Thursday, May 13, 2010

Should a prequel be the new #1 of a series?

I believe in reading series in order more than ever now that I'm writing a trilogy. I'm on book three, and of course it needs to stand on its own--most writers try to make it so you don't have to read their books in order--but OMG for the love of all things holy, don't read mine out of order! ahem. Actually, that's not what this post is about.

This post is about prequels. Do you consider a prequel the new book #1 of a series? How about a movie?

Movies. Should a new watcher go prequel first?
There are now a whole lot of Star Wars movies out. Should a new viewer watch them in chronological story order, starting with prequels? Or is it still more fun to watch them in the order they came out, with the prequel adding dimension to the main story?

I was thinking about the Terminator movies here, too, trying to decide which technically goes first, until I remember mindf&%$ing myself years ago on that same subject. John Conner sends his friend back in time to protect his mother from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then his friend and his mom sleep together and his friend becomes his father...then blood starts dripping out my ears. Terminator has no beginning!

But there is a definite chronological prequel to Star Trek--namely, the fabulous movie that came out last summer. It would be weird to watch that Star Trek movie before you watched the classic episodes. But that's more an eras thing. (sorry about the Chris Pine pic. It's from my Amanda guest post yesterday. I guess I'm too lazy to get a new one.)

The second Godfather movie went into the Godfather's childhood, and actually, my mother in law actually edited her own version (in the VHS days!) so that she had a Godfather saga in total chronological order, starting with young Vito Corleone on the rooftops. I think that's totally funny of her, but sort of cool. But how would that change a first-time viewer's experience of the story?

Why I was thinking about this in the first place.
I was wondering the other day if anybody read Men of the Otherworld before Bitten. These are two of my fave-ever books, both by Kelley Armstrong. Werewolves. So amazing.

came out in 2004 or something. It's sort of werewolf Elena's story, and Men trickled in as shorts on Armstrong's site before being compiled into a book in 2009. The shorts are all what happened way before Bitten. A lot of Men centers around Clay, who, I'll just say, is linked to Elena, and the stories about Clay really add a lot of richness to Bitten, but is it richness in hindsight? Would you get more good richness by reading Men first? Or is it best to read them in the order that Kelley Armstrong released them?

Bitten: the entrance of Clay
Sometimes a character's entrance is so powerful for me, and this wasn't an exception with Clay. One of the most enduring images in Bitten, for me, is that of Clay waiting by the gate when Elena arrives at Stonehaven (werewolf pack-leader Jeremy's mansion). When you read it, you don't even know who Clay is. He's this guy waiting for her.

In this passage, Elena's cab approaches the gates.
A figure sat on the grass, ankles crossed as he leaned against the stone wall. Clayton.
The driver squinted, trying to make out the house in the dark, as blind to the brass nameplate as to the man waiting by the gate. The moon had gone behind a cloud and the coach lamps at the end of the drive were unlit.
"I'll get out here," I said.
"Uh-uh. No can do, miss. It's not safe. There's something out there."
I thought he was referring to Clay. "Something" was an apt description.
Clay seems so menacing in this first view. I really, really didn't like him. Then, a paragraph or so later:
The driver's eyes went to the side window and he jumped in his seat. "Jesus!"
Clay had left his post at the gate and materialized at my window. He stood there, watching me, a slow grin lighting his eyes. He reached for the door handle. The driver put the car in gear.
"It's okay," I say with deep regret. "He's with me."
I remember so badly wanting her to get away from him! I trusted and liked Elena by this point in the book, and definitely did not like Clay. Anyway, Elena then gets out of the cab (before Clay can "make a scene") and starts walking up the lane to the house.
I didn't dare ask Clay what was going on. That would mean engaging him in conversation, which would imply that I wanted to talk to him. With Clay, even the simplest overtures were dangerous. As much as I wanted to know what was happening, I'd have to hear it from Jeremy.
What's interesting is that if you read Men of the Otherworld first, you get this whole saga of Clay as a feral, abandoned, but intelligent child werewolf, struggling in the wild, and later, through all kinds of pack and family trouble. A good-hearted underdog. You'd be on Clay's side.

But here in Bitten, when Elena treats Clay so harshly, if I'd read it after Men, I might be like, WTF does Elena have against Clay? I wonder if it would put me off of Elena, until I got their whole story. Or would it?

I'm rambling. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe when a writer builds a huge world of books, as Armstrong has, she loses a bit of control over how people experience it. You don't experience people chronologically, outside of family, usually. In fact, I think in life, people experience stories that aren't their own out of chronological meet somebody, become friends, then learn about their history.

