When Heather first approached me about writing a potential guest post for the Summer Series Challenge, I started brainstorming immediately. There have already been so many insightful posts written about series. What could I possibly say about series that hasn’t been said about series and how we read them? Or that isn’t fairly obvious among frequent series readers? It was actually the books I elected to read for my participation in this challenge that provided me with my answer: duologies.
Duologies (sometimes also referred to as duets) are stories that are told over the course of two novels. They’re generally considered to be a type of series since the main story arc is large enough that it spreads over to another book. Duologies, however, are much more contained than trilogies, quartets, quintets, or longer series, and therein lies their appeal for me.
￼Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce
The problem with longer series:
The main issue that I have with series is the level of commitment they require. Our time is one of our most valuable and limited resources, after all. There are many very good reasons why book-stat recording websites such as Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble have more ratings and higher sales for earlier books in series. How easy is it to fall behind in a series? Or to have had such a huge gap between reading one installment and picking up the next one that you don’t remember enough to actually read it without going back and re-reading previous installments? By deciding to read a series, many times I’m deciding to preference one author and his/her (pro)long(ed) story over more than one author/story at that time.
While none of these are necessarily bad things by any means, these reasons do cause me to stop and think about whether I really want to start a new series before picking up a first book. This is an especially relevant question to ask in certain genres or audience levels (YA books and urban fantasies in particular seem to publish a lot of series).
￼Eon & Eona by Alison Goodman
The problem with standalones:
Standalones are certainly shorter on many aspects that I do love about series. Less time can be devoted to character development, worldbuilding, and complex storylines, among other aspects found within novels. Not that a good standalone is necessarily devoid of memorable characters, unique worlds, or clever stories; rather, the author has only one book in which to accomplish all of these things. This is certainly not an easy task by any means, and who doesn’t end up wishing for just a little more by a standalone’s conclusion? It’s probably also a fair assessment to say that standalones have a greater chance of being overlooked simply because they cannot generate the amount of hype that an ongoing series can, both by readers and publishers.
I’ll admit my bias here that none of these potential pitfalls related to standalones dissuade me from picking one up with the knowledge that it is, in fact, a standalone. It’s a smaller investment, after all, and gives me the opportunity to read more stories from more authors.
Dreamhunter & Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox
How duologies can mediate this divide:
For me, duologies offer the perfect solution to many of the problems I commonly encounter while reading either longer series or standalones.
If the curiously-expanding series phenomenon confuses you,
If you find yourself groaning to learn that a standalone is now becoming a series,
If the very idea of middle-book syndrome makes you dread starting second installments,
And if the thought of waiting years upon years for the full series to release causes you anxiety,
You should consider reading a duology.
If it saddens you to hear that some authors expend so much effort creating characters and stories they won’t return to,
If you like the comfort of familiarity in the novels you read,
If you look forward to the hype surrounding the release of a beloved story’s continuation,
And if you just aren’t satisfied with just a one-shot story,
You should consider reading a duology.
With their set structure, duologies solve many of the uncertainties that tend to come with reading longer series. They offer more than standalones can, yet still are finite in their scope.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with series. I cannot count the number of times I’ve complained that this one book I want to read is part of yet another series, but at the same time I do find myself every once in a while closing a standalone and wishing that this wasn’t the end. I’m sure many voracious readers can relate to my feelings, which is why I want to suggest that duologies bridge the gap between the often-conflicting desires that tie into our decisions on whether to read a standalone or series next.
For the reasons I listed and more, I hope that readers, authors, and publishers alike can really come to embrace the unique reading experience that duologies provide. (And let me know of some duologies that you’ve come to enjoy.)