland).
Meanwhile, I hear Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind is in the middle of having a bidding war for the tv/movie rights (I think it’s still being looked at for tv). As a writer, a bidding war over who gets to publish you is an amazing thing. The same thing for the tv series adaptation is pretty good too.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Canada, you’ll have heard that there’s a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. I remember being forced to read that in highschool. It had some good parts, but I found it mostly kinda boring. But man, it’s been a while since that book came out. No wonder people are talking about this sequel, Go Set A Watchman. Whether it’s good or bad, that will definitely be a big ticket book, and a lot of people will be talking about it. TKAMB is one of the best selling novels of all time, since it got into school curriculum (that’s pretty much a guarantee of easy money right there… though banned books probably do pretty well too. GTA V got banned from Target in Australia, and you know what the producers would have done? Bathed in the extra money they got from that ban, due to people hearing all about it and buying it to spite Target, or something along those lines. Controversy is almost a guarantee of commercial success, and while I don’t know whether Harper Lee’s next novel will be controversial, it might get on the school reading list, so it should do really well. Unless it’s too mature for school aged kids, anyway.
At present, I’m reading a fantasy trilogy middle book, Clash of Iron by Angus Watson. How is it? Well the first one sank its hooks into me from page one and wouldn’t let go. The sequel? Not so much. It’s not a bad novel, by any means, but it’s certainly not quite the same magical tour de force as the first, Age of Iron. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just that it’s filled with bigger scale battles told almost like history books. Maybe it’s just sequelitis. Fantasy trilogy second books tend to fall flat after all. I can name a few good ones – Elfstones of Shannara was what got me hooked on Terry Brooks, and R A Salvatore’s Demon Wars’ second book was good too, though he’d been writing for like 10 years at that point already, so there’s those two at least.
I don’t know if bad books are just a ‘thing’ in speculative fiction, or whether it’s in other genres too, but there’s never going to not be bad books in a series. Nobody seems to be immune to this. Even my old favourite, Terry Brooks, though his not-so-great books are few and far between. If you get through Sword, that is. I don’t recommend starting with that – I would go for Elfstones personally, as it’s much better than Sword, which is a definitely Tolkien ripoff. But it gets better, much better, with books 2 and 3, and if you’re writing a book a year, you’re going to get pretty good at it.
I can’t speak about Literary novels or non-genre novels. The view I have is that they tend to put more love and care into them, though. What do you think?