We are a country that loves its sequels. We just can’t let a story go. If a sequel doesn’t make sense, we have prequels. Reboots. Trilogies that somehow turn into 5 movies. TV adaptations and spin-offs. It never ends!
In the book world, sequels are series. And I’m starting to notice a trend…
Just as a TV series really should end around season 5, a book series has to have some end point. I recently finished book 2 of “Outlander” and am DAUNTED, even though I love series, at the prospect of reading 7 more 900+ page books. When is it logical for the story to end?
There are those series that consume your entire life. “Game of Thrones” is one of them. I read Book 4 last month and I’m not sure George R.R. Martin has an end game, though there should be. “Harry Potter”, for example, was well-plotted. Each novel felt like the characters advanced to a next level, and part of this is due J.K. Rowling’s brilliant foresight and planning to have the books follow Harry and co. by age and education level. By the time they are ready to leave Hogwarts the books are done.
Diana Gabaldon could have easily written the “Outlander” series as a great trilogy, rather than drag it out for 8+ books. You end up following the characters lives as closely as your own. I don’t need that. Endings are painful, but necessary. Stories are meant to live on in your imagination. I want a book that will stay with me and take a part of me with it when I reach “The End”. Why give away a novel’s power by feeding the story beyond any logical expectations?
Sue Grafton backed herself into a corner when she started writing her alphabet series. I believe we are up to “X” in the series, and as I’ve ready each book faithfully from letter A until now (some of them more than once) I get a sense that she’s exhausted. She’s been writing these mysteries for the better part of 30 years. Her main character Kinsey gets nearly killed in every single book. What a life! At some point, maybe around “K” or “M”, we stopped believing that Kinsey’s life had any realistic trajectory moving forward. By all accounts she should be dead (or under witness protection).
I will admit the books are fun- as are most books in a series- but I get lost in overall arc of the storyline. I begin to feel manipulated that the books keep coming and the story gets stretched beyond limits because there’s money to be made. Did Diana really anticipate a full 8+ series storyline when she first typed out the original “Outlander” novel? Or did someone tell her she needs to write more in the series because fans and publishers demand it?
I’m reminded of obsessed fan Annie Wilkes and writer Paul Sheldon from “Misery”. What will happen once Diana finishes “Outlander”? Will millions of us fans revolt, lock her up in a basement somewhere, and demand she bring Claire and Jamie back to life? J.K. Rowling let go, much to the dismay of a bazillion kids and adults alike, but she hasn’t been stoned.
In praise of the trilogy, I say, and here’s to logical endings. What are some of your favorite trilogies? (Books, tv miniseries will count, films)