(Of the three below, the first I will get back to; the second I don’t know about, and the third, probably not. The fourth type of unfinished series, as regards where I stopped in it, is of course the case where you reach for the next book and hear it hasn’t been published yet; see Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss, etc. etc.)
A Song of Ice and Fire
Well, read A Game of Thrones over one winter holiday. (Christmas break, Celebration of the Birth of the Most Sacred Tarja Halonen, whatever.)
The book being huge, decided to have a break before the next part, and eventually read A Clash of Kings during the summer holidays some six months later.
Found this a working system; scheduled A Storm of Swords for the next winter holidays… and then blew it; had something else to read; forgot; and found myself geographically separated from the physical book for a long while after that, never quite able to remember to pick it up.
Currently am troubled by the choice of whether to recap the first two volumes by the handy-dandy abbreviation work of others; or whether to read them again. Basically it’s a problem of “This will be delicious because of its faint familiarity, and all the little details you forgot!” versus “This will be exquisite because of its virginal newness, and the turns you never foresaw!”, and as agonizing isn’t my cup of tea, I defer the decision of where to dive again into the bloody and glorious tale.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
Borrowed the first volume from a library; read it; hated it.
A few years later happened across the first two trilogies in a used book shop; bought them on a whim, sure my bad experience had been just childish incomprehension. Some time later read the first volume; still hated it. (Gawd, the whiny flaccid thing!)
Am working up the conviction that the next time, really, the next time I’ll “get” the book. (If not, I’ll probably “throw” it.)
Sword of Truth, and other series
It starts like this: you read the first book and like it.
(Well, actually with the Sword of Truth it started with the third book, Blood of the Fold; for some reason, probably temporary derangement, I picked it up from a library and read it first. Soon after, insomnia and diarrhea figured heavily; not as a result of the reading, I hasten to add, but just because of the stresses of student life and my cooking. A lot of the book was read after midnight in a small room on a throne of ivory — but maybe this is not what you wanted to hear.)
Then you immediately borrow the second book, and like it as well.
A week or a few weeks later you go through the third (maybe for a second time, as the case may be); you like it, but not quite as much as the first two.
Then you have a bit longer break, then finally get around to reading the fourth, and it’s okay.
And eventually dagnabbit the library’s copy is taken by someone else when you’d like it, or you get lost reading something equally captivating for a longish time; and then you find yourself with the next volume in your hand, standing by the library shelf, and thinking: “I have no fecking idea of where I left the story.”
I think the last one of Goodkind that I read was Soul of the Fire, the fifth book; was years ago, it was. Would have to reread the first five to get at the last six. Don’t know if I ever will.
(Also, some say the books degenerate towards the end; can be. I don’t know. But I never had any trouble with the much-mocked “evil chicken”, and found the philosophical ideas — apparently Goodkind is an Objectivist, about whom I know little, and less of it is good — more entertaining though not better than the constant bland unthinking niceism that much of fantasy tends to go by. It’s nice to have something different, even if that difference means the main character is something of a dick.)
(Don’t believe the “but he’s presented as an idolizable hero!” bit either — I idolize who I want to. People can read the Old Testament for pleasure, too, even while recognizing the main character is a dick operating in a world of twisted horror. Indeed, there must be plenty of popcorn-worthy horror movies in the Good Old Book. And as for moral outrage, well, imaginary people have no rights.)
(Curiously though, even if I had no problems with taking a feces-spurting heroine-menacing evil incarnate chicken seriously, I have never been able to read anything about Tolkien’s swan-shaped ships without grimacing. And yes, I see the comedy potential in the evil chicken, but I think a reader of any unusual fiction has to learn to avoid the culturally instinctive cheap laugh. Not to mention that laughing at the fact that’s “it’s just a chicken!” is a bit like laughing that “it’s just a ring, your silly hobbits” — the point being that it’s not very useful to take all the realistic and sarcastic baggage along to a different world.)
(And then there’s the question of how good a writer Goodkind is, but what do I know about that? Others can judge that, and do, but I’m content to be amused by whatever I find appealing in my appalling ignorance of style and form.)
(How on earth did I drift into writing paragraph after paragraph of excuses for something I read years and years ago and barely even remember and certainly shouldn’t opine anything about?)
(One final thing: Felt obscenely nice to type “Terry Goodkind’s Chicken of Evil” into the Google search box to find a quote of that bit. If that was a movie title, I’d watch it.)