Friday, February 8, 2008

On the Problems of Long Series

One of the problems of a very long series can be the extended period of time that passes between the publication of the first book and later books. As a result, even dedicated readers of the series may have difficulty remembering details of earlier books when they encounter elements of a current one that depend upon those events.

I'm discovering that in reading the latest books in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner universe, I really want to be able to go back and re-read the entire series in rapid succession. I originally read the first three books over a decade ago, and while I remember the general plot of those volumes, there are details that I'd really like to remember better.

For instance, I'm trying to recall exactly how the atevi cultural principle of kabiu was presented in those early volumes. I'm remembering it as being primarily in terms of food taboos, and in particular the prohibition on the domestication of animals for slaughter or the eating of game and some other foods out of their proper season. However, as the series has progressed, it has come to have a more general sense of propriety in one's actions, and even covers such things as the arrangement of furniture in a room according to the status of its occupants. I'm not sure if the hints were present in the earlier volumes, or this is a development as Cherryh takes the reader deeper into atevi culture.

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