Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sequels and Such

Most of my reading lately has been sequels or further. I've found myself pondering the merits of these kind of books. Was it that the author had more to say? Was there other stories that needed to be told, but were independent of each other? Was the author out to recreate the magic of the first book? Did the author need to continue eating on a daily basis and figured he/she could just regurgitate the same ideas and make some money off of unknowing saps? I've deduced some ideas of good and bad sequels. Maybe here would be a good place for a clarification. Fantasy novels are practically guaranteed to come in series. My guess is that it's because it takes a whole book just to introduce the fictional world/language/species/culture that fantasy novels typically come with. Then you've got to have some sort of journey, gurus to pursue knowledge from, treasures and/or people to hunt down and battles all along the way. I'm going to eliminate that entire genre from my discussion. I'm talking about books that either seem to be finished and yet the author writes another, or books that beg for more. My sequels lately have been "Eclipse" by Stephenie Meyer, which I won't go into great discussion about here for fear of losing sight of what I originally intended to write about. Ms. Meyer hasn't managed to wrap up this story yet, so I can understand why she keeps going. I've also read "Tears of the Giraffe" by Alexandar McCall Smith, the continued story of my dear friend, Precious Ramotswe. This is a prime example of books that beg for more. You finish one of these books and are ready to pick up the next one. The last sequel, or book in a series, is "Honey for a Teen's Heart" by Gladys Hunt and Barbara Hampton. I blogged about the other two books a few months ago and this is another great installment of ideas. Those books aren't fiction, yet I count them as sequels because the first book was such a success, that I feel like she kept going in an effort to cover more genres. That's fine. I'm okay with that, as long as it's a good read.

What I can't stand is books that have multiple volumes because the author thinks we're so enamored with the character that we want more, when in fact, we don't. This is really typical of detective novels. The first book will introduce a conflicted, cynical, sometimes bumbling sleuth and then their problems and issues are dragged out for another 20 or 30 novels. People in real life usually figure some stuff out or change to some degree, but that rule doesn't apply to fictional detectives, I suppose. One of my favorite of these characters is Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. She's not quite as stereotypical and the author doesn't lay out all her baggage in the first novel. Kinsey has many layers and you get to find out more as you read further. I'm excited to read the latest, "T is for Trespass" which recently came out and has a wait list a mile long at the library. Ms. Grafton goes with the alphabet, so if you'd like to give them a try, I'd start with "A is for Alibi" and get to know Kinsey yourself. They have their more violent moments, but in general, highly enjoyable.

One of the worst examples, in my view, of sequel abuse if "The Lost World" by Michael Crichton. I thought this was a blatant grasp for cash on his part to write another Jurassic Park novel. So what if the first was fabulously popular? Does that justify another book? Mr. Crichton writes compelling, suspenseful novels that sell pretty much because his name is on it. Was a sequel necessary? Did "The Lost World" say anything that "Jurassic Park" didn't? I wish I could ask him. The book was dull compared to "Jurassic Park" which I remember everybody I knew was reading at the time, copies of the book being passed around at school (at least among the nerdy set I hung out with) and discussions abounding. "The Lost World" made no such reaction. Well, we were teenagers after all and you can't expect too much. But still, it irritates me.

What I'd like to hear is what sequels or series are worth the effort and which to avoid. Like I wrote earlier, fantasy novels are a given, but I'm open to hear about those too. Feed me information! Rant like a crazed blogger! Gush with enthusiasm! Just don't get any on the computer while you're at it.


  1. I also am waiting in a line for "T". However, if you have read one Janet Evanovich, which I did at your house, you have read them all. What's her name doesn't do much besides wreck cars and appear conflicted about Ranger vs the Cop. BTW, did you know there is a book now about Rhett Butler's People. I loved Gone with the WInd, consumed Scarlet clear until the formula last chapter, so now I will see what some author made Rhett that charming cad he was. What is the name again of the Arson book? I couldn't find it on the library website.

  2. I have to agree that the Twilight series is, so far, one book too long. I'm hoping she'll save the last book by turning Belle into that vampire she keeps threatening to do.

    A good series - at least so far - has been the Goose Girl/Enna Burning/River Secrets trifecta. Haven't read the last one, but so far Shannon Hale has delivered engaging stories with poetic prose.

  3. Oh yes, I've heard of Shannon Hale! Now I remember that it's been recommended to me before. Must put on library list...
    I wish Belle would get hit by a semi or something appropriate to her pathetic character. Probably won't happen, but it doesn't hurt to hope.

    Nonna- It's called "An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England" and I haven't finished it yet, but so far it's fabulous. I'll blog about it later.

  4. I think Michael Crichton wrote "The Lost World" for the express purpose of making it into a movie. It reads just like a movie script. I was disgusted, because I also loved Jurassic Park and it was such a sell out!

    One of my least favorite things about sequels is the fact that I get suckered into buying the first book without knowing it's in a series, and then I have to buy the rest of the books, which usually results in a two-year wait while the author comes up with more convoluted plot lines so a tenth book can be written. One of the few series I enjoy (and it fits into the sci-fi genre, so I guess it doesn't really count here) is the Ender's Shadow series. It did have new things to say and I felt like Orson Scott Card got better with each book.

  5. Ah yes, Uncle Orson always has something new to say. I love reading his books. So there's "Ender's War of Gifts" or something like that that just came out and is supposed to be a Christmas book. It smells of sell-out, but that would be so atypical of Card to do. I'm hoping to read it soon and find out.