About books in a series...
this was partly prompted by our chatter about Suldrun's Garden, but also ranges wider. Lots of people write books which are set in the same world, and there are several ways to do this:
1. The series has to be read in order - earlier books are essentially incomplete, and later books don't make any sense on their own
2. The books have a logical order, and probably reuse the same characters, but each is self-contained - you can pick up anywhere and not be totally baffled by who's who
3. The books inhabit the same world but they are independent of each other and it doesn't matter what you read first.
For #3, think Star Trek fan fiction - books share a common universe, and you can rapidly work out where a given book fits in the canon, but each book is independent of all the others.
For #2, think the Dune series, or the Horatio Hornblower books. Each episode is self-contained with a clear resolution. Later books may well pick up on lacunae in earlier ones, and assume some prior history, but you can read (for example) A Ship of the Line without ever having read Mr Midshipman Hornblower.
For #1, well, maybe Lord of the Rings - it's hard to imagine anyone being very happy with only reading The Fellowship of the Ring, or with jumping in at The Return of the King. I have come across extreme cases of this in some indie science fiction / fantasy (sadly) where the author was seemingly just writing to a word count, stopped at some rather insignificant event without even partial resolution, and then said words to the effect of "don't miss next week's exciting episode".
My feeling, from comments in our hugely interesting discussion, is that Suldrun's Garden is of type #1 - there is a partial resolution, but it seems clear to me that the people who most appreciate the book do so because they have absorbed a composite message from the entire series.
What do others think? Which kind of book series do you prefer, on the whole?