I recently re-watched Ariel Bissett's video called "I Hate Trilogies" and that's what got me thinking about this. Click here if you'd like to check that out. I'd recommend it, given the fact that I'll be referencing that video without going into full detail about her arguments. And while you're there, you should definitely check out some of her other videos because she has some really interesting and thought-provoking discussions on books. A couple of my favorites are "Appreciation vs. Liking" and "Our Favorite Authors" because they both got me thinking about my own opinions and the way I view certain things.
I agree with a lot of the things that Ariel mentioned in her video. A lot, but not quite all. I definitely agree with her opinion on trilogies. In general, I think that most trilogies don't need to be trilogies. The second or third book (or both) often suffers because the plot is being dragged out to fill out three books. Or even worse, a new conflict comes out of nowhere to create the need for another book.
As I look at my bookshelf and all of the trilogies on it, I can say with complete honesty that (of the ones I've finished) I only truly, completely love two of those trilogies: The Infernal Devices and the Across the Universe trilogy. And in the case of the Across The Universe trilogy, I actually wish that I could smoosh the 3 books together into one huge, epic novel. Not because there's anything wrong with the books as-is, but because I think that a mystery dystopian set in space deserves a single, massive novel reminiscent of a Lord of the Rings bind-up.
Now, that's not to say that every other trilogy is complete crap and I hate it, but in all of the other trilogies, there's at least one book that I really dislike or think isn't as strong as the other two. Let's take Divergent for example.
I loved Divergent. It was one of the best books I read this year, and I was completely enthralled. But I got less and less impressed with the novels as I went along. Insurgent was good, but nowhere near as good as Divergent, and I don't even know what to say about Allegiant. It just took this turn that was unexpected, unwanted, and unwarranted.
The Shatter Me trilogy also suffers from shouldn't-be-a-trilogy syndrome, except in this case it's the first book that suffers. This entire trilogy could be condensed into a single book, and would probably be a lot better. I'm not sure that would fix my fundamental problems with that series, but that's a complaint for another post.
This is where mine and Ariel's opinions branch off from each other. Stand-alones vs. series. Ariel's argument is that most books should be stand-alones with exceptions for the gems like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, etc. and that most ideas don't warrant multiple books. I both agree and disagree with that. Yes, there are several ideas that are stretched too much and don't need the X number of books in their series, but I feel like the vast majority of these are the trilogies. Once we get into 4, 5, 6, etc. book series, I feel like these ideas are the ones that merit multiple books. Obviously there are exceptions, but there are exceptions to every rule.
Series are my favorite way to consume stories in book form, and often stand-alones fall flat for me. Typically, my biggest complaint about stand-alones is that they're too short and I didn't connect with the characters because I only had about 300-400 pages to do so. The characters and stories that I fall in love with are almost exclusively within series. And why wouldn't they be? When I spend thousands of pages with a character, plus the time anxiously waiting between books (and probably re-reading the previous ones) those will be the characters and stories that stick with me. Those are the ones I care about. When I go to do a Tumblr challenge or a tag about books and it asks anything about characters, almost all of the characters I choose are from series. Only occasionally do characters from stand-alones make it to the list.
When it comes to stand-alones, I feel like I don't have enough time to get to know the characters and to care about what happens to them. I'm a pretty fast reader, so if I grabbed a 300 page book and just sat and read it, it would take me less than 5 hours. Sure, I usually actually take 2-3 days to actually read that 300 page book, but 2-3 days still isn't a large chunk of my life. Regardless of the actual time spent reading a book, I generally find stand-alones to be too short most of the time, and I feel like there aren't enough pages to give me all of the things I want in a book. If I were to pick my ideal book size, I'd go for a book that was somewhere between 500-600 pages. I like big books (and I cannot lie). Even those 200 more pages could make the difference.
For example: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad.
172 Hours on the Moon is the most recent book that I finished. While I liked it, it felt very rushed. The first half was fine, and maybe even a little slow, but once we got to part 2, I felt like everything happened all too fast and then was just suddenly done. And although I didn't dislike the characters, I didn't particularly care about them either. When something happened to one of them, my reaction was pretty much "Well that was unfortunate." and I moved on. I had only spent maybe 200 pages with these characters and I don't think that's enough to care. At least for me.
Now, I'm not saying that stand-alones have no merit and shouldn't be written. Obviously, there are plenty stand-alones that are wonderful and don't need to be any longer or shorter than they are. And have read and loved several stand-alones. However, I find that for me, (in general) they aren't the ideal way to experience a story. For me, the story and characters often aren't fleshed out enough. Maybe duologies are the answer. I'm pretty sure that I've never read a duology, but maybe that's the happy medium between a book that's too compact and a trilogy that's stretched past its limit. Or maybe we just need epic, huge stand-alones. Which I'm not opposed to in the slightest. Bring on the big books.
That's all I have for this discussion about series, trilogies, and stand-alones. What are your opinions on this topic? Do you love series as much as I do? Or do you prefer stand-alones? Or do you have opinions in defense of trilogies? Let me know down in the comments, because I'd love to see other people's opinions on the matter!
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