Mari Ness says yes. She says it humorously, like so:
I tend to be a bit agnostic on the question of “what order should I read/watch these in?” With three exceptions:
Legends of Tomorrow, which everyone, without exception, should start in the second season, only tackling the first season much, much later after getting a chance to realize that these characters can actually be fun.
Blackadder, which everyone, without exception, should also start in the second season, only in this case, never return to the first season at all.
And The Chronicles of Narnia, which everyone, without exception, should read in publication order.
I’ve never watched Legends of Tomorrow or Blackadder. Is she right?
Of course I’ve totally read The Chronicles of Narnia; who hasn’t? (Anyone?) Is she right there as well?
She asserts that Prince Caspian and The Magician’s Nephew are both weakish, whereas The Silver Chair is the strongest book of the lot. How about that? Right or wrong?
I read this series a long, long time ago, in publication order (I’m pretty sure). I know I liked Prince Caspian much better than The Silver Chair, but objective artistic quality was not something I was capable of judging (or interested in) when I was about, I don’t know, eight or ten or whatever.
The Last Battle was such a downer I hardly got through it to the happy ending. Even when I reached the ending, I wasn’t super, super, super keen on the grim story by which we got to the ending. I don’t believe I ever read the entire story again, just sort of skimmed through it to the ending.
Now, what this actually all reminds me of is a different book: Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of CS Lewis, by Michael Ward.
For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that C. S. Lewis’s famed but apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser’s Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the structure of Narnia’s symbolism has remained a mystery.
Michael Ward has finally solved the enigma. In Planet Narnia he demonstrates that medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. … Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets – – Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn – – planets which Lewis described as “spiritual symbols of permanent value” and “especially worthwhile in our own generation”. Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles so that in each book the plot-line, the ornamental details, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality. The cosmological theme of each Chronicle is what Lewis called ‘the kappa element in romance’, the atmospheric essence of a story, everywhere present but nowhere explicit. The reader inhabits this atmosphere and thus imaginatively gains connaître knowledge of the spiritual character which the tale was created to embody.
Fascinating book, and pretty convincing.
What ought to happen is, Ward or someone interested in this subject ought to select a few dozen readers, present them with the characteristics of the seven medieval planets, and suggest they read the books and peg each one to a planet. Would everybody decide on the same pairings? Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Secondary topic: What other series ought to be read in publication order, even though that differs substantially from internal chronological order? I have one:
Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust. I am pretty casual about reading series out of order, but for these, publication order is definitely the way to go. No question. Brust changes and grows as an author over the long period during which he’s been writing these, so trying to read this series in internal chronological order would be awkward, even jarring at times.