I have a dirty little secret I’m about to reveal to you. Since I’m such a big fantasy fan, this will probably come as a shock.
I haven’t read the last two novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
I stopped reading the Wheel of Time series at Winter’s Heart.
Despite being a huge fan of Erikson, I haven’t read The Crippled God yet.
What is wrong with me?
Well, I’ve changed up my reading habits a bit in the last year, and right now I’m binge-reading.
What is binge-reading? Let me explain using television as an example.
Back in the Dark Ages, television shows would be broadcast on networks once a week. And there would often be weeks where a new episode just wouldn’t be broadcast—it would be a repeat of a previous episode, or a different show altogether. You’d have to wait sometimes, week after week, for a new episode to show up.
(And you’d also have to watch it when it was aired—unless you had this ancient device called a VCR to let you watch it later.)
This was not so good for shows that took a bit of time to develop. Because networks would often cancel a great show mid-season if it wasn’t doing well enough right out of the gate. Fans of Firefly certainly know what I’m talking about.
But eventually televisions shows started to be available on DVD, an entire season at a time. You could sit down and watch episode after episode, at whatever pace you wanted, at whatever time you wanted. A weekend could be spent with a single show. You could binge.
Modern providers like Netflix have made this even easier, as they release the entire season of the show all at once. And it’s great for shows like Sense8, which do take some time to develop and would never have succeeded on normal television broadcasting (as J. Michael Straczynski said himself in a Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast interview back in September).
But what about books?
For me, it started with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. After reading A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords, I waited for the next book. And waited. And then, when A Feast for Crows was released five years later and I found out it wasn’t the last book in the series, I decided to keep on waiting. I decided that I would read the rest of the series when it was complete. More than another decade has gone by, and only one more book has come out, with two more still to be written.
But the truth is, I don’t care how long Martin takes to complete the series. It’ll be done when it’s done, and that’s when I’ll read it. Because when it’s done, I’ll read the whole damn thing.
Jordan’s Wheel of Time was the second series I stopped reading. I found myself having to go back and remind myself what had happened in the previous book when the next came out. And even though it was only two years between books, it was still two years between books. I had already consumed so many other books in the intervening time, I found it difficult to get back into it when the next installment in the series came out.
And then I did it again with The Kingkiller Chronicle. I read the first book and decided to wait for the rest to be written before I dove back in.
So now I’m binge-reading. I’ve gone back to the beginning of Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series and I’m reading them all, in order, back-to-back. I’ve just completed Deadhouse Gates and I’m about to jump right into Memories of Ice.
And I’m loving it.
The Malazan series is pretty dense with characters, history, and interwoven plotlines. And I realize now that I completely missed some elements that tie together the first time I went through these books, because time dulls memory. And so I’m catching things during this read-through that passed me by last time.
I’m not sure what I’ll read once I’m finished with The Crippled God. This is a ten-book series, more than 3 million words. Maybe by the time I reach the end I’ll regret trying to do it all together. Maybe I’ll have to take a break somewhere in the middle and read something else entirely, though I’d like to keep it up to the end with no interruptions.
So I probably won’t follow it up with the Wheel of Time series, another behemoth. But there are lots of shorter options out there.
What about you? Have you ever binge-read an entire series? Was it a long one, more than just a trilogy? How did you find it compared to reading the books as they come out? Share your experiences in the comments.
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