Monday, May 17, 2010

Can Ana's Chronicles Be Read Out of Order?

A reader's natural tendency is to read a series in the order in which it was published, in chronological order assuming they are the same. Yet many series are constructed so that each book is complete in itself, without requiring material in previous volumes. That is the case with the current four volumes in the Distant Cousin series.

Another case in point is the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin twenty volume series by Patrick O'Brian, which was well known in the United Kingdom long before it caught on in the United States. We discovered O'Brian's wonderful books just before their mid-point, and enjoyed each one no matter where it fit in the sequence. We obtained the missing early ones and read those next, and in later years read the final ones as they appeared. Even massively out of order they were great fun. Eventually we reread them all in order, and admittedly that was even more rewarding--but the point is that each one stands on its own no matter where it falls in the sequence.

We have maintained the same is true for the Distant Cousin books, but given most readers' preference for order, we have had no feedback to support that contention...until now. One dear reader somehow read volume 4, Distant Cousin: Regeneration, before volume 3, Distant Cousin: Reincarnation. (We accept a large part of the blame for this, for not including the volume number in the title. The reason is that a series was not dreamed of early on--it was readers' demand for more that prompted later volumes.)

She wrote this: "I somehow got things mixed up and read DC Regeneration before Reincarnation. I thought there was something strange about the amount of time that had elapsed since the second book but was almost halfway through before I decided I was reading the books in the wrong order. I could not decide whether to stop and go back to Reincarnation, or to keep going. I kept going and now I am reading DC #3. My error hasn't affected my enjoyment of the story."

And later, she was kind enough to add this: "I finished DC3 a few days ago. I truly enjoyed all four books. The mix up did not affect my enjoyment at all. It has been a fun series."

(Thanks to NavyGirl for the photo! It seemed to fit this out of order post perfectly.)

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