Sometimes looking for something new to read can be very daunting. Do you shop around and find a single novel where you can get in, there is a start, middle and end and then move onto the next. Or do you invest yourself in a epic spanning multiple books and sometimes a lot of years.
The first epic I ever read was Lord Of The Rings. Maybe not epic in the sense of some contemporary series, its only three books, but it was pretty big for a young lad barely into his teens. Terry Brooks’ Shannara trilogy was next, again not massive but substantial. I’ve never followed on after the initial trilogy and believe the whole Shannara mythos spans a dozen or more books.
During my late teens, 20s and 30s I pretty much stuck with standalone’s. The Conan‘s I read were never epic in the sense of the amount of pages they covered, neither were the adventures of The Stainless Steel Rat (initially introduced to me through the pages of 2000AD). But then I got close my 40s and I suppose my attitudes changed and I was looking for something more substantial. So I picked up The Gunslinger by Stephen King.
The Dark Tower was a massive investment of my time, over ten years from start to finish and to be honest when I reached that final page I was a little underwhelmed by the whole thing. It did put me off investing long periods of my time into a set of books when the pay off at the end might leave me feeling a little flat. But then I was introduced to the world of Westeros and A Song Of Ice And Fire by George RR Martin and I felt for the first time here was an epic I could relate to.
My reading habits must have change because the initial four books in the series – A Game Of Thrones, A Clash Of Kings, A Storm Of Swords and A Feast For Crows – I tore through in about five months. Now they’re not small books, A Storm Of Swords was so big it had to be split into two for the paperback in the UK because it physically couldn’t be printed the size it was. The forthcoming fifth book in the series – A Dance With Dragons – has come in at over 1,600 pages of manuscript which is massive by anyone’s standards.
I’ve never tried to slot myself into a niche but I suppose looking back I personally prefer epic stories told on a grand scale spanning multiple continents and hundreds, maybe thousands of years, of recorded history. Standalone’s work but in someway’s they’re like a Chinese takeaway, you’re always hungry right after finishing it.