Anyway, prequels. What do you think?
When a prequel comes into being, covering the time before an established series, should that be book #1 to a new reader? Is it smart to read it first? Or not? Oh, and if you haven't read either of these two books? Oh, do! In whatever order.

WIN! You can win lots of nifty prizes, including a copy of Mind Games if you so choose, at Amanda's. Stop by and enter and wish her a happy b-day!
You can also win a copy of In and Out at Chris' place, Stumbling over Chaos!


Blodeuedd said...

Hm tough one, I mean prequels so often come after the real deal and then the damage is done.
But for new readers, well I guess the could go for the prequel first

Chris said...

I've seen one of the prequel Star Wars movies. I won't watch any of the others.

Hmm. Good question about Clay! I read The Vampire Lestat before I read Interview with the Vampire and that made a huge difference in how I perceived characters. I always liked Lestat and thought that Louis was a big friggin' whiner. I'm told that you see things a bit differently if you read them in order.

Sage Ravenwood said...

Aha! Now I know I'm definitely reading Men of the Otherworld first.

I wonder if prequels might be a bit of back story. If that would be the case, most people wouldn't appreciate the prequel first. Sometimes it works. Other times it might be taking a bit of the original "aha" moments out of the previous books if read first. Make sense? (Hugs)Indigo

Hilcia said...

I'm not a big believer in reading prequels first when picking up a new series. I think a series should be read in the order it was written. Mainly because there's usually a reason the books are written that way.

Example: Recently I read a prequel to a trilogy (1 book so far) that I love. The prequel (2nd book) explains much about the world & characters, BUT it's really a spoiler. If read first, this prequel would take away MUCH of the tension & excitement that made that 1st book a winner for me. It changes the perspective, the whole experience and it diminishes the impact.

Carolyn Crane said...

Blo: it's a hard question, huh? Maybe I should've interviewed some authors!

Chris: OH, interesting! I read Interview first.

Indigo: Hey! you can report back on your impressions. With this series, I do think it would be good both ways.

Hil: Oh, do tell! What series? Come back! Tell! LOL.

Sullivan McPig said...

I like to read a series in the order they're written, so if the prequel is written after the first book I'd read it later.
The big problem is that my bookstore often has a weird system of buying new books and suddenly start selling a series starting with the newest book in the series.... I'm always bugging them to get the earlier books of a seies.

Kristie said...

If you read Men of the Otherworld first, then you have to read Tales of the Otherworld to get the Clay/Elena full story, then read Bitten.

I personally would rather read in release order. I like the mystery of not really knowing why Elena is so upset with Clay and why she's left the pack behind and moved to Toronto by herself. If you read the short stories first, its kind of like skipping to the end and reading the last chapeter of the book first. (Which I've been known to do, and usually regret.)

KT Grant said...

Joanna Bourne's next release is a prequel about 2 established characters that appeared in her first book, and about one that will have his own book next. If the author can write it well, then why not?

Carolyn Crane said...

Sully: Oh, no! It would be torture to have only recent ones available and not be ABLE to go to the beginning!

Kristie: You might be the voice of reason here. Because Bitten gets a person curious about all those stories! And right, TALES would have to be sandwiched in there!! Maybe I should email Indigo.

KB: that's a really good example. Wow, maybe I'll ask Joanna Bourne!

nath said...

Interesting point that you are bringing up, CJ... because I love that series as well. Love Clay to pieces!!! :D

I have to say though, I was never put off by Clay, even when reading Bitten. This was my very first, urban fantasy book and I pretty much went into it with the mindset of a romance reader, so I was rooting for Clay and Elena from the beginning.

I think that Men of the Otherworld gives you a lot of great insight on Clay and Jeremy's personality. You get to know them better and appreciate them more. However, if you're to read Men of the Otherworld before Bitten, then you should also read Tales of the Otherworld as well - which contains the story of how Elena and Clay meets. In which case, I don't really think you would be put off by Elena. I think you would just understand the relationship they have better and how complicate it is.

Sorry for the ramblings ^_^;

Kerry said...

I tend to try to read books in publication order, at least the first time I read the series. That way the world unfolds for me the same way it unfolded for the author. But on rereads, chronological order can be an intersting way to get new perspectives on the books.

I've just been struggling with this as I try to decide what order to reread a favourite series. There's a long, rambling and only possibly interesting post on my blog about it.

Sullivan McPig said...

@Carolyn: Well, these days bookdepository is my friend, thanks to you :-)

Joanna Chambers said...

I don't care about reading in order that much at all. Even when I'm reading a single title, I skim ahead to find out what's going to happen - I can't resist! I quite like discovering things about characters you think you already know - like you've said, it's more like life that way.

