Oh the 1980’s, how I miss thee. The hours of Saturday morning cartoons, which were basically 23 minute toy commercials with a couple breaks for more toy commercials and a few public service announcements. We had One To Grow On, Captain O.G. Readmore, In The News, Schoolhouse Rock even He-M
an and G.I.Joe had PSAs at the end of the episodes man did we get a dose of morals between begging our parents for the new G.I.Joe/Transformer/Barbie/Popple/Teddy Ruxpin. Remember those ‘Just Say No’ commercials, now think that the production crews were probably all coked to the gills considering the amount of blow being done in the 80’s, irony ladies and gentlemen (and Alanis Morisette). I think the one hat stuck with me most was the inundation of reading, hell reading Rainbow was my jam, it was the reason I stopped flipping channels when I saw Geordi La Forge doing something to prolong the dilithium crystals. I was in 7th grade when I found my first emotionally jarring series of books. I was raised with The Hardy Boys books, not the wrestlers, but the series as a prolonged endeavor never reached a firm conclusion that I read but a five book series I discovered had me emotionally distraught at the end of book five. this week I would like to share and hopefully open a discussion on long running book series. NOTE: I m purposely skipping George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ here as there is already too much discussion and I think there is a longer article on it in me. Yes, it is great. Yes, I have been reading it since the first edition paperback of A Game of Thrones. On that note I have never read a page of Harry Potter either, I’ll wait here for you to get over it…..I’m done, stop being a sissy and let’s go, one day I’ll get to it all of them are under my roof but as you’l see the waiting list is long (Ha! third edit joke, you’ll get it later). On to some others I have enjoyed in no particular order.
Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: (January 1990 – January 2013), 15 books. There are 14 books in the main series and a short story involving the early days of two characters that was fleshed out and turned into a prequel (A New Spring). It centers on three young men pulled in to a prophetic apocalypse. The three and several others navigate a tremendously well plotted world of swords and sorcery as they prepare to engage the ultimate universal evil as it struggle to break free with help of disciples and acolytes. Part coming of age part Armageddon tale. Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 leaving notes and chapters to his chosen successor to finish, Brandon Sanderson (who has his own creations) not only did justice to the story but I found it seemless from Mr. Jordan’s work. I can not recommend this series enough but it will take some serious time and be prepared to be sad at the end. There are no screen adaptations I am aware of and frankly the only way I can see it being done is a long running animation series because they can stay in production constantly, keep true to source and not drag the story out for an entire generation.
Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind: (1994 – 2015) 17 books. While the story of an unlikely hero rising to the challenge of an evil warlord is not quite original this may be the most compelling. Centering on two characters, one the high highest of her magical order and the other a simple young man that had no idea his heritage was of incredible latent power. To be honest until two minutes before I typed this I did not know there was a prequel and THREE (WTF, how did I miss that?) follow up books to what I thought was the final novel. The struggle of the main characters and the interactions are well thought out and grounded. There are points where the despair of the characters is emotionally draining. While the ending (I thought) didn’t leave me nearly as distraught as the ending of Wheel of Time. However I now have to go buy 4 books and see what else happened that I missed, could be that I end up in tears on the end of this one too. In 2009 Legend of The Seeker debuted to two seasons of a TV adaption until the production/distribution company went bankrupt, while fans long for a continuation the series has yet to find a way to production since the cast was contractually released from their obligation.
Dirk Pitt Novels by Clive Cussler: (1973- 2014), 23 books of Dirk Pitt Adventures. The science and adventure series of my list. the series I refer to are the ones classified as ‘Dirk Pitt Novels’. gave me My mother gave me an early book when I was in 11th grade, I became obsessed and am pretty sure I have most of them, not all. The books read like part Indiana Jones and part James Bond part discovery channel. The creator Clive Cussler is an actual treasure hunter and founder of the real life N.U.M.A. which he founded and runs with the proceeds from his books and had discovered 60 shipwrecks (that’s reinvesting and crowd funding done right folks) At 85 years old with his first novel published at 34, Clive is probably the one author I idolize most. He started late, wrote much and used his income to fund passions. You can find Dirk Pitt, Oregon Files, Fargo Adventures and Isaac Bell Adventures on literally every news stand and book seller, I have not passed one since I discovered Cussler almost 25 years ago that did not have his name somewhere. I remember specifically reading Sahara (later a Matthew McConaughey film) and his descriptive of wandering the desert dehydrating had me sucking back a Double Gulp (2L of pop from 7/11) in record time, it took hours to recover from breaking that seal. His novel Raise the Titanic was also made in to a 1980 film starring Jason Robards. Neither of which seem to have endeared Hollywood to Mr.Cussler since only 2 attempts have been made and authorized. Frankly I think there is a solid NetFlix series here that could run for a long time. If I were to pitch it I would say six, one hour episodes per book (ish) and two books per season, done well, really get to the meat and bones of the stories, feel the pain Dirk, Al and Rudy go through and the torment they cause Sandecker. Jessica Jones and Daredevil can pull it off why not give it a try. I swear to you all if I win a powerball type lottery I will make it happen under the condition we do not butcher the book as the previous two films did (I did like Sahara I just think it left a LOT on the page that could have made the movie a top 10 of all time, big statement but read the book before you call me out). I preemptive accept the trolling on the 007/Indy Jones mash up.
Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte: (1992 – 2005) 8 books. Wow did this jump up and bite me in the ass. I was working in a film projection booth in the mid-00’s. I was up to date on Wheel of Time and A Song of Fire and Ice, I had yet to discover Sword of Truth. My friend Bryan, a bartender in our lounge, gave me The Sky Stone, the first of five in the series called A Dream of Eagles. There were five books in that series and they ate up my copious free time waiting for films to end (don’t be confused I worked a lot of hours and much of my job was before films started). All my waiting time was eaten up not by watching films through the port glass (for a change) but reading as ferociously as if I was laying in bed going “one more chapter” (I’ve done that too). I don’t think I devoured a series as voraciously as this one. I don’t own even half of it, I borrowed the A Dream of Eagles portion and returned each to exchange for the next volume like it I was a crack addict looking for a fix. There are eight books in the series, the first five revolve around the forging of Excalibur and founding of Camelot as the Roman Empire retreats from Britain. It evolves to the births and coming of age of Merlin and Uther Pendragon and the rise of King Arthur until he pulls the sword from the stone. Uther (6th book), over laps the point of view of book four (The Eagles Brood) focusing more on Uther Pendragon, the father of Arthur, than the one of Merlin who is the center piece of the 3rd, 4th and 5th books. After that the narrative turns to Clothar The Frank (7th book )and The Eagle (8th book), which pick up Arthurian legend from the perspective of Clothar the Frank (as in Frenchman) who travels to Britain in time to join Arthur’s court around the time the 5th book ends, stay with me here, and gaining fame for his skill with the lance. I bet you just bet me to the reveal didn’t you? Clothar The Frank is more commonly known as “Lancelot”, this double shot tells the tale of the fall of Arthur from a fantastic perspective and closes out the series with both a sense of sadness and completion. The five book series is hard to put down, harder than an other I’ve read, the eight book series offers the same but with a sense of completion unparalleled to my experience. I did not feel distraught to end this series, it was more akin to a break up where both people KNOW it is over and just separate with good memories out weighing the bad. This is NOT a fantasy series, this is HISTORICAL FICTION, I cannot emphasize that enough. BONUS: Jack Whyte is a resident of British Columbia (last I heard Kelowna but it’s easy to move).
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander: (1964 – 1968), 5 books. This is the one. I had dozens of Hardy Boy books and they made for a great foundation but this five book series hit me like a train in 7th grade (Devon Gardens represent). You may not know the series by the author given name but book two was optioned by Disney and The Black Cauldron became their 25th animated movie. The third book The Castle of Llyr was my favourite but the end of the series, The High King, was the first book to make me feel like I had lost friends and would never hear from them again as they lived their lives (think about that in this age of social media). I would grow old and die and never know what Taran, Eilonwyn and the rest did with their lives. If you have a young child getting in to the novel stage of reading I cannot recommend this highly enough, as a mater of fact I am giving all 5th to my step son for his tenth birthday at the end of this month (August 2016). Frankly I plan or rereading them while he finishes out his Happy Potter binge.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Why? Because they are much shorter.
- Kushiel Legacy Trilogy by Jacqueline Carey: 2001-2003 , three books. Intense and some what erotic, 23 shades of grey if you smell what I’m cookin’. I’ve only read the original trilogy but there is a trilogy of trilogies to go through in the realm of Terre D’Ange I encourage this to the ladies since it is written by one and my experience sharing it has shown that my lady friends enjoy it more often than my male ones. This is another series I should get after…I may need an e-reader now that I’ve proof read this article once and seen the list of books I have on deck. There are at least two other stories (as trilogies, already said that) attached to the first trilogy, which are the ones I am recommending and two other series by the author. I may be at least 6 books behind but the first three are well worth reading.
- Coldfire Trilogy by Celia S. Friedman: 1992-1995 While C.S. Friedman has published many it was my lurking through the fantasy section in search of something to quell my search for a Wheel of time/Sword of Truth/Ice and Fire type fix (man I hit a heroine type addiction there in the early 2000’s) the cover of When True Night Falls grabbed me but it said sequel when I examined it. I left Coles books in Surrey Place Mall, not Central City (oh yeah GVRD people it goes that far back) with all three volumes. these are the only works of Ms Friedman I have read and they remain compelling and engrossing. The two main characters are so fully fleshed out that at different times you love and hate each of them and in the bitter sweet end you wish there was more but understand that more would ruin the story. The worst trauma comes in the middle of the trilogy when a character sacrifices themselves and all the while you want to believe hey will make a miraculous return in the nick of time. My favourite example of telling a story then leaving it alone. This above anything not in production deserves a shot at series on Netflix. Three intense seasons and done.
So there you go folks a quick run down of fictional reading lists that I highly recommend to get you through the last few days basking in the sunshine and the winter ahead. Okay, yes, the spring and next summer too in the case of the Wheel of time and Sword of Truth. I do encourage you to read the books if you watch A Game of Thrones, but I will cover those some other time. Before the hate tweets start (TheMattHarding on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Linkedin, Facebook or just about anywhere) I have not read the Harry Potter books, The Dark Tower or any of the other series by Brandon Sanderson, I do plan on rectifying these over sights however I must fix that Sword of Truth fumble (what am I the Seahawks?). What do you recommend? Post on the The Matt Harding Blog Facebook page, comment on the WordPress or Twitter threads. Feed me more, NetFlix and chill isn’t the same if the fiancee is sleeping next to you and you are a night owl by nature.