What The Grade Means
With each series I have included a Grade, just like one might receive from a teacher, unless you were cursed to attend a “progressive” school. The grades range from D- for the absolute worst to A+ for the very best.
It must be understood that these grades are In My Humble Opinion and as such can be totally ignored if you don''t happen to share my tastes. Since, however, I consider myself a fairly average man with fairly average taste, I believe that the grades are a good indication of the overall quality of the series. The overall quality is just what I am attempting to grade, too. In other words, just how enjoyable are the books to read.
There is so much that goes into the making of an enjoyable read. The writing style should flow, the characters should be believable, the action should be captivating, the dialogue realistic, and the atmosphere enveloping. When all things click, the time spent inside the covers of a good book should pass without notice and the time spent away from it should be immeasurable. And when you are finished, you should reverently put the book down and nod slowly with a satisfied grin on your face. That is an A+.
Okay, I will admit it. There are some that get even higher grades than the A+. These are the cream of the crop, the very best that, as I see them, you are likely to read. I have three that have A++ and one that has A+++ because I have not found anything in the genre that surpasses them in any way. And I do have one series, admittedly not a spy series, that I give the incredible A++++ mainly because I have never in 40+ years I have been reading and the 1000+ books I have consumed found anything that I loved as much.
Unfortunately, not all books will get to that apex. There are many series that read as smoothly as you might want but the characters are cardboards. There are some that give adventure to take your breath away, and give it all back with dialogue so inane as to be stupefying. Regrettably, there are too many that have one or more critical elements but is so lacking in other parts as to be disappointing. Lastly, there are some with virtually not redeeming qualities, making you wonder why the author tried and the publisher went along.
But you will not notice in all the grades given out for the hundreds of series a single “F”. No matter how bad the series, if it made it to the printed page and was placed on the market for the buying public to put money down for it, it passed. It may not have passed by much (D-) but it made it. As I have said many times, the worst book ever published is still worth more than the best one never written.
Of course, that is all just IMHO.