Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unsatisfying Sequels

Posted by Simcha 5:46 PM, under | 9 comments

For my birthday last month I decided to treat myself to a few books that have been high on my wishlist for a while. Each of these books were sequels to novels that had really blown me away last year and I was excited to finally have an excuse to splurge a little on the sequels.

As soon as the books arrived in my mailbox I dived into the first one, eager to continue the story that I had so fully captivated me last year. But the magic of the previous book was somewhat dimmed in this second one, and I read it in a much less frenzied manner than I had read the previous book. Unfortunately, I encountered a similar experience with my second book purchase as well. The characters weren't as engaging nor the story as gripping as I recalled the previous book to be. While I had rushed through the first book in just two days, despite its hefty size, it's now been two weeks and I still haven't finished the sequel. And considering how disappointing my reading of these books has been going so far, I'm a bit wary about approaching the third book that I had purchased, in case that one will disappoint me as well.

I'm now wondering it this is always the case with sequels. I've been wracking my brain, trying to think of any sequels that actually met my expectations, when following on the heels of a really fantastic book, I just can't think of any. Actually, that's not quite true. I did enjoy Peter Brett's The Desert Spear as much as I had enjoyed his previous book, The Warded Man, if not more, but this is the only example I can come up with. Even Brandon Sanderson let me down with his equal to Mistborn, which I didn't even finish. And while I love Jasper Ffodes' Thursday Next series, I found the squeal to The Eyre Affair to be a bit of a bore (I am glad that I didn't give up on the series though, because it redeemed itself fully in the following books)

Does anyone else have this experience with book sequels? Do you ever not read the sequel to a favorite book for fear of it falling short of your high expectations?

9 comments:

That generally happens; the second book in a trilogy has a lull in the action, just getting you from Point A to Point B. A few I can think of off the top of my head: Iron Daughter (sequel to Iron King) and Linger (sequel to Shiver).
I did love Eldest (Eragon) though, and Catching Fire was my favorite Hunger Games book.

I try to keep my expectations realistic, that way I don't build the book up so high that I'll be disappointed. Also, I'm pretty character driven rather than plot driven, so with sequels, I'm just happy to be spending time with my favorite characters, and I'm not that picky about what happens in the book. However, I don't hesitate to drop a series if the characters are just the same old, same old, and show no growth.

I am often disappointed. Yup a bit with Fforde too, and so many more. It's seldom the next books are as good

Riv Re: Yes, that is the problem. Who wants to read a book that's only meant to bridge to other books?

JenM: I agree that sometimes the characters are enough to keep me happy with a book even if the story isn't up to scratch. Though it's not always enough.

Blodeuedd: I know. I wish that more fantasy authors would start writing stand-alone novels rather series that results in mediocre sequels.

I too wish authors would write more stand alones and less series. It seems like everything I've read recently is part of a series, and I'd really like a no strings attached relationship for once!

ok, two quick sequel experiences:

Patrick Rothfuss's Wise Man's Fear, sequel to Name of the Wind. the hype made me VERY nervous, and Rothfuss hasn't written a whole ton. it was everything I wanted and more.

Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch, sequel to Lies of Locke Lamora. the first time I read Red Seas I was dissapointed, sad, confused, angry, afraid Lynch would never publish another book after that one. THEN I read it again. and caught a ton of stuff I'd missed the first time through, it was suddenly brilliant.

I echo the comment on "no strings attached" reading. I don't know why there are so many series when with sharp editing, one can tell a story with one book rather than three or two. I think it has to do a lot with profit margins, to be frank.

Though this' been unfortunately true with a couple, I've been reading so many books recently which improve in sequels that for me, the balance has tilted the other way! Steven Erikson and Jim Butcher, for example - the first books are actually considered -worse- than the rest of their series. Any other series like this you've read?

I almost always read the sequels if I love the first book because I want to see what happens regardless. Sometimes a sequel will surprise me and be just as good, if not better than the first book (like the first 3 of the Outlander series), but that's rare. Usually I like the sequels a little bit less, but they're not hugely disappointing. Sometimes a series goes too long and the last books are awful (book 7 of the Outlander series comes to mind). Really though it just depends on the individual book/series.

I hope the one that you haven't read yet is a pleasant surprise for you.

Redhead: I'm so glad to hear you say that The Wise Man's Fear met your high expectations. I was a bit worried about that one. And everyone I heard from seemed to have been disappointed with Red Seas, though I loved the audio book. I think I'll try reading the book as well and seeing if I see it differently.


Stephanie: I think with genre book it's also that so much goes into creating a new world and magic system that it's easier to stick to what has already been created then recreating everything all over again, for a new book.

Jacob @ Drying Ink : Hey Jacob, welcome back! haven't seen you in a while! I've actually had that experience with most urban fantasies that I've read. The first book was just OK and then if I made the effort to read the next one, I often find myself enjoying it a lot more. Though with the Dresden series, even after book two I still wasn't a fan. Most people say it's not until book 4 that the series gets good but I can't imagine reading through three books that don't interest me just to get to the fourth.

Alyce: You're right, Outlander is a good example of a series that manages to keep readers engaged book after book, or at least for the first few ones. There was one book that I just kind of skimmed through ( 4 maybe) and I haven't read the recent one at all because I just don't have the time to refresh my memory of the story by rereading the previous books.

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