Sequels: Good, Bad and Ugly

There’s nothing new under the sun. This is actually a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Hollywood isn’t the only clown in town that seems to think if something was a blockbuster, it should have a sequel. Books in a series are more popular than ever.

In fact, I enjoy reading a series. After all, if I love the characters, I happily follow their trials and triumphs. Unfortunately, “happily ever after” isn’t much of a story.

Recently, we went to see Red 2 at the theater. I will agree that Red wasn’t a stellar movie, but it was funny and lots of things got blown up. Those two elements keep the men I live with enthralled, entranced and engaged.

The story in Red seemed fresh. A retired CIA man gets bored and starts flirting with a girl via phone. Unfortunately, there’s an old case that he worked on that people are getting killed over (because of political aspirations). The targets unite, discover the root problem, blow up plenty of cars and buildings and ride off victorious. Each character has their own sub story, as well, which keeps things interesting.

None of these things can be said of Red 2. The relationship seems stale until there’s a threat to the retired agent’s life. The team thinks they’re completing one mission, but instead, their mission has a mission of his own. Thankfully, there was humor and lots of explosions because the story was dreadful.

This is a problem with sequels. It isn’t enough that we love the characters. They need to be involved in something we can find believable. It can’t be a lame “I liked it better when we were running for our lives” theme. At least, not if you want to engage me.

Another series that seemed to fail to rise to the occasion was The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. This irked me because I looked forward to each successive installment as much as my son, who was in the target audience.

I’m not going to rehash the plot of this series. Let’s just say that he could have told the story in two books. Very few people I spoke with appreciated the addition to Eldest of the cousin’s story. Was it essential for the whole town to move and become Eragon’s army?

Also, this was a case where the hero got a sucky deal. Seriously. I despise when an author ends a series by having the person who saves the world end up with – nothing, nada, zilch. He doesn’t get to be with his family, he loses his brother, the girl he loves can’t love him in return and he leaves the land he just delivered from oppression. Wow. “You’re welcome. I’d love to save your day and then lose everything I worked for. Happy day!”

In fact, I would rather see the hero dead if he’s not going to get anything. I disagree that Eragon having the dragons and being the one to train future riders redeemed the ending. I don’t care if it was prophesied to end this way in the first book.

A hero should walk away with more than the knowledge that he did the right thing. Even if that’s all we earn in real life for some good deeds, it isn’t an acceptable ending for a series.

I remember finishing Inheritance and thinking, “I waited expectantly for this? I read all these thousands of pages only to have him leave it all behind in the end?”

Perhaps you found Paolini’s ending satisfying or thought all the extra information included that made his series stretch from the predicted trilogy to a four-book cycle made sense. I’d love to have a conversation about that (or another series you found successful or repugnant).

2 thoughts on “Sequels: Good, Bad and Ugly

  1. Eragon started out as a promising series, but I barely pushed through Eldest and just gave up in the middle of Brisingr. It’s too bad that the series ended in a negative light.

    Right now I’m obsessed over A Song of Ice and Fire. George Martin lets you know how depressing it’s going to before the end of the first book.

    1. I’m not quite halfway into the second book and I think it’s too epic. I hate trying to keep track of all the characters. We all know I hate when authors kill off characters I like. Sirius Black. Need I say more?

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