That is a question. I don’t know about THE question, but it is a question at least.
And I am referring to re-reading a series.
When there are so many books already, and so little time, do you go back and re-read a series? Especially when a new book in that series comes out?
For me, with a memory like a sink drain, I often will go back and re-read a series – especially when a geologic age passes between the release of new books.
A Song of Ice and Fire, for example. Dance with Dragons was released in 2011. When Book 6 comes out – hopefully later this year or sometime next year – if I’m going to have any chance of following it, I will have to go back and re-read Books 1 – 5.
The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin. Book 2 – The Twelve – was out in 2012. Book 3 doesn’t even have a release date yet. If it comes out in my lifetime, I will definitely have to re-read The Passage and The Twelve.
And the list goes on and on and on…
Now, mind, I am not complaining here. I re-read the series because, while I may remember the major plot points, I will forget the details, and if I loved the series enough to anxiously await the next chapter, I am excited to go back and re-read the chapters already on my shelves.
And funnily enough, I have found that re-reading a series can be like reading the whole set again for the first time. For example: the Ethan Gage series. Last summer, when Book 6 in that set was released, I knew I needed to go back to Book 1 and re-acquaint myself with the dashing, opportunistic fortune-seeker who keeps landing himself in deep pits of trouble trying to find treasure at the same time Napoleon is trying to take over the world. And I knew I needed to re-acquaint myself because when Book 5 had come out the previous year, I didn’t re-read, and I scratched my head so frequently in confusion, I still have a bald spot… because while each Ethan Gage book technically stands as its own story, they are serial, and events happening in previous books tend to pop up quite often in successive ones.
So Book 6 comes along, and I took the plunge. Books 1 – 5, get ready – you’re about to get owned. Re-read. Whatever.
The point is, I did re-read the entire series, adding Book 6 on to the end, and it really was like reading the books for the first time. I thought I had remembered more of the books than I did, and there were many, many, many times where suspense is building, danger is closing in, and I cannot remember how Ethan wiggled his way out of it! I found myself holding my breath, chewing on my nails, and flipping the pages with gusto like I was reading a brand new mystery.
So it was ultimately a win-win situation.
But sometimes I still find myself asking, am I going to re-read this series now that Book Whatever has come out? I asked that very question just this past week when Book 3 in the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy was released. And I started to tell myself what I am now finding is a bald-faced lie: oh, I don’t need to re-read it. I can remember what happened.
Luckily, I didn’t listen to myself and I went back and re-read Angelfall and World After before diving into End of Days because, once again, I had forgotten so many details. And it was a refreshing delight to re-read some true zingers, like when Penryn tells the fallen angel, Raffe, “you are nothing but a bird with an attitude,” or when Penryn discovers Raffe is an archangel, and he asks, “impressed?” with a cocked eyebrow. “No, but I have some complaints I’d like to file about your personnel,” Penryn replies. “Talk to middle management,” Raffe retorts.
How can you forget amazing dialogue like that??
So maybe a lesson learned here: there are so many books and too little time, but re-reading a great series, especially after so many eons pass between new releases, is like reading a whole bunch of new books anyway.
So hurry it up already, George (R.R. Martin) and Justin (Cronin). Some of us have books to re-read here….