Monday, 29 March 2010

The Joy of the Omnibus

[First posted 21 March 2010]

There is little more pleasure in the world than settling down in a comfortable setting (a hammock on a tropical beach is ideal), with plenty of on hand sustenance (chocolate, salted pistachios or trail mix...), drink of choice and an omnibus edition of a favourite author. This is a format I hope will increase in popularity as it is a great way to read a trilogy. No more waiting for the author to complete the last book in the series; perfect for a range of speculative fiction. Win/win.

One of my favourite authors is Mark Chadbourn. I discovered his "Age of Misrule" trilogy when browsing through my local Waterstones 2 or 3 years ago. I had never heard of him nor seen any reviews of his book, but was reeled in by the first line of the blurb
All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic mythology are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago.
What followed was 1350 pages of modern fantasy at it's finest. With white-knuckle action interspersed with passion, betrayal, tragedy and despair, the entire trilogy was a blast of fresh air into my stale reading life. With the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons I travelled the length and breadth of Britain, through the lands of the Tuatha de Danaan to a dramatic conclusion that spoke of much more to come. The Age of Misrule is the first of 3 trilogies by Mark Chadbourn, The Dark Age and Kingdom of the Serpent completing the set. He released The Silver Skull, the first of an Elizabethan trilogy in November 2009.

I found another favourite author in 2005 by way of an omnibus edition of the first 3 books in her Black Jewels series. Anne Bishop has created a three-tier world populated with different races... the long-lived Hayllians, Eyrians; dark magic, demon-dead, witches, and of course, The Blood. The darker the jewel, the more powerful the magic the holder possesses.
Ancient prophecies have foretold the coming of a powerful witch, one who would in reality be not a mere human female but "dreams made flesh," nothing short of Witch herself.
This is adult fantasy, exploring the evil of sexual abuse is not usual fantasy fare, however, it is very sensitively handled here. And in a society where women are the ruling Queens and men of The Blood serve, there is no shortage of violence, revenge and corruption. Jaenelle is the focus of the trilogy and is a sympathetic and well constructed character. I am currently reading number 7 in the series, Shalador's Lady, and am still not tiring of Anne Bishop's Black Jewels world.

At last Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles is released in omnibus format and it is in my shopping basket as an easter treat to myself. Less calories than a Lindt Lindor easter egg too! I first read Interview with a Vampire in the early 80's, during my Goth phase, and both loved and loathed Lestat in equal measures. I read all her subsequent novels too, my favourites being Queen of the Damned and The Witching Hour. The first line of Queen of the Damned sums up the central character
I'm the Vampire Lestat. Remember me? The vampire who became a super rock star, the one who wrote the autobiography? The one with the blond hair and the blue eyes, and the insatiable desire for visibility and fame? You remember.
Some of Anne Rice's best writing is contained within The Vampire Chronicles and she brought fresh blood to an ailing horror standard. Anyone who likes Twilight should read this... real vampires are NOT vegetarian. They are devious, totally self-centred and morally corrupt, as befits the legend handed down from Bram Stoker.

So *publishers take note* an omnibus edition could be a way to revitalise a back catalogue. The SF and Fantasy Masterworks series were lovely and worth collecting, but many of those books are available in several reprints. Let's face it, your target audience has got most of them anyway, so why not look back on what you have in single book format and create an omnibus edition series or imprint? A few suggestions off the top of my head that I think would be suitable for publishing as an omnibus are:
  • Kim Stanley Robinson - Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, Sixty Days of Counting
  • Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts - The Empire trilogy (Servant of the Empire, Daughter of the Empire, Mistress of the Empire)
  • Faith Hunter - Rogue Mage novels (Bloodring, Seraphs, Host)
  • Anne Bishop - Tir Alainn series (The Pillars of the World, The Shadows and the Light, The House of Gaian)
  • Maria V. Snyder - The Study trilogy (Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study)
Thanks to Victoria Rogers for giving me the idea for this post... omnibus editions are the way to go.

1 comment:

  1. Well I'd probably never ever have started reading Mark Chadbourn if it hadn't been for the omnibus coming out but it ended up reviving my interest in new fantasy fiction and even making me rethink whether I wanted to identify myself as British or English... quite a lot of work for 1350 pages to do, but I don't think it would have had anything like as much impact on me if it had come in three separate volumes. Either I'd have been interrupting the three parts with other things or the sheer materiality of three different books would have made it feel less substantial!

    In short: omnibuses, omniba or omnibi are brilliant. But I wish I knew how to definitively pluralise them... :)