Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The 1st book vs. the sequel

I recently read a blog post in which the author said that the first book in a series is always better. I'm inclined to disagree. I enjoyed Lover Eternal better than Dark Lover, and The Laughing Corpse more than Guilty Pleasures.

However, compared to Pillars of the Earth, World Without End (though still an awesome novel) fell flat. Kitty and the Midnight Hour was a teensy bit better than Kitty Goes to Washington. And The Drawing of the Three was so different from The Gunslinger that one can't make a comparison.

What makes a first book superior to its sequel, or vice-versa?

I have a few theories for each circumstance:

1st book is better because:

1.) The book was intended as a stand-alone, but publishers or maybe readers demanded a sequel.

2.) The book was hoped to be part of a series, but the author was afraid things wouldn't pan out, so twisted it into stand-alone status so much that series world/character building was shunted aside too much for subsequent books to have a good impact.

2nd book is better because:

1.) The author was so focused on world-building that the 1st book was an info dump.

2.) Author was still a virgin-writer for the 1st book and his/her story telling skills have improved.

What are your thoughts?


  1. I'm inclined to agree. The second book can be significantly better. We are always growing as writers and if a book was intended to have a sequel, the sequel oftentimes is better. When things fall short it is usually due to the reasons you have given above, something I like to call "The Disney Effect." If there is no more story to be told, don't tell it!

  2. I would also have to agree. (Though the Anita Blake books, in my opinion, started to go down hill after so many. Compared to those, the first book was better). This isn't always the case, but sometimes.

    Great post & blog!

    Katie S. Taylor

  3. It's funny you wrote about this. During dinner my husband and I had this very discussion. I brought up that they are making a 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie. We both agreed that should've stopped at one.

    Then we moved onto books. Harry Potter liked the first one, but loved some of the later books better. And the Twilight saga, liked the first, but the rest were merely okay.

    What we ended up agreeing on was if the series seemed like it was set up in the beginning to have pieces, they tended to get better as they went. However if they seemed, like you said, to be tacked on as an afterthought, the sequels lacked something.

    Great question.

  4. I've found the second is usually slightly worse, but not by much, at least in the books I've read recently.

    With the genre I read most, YA Paranormal, the excitement of the first book is finding stuff out about whoever or whatever, once that's found out, I lose interest. Maybe it's just me... There are some sequels that have been awesome CATCHING FIRE the second in the Hunger Games series was excellent.

    Great post!

  5. I agree, Katie. Anita Blake started to go downhill after Obsidian Butterfly, IMO. Still, one is so stuck on the characters by then, so what can ya do.
    Really, Koreen, a 4th "Pirates?" Besides Johnny Depp being great eye candy...I don't see the point.

  6. I have to agree with you on both accounts. For the most part, I have to enjoy the first book for me to read the others though I have seen improvements as a series went on. That's not to say that sometimes the sequel is a little weak because the author wasn't prepared to continue though.