Of the two questions asked, my answer to the second one will not give Ken any valuable insights, but I'll give you mine anyway: "I'm a prolific reader of GOOD sci-fi".
I've read the complete series and would not have done so, had I not considered the first of series as good reading.
The story line is well developed and just as importantly, characters are introduced at a COMPREHENSIBLE pace.
The number of characters is also not exceedingly high.
If I'd needed to familiarize myself over and over with previously introduced characters (simply because there are so many of them), I would never even look at any books by such an author.
My sticking with Ken's books should speak for itself.