It does affect how you feel about different books/ characters though. I love One Night of Love by Mary Balogh - one of the first Baloghs I ever read - but quite a few bloggers say that they don't like that book because they read A Summer to Remember first. Why? Because the hero of ONOL is about to marry the heroine of ASTR - Lauren - when the heroine of ONOL - Lily - bursts into the church - she's the wife he thought was dead! So some readers can't forgive Lily for what she did to Lauren. Me? I love Lily and think Lauren is a big drink o' water.

Roger said...

On Kelley Armstrong's Web page, she has a list of the chronological order of the "Otherworld". When I can find data like that on author sites, that's my preferred reading order. Some stories in "Men" & "Tales" are set before and after "Bitten".

orannia said...

Ohhh, interesting question. I think it depends (how's that for fence sitting?) For example, you should see Star Wars in release order IMO. And I believe certain authors, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, have suggested reading their books in release order.

Weirdly, I couldn't get into Bitten - I've tried it twice - but I loved Clay's novella in Men of the Otherworld!

I'm OCD about a lot of things, but not reading in order...weird, huh?

Heather (DarklyReading) said...

I read Bitten then Men of the Otherworld and I'm glad I read it that way - I liked the development of Clay from a jerk to a more sympathetic character by the end of Bitten..though I do just love Clay.. her is so hot!

Carolyn Crane said...

Nath: That's a great point. I came to Bitten not as a romance reader, so I wasn't hip to the H/H situation, but I can see there are hero signals. Did you read Tales yet?

Kerry: I think that's a good policy, actually. In fact, I'm starting to think this post is a bit inane!

Sully: Ah! Right!

Tumperkin: I didn't even know that about you! Also, I have Slightly Dangerous by Balogh and everyone is like, DON'T READ IT FIRST. I think I had a different reaction to Sebastian in Devil in Winter as I hadn't read the book where he was a villain.

Roger: That's right, I forgot about that later-set stories. I just went and looked at that. Wow, very detailed and helpful!

Orannia: No Bitten for you? Also, I think you're right about Star Wars. It would rob a lot of the fun of the revelations!

Heather: I would actually agree. Really thinking about it now. I'm glad I read Bitten first, too. I haven't read Tales, yet, Elena and Clay's history, but that would really take some of the fun of discovery from Bitten, to know that going in.

Tez Miller said...

Whenever time travel is involved, tracking timelines can be...difficult, if not impossible. Remember in Futurama when Fry learned he's his own grandfather? Love the episode (particularly Zoidberg), but there were a number of things that didn't match with info we learned from other episodes...

I never liked Clay. Even though now we understand why he is the way he is, that still doesn't make him any more likeable. But I'm a bitch ;-)

Sarai said...

This is actually one book series that I own every single one of them but have not read them LOL. Mainly b/c you all keep telling/talking about how good it is and I can't help but want to join in.

So far I've struggled with Bitten I wonder if I read Men first if I would be more willing to jump into the series....

Brenda Hyde said...

I actually have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind has a prequel of Zedd when he was a young wizard- you don't really appreciate it unless you've read a few of the books in the series first and get to know him as a powerful wizard,THEN go back and read the prequel. It's just more fun that way.

I just read Moira Rogers first two Santuary books, then read the short they have of Sam and Gavin, which is a prequel. Same thing here- Once I got to know them in the main books it was cooler to go back and read about them when they met.

Now, on the other hand, I've read some free shorts from authors that are intros to their books that were really good-- Rachel Vincent has one, so does Jennifer Estep.

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Jacqueline C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacqueline C. said...

I think prequel novellas, when released before the first book is published, can really add to the readers experience at the start of a series (as long as that first novel doesn't read like the second book of a series). Since prequels usually aren't published until later though, I think I would prefer to read in the pub order. I hate spoilers and I feel that, in those cases, prequels would function as spoilers to the book(s).

Patti (@TheLoveJunkee) said...

Usually I read them in release order, unless the series has been around awhile - if the author has them listed I go by that order.

So I guess my answer is "*blinks*"

I feel the need to re-read Bitten now. Bye!

nath said...

Yep, I read Tales already. I was actually lucky, because I got to read all the novellas when they were online. However, that new story with Eve and Kristoff? That one, I really liked :) I liked having insight on some of the characters :)

Did you read it?

K said...

I read Bitten before Men as well, but i wasn't put off by Clay but intrigued

I think if i would have read Men before Bitten i would have wondered what was up with Clay. My reaction would have been a lot different. But i do think it makes more sense to read Bitten before Men. I just seems a richer experience then

I'm not sure how this would apply to other books. Unless there is a real good reason for publishing the prequel later, and it doesn't try to completely change the opinion of the main characters. i rambling?