Can A Well-Made Sequel Improve The Original?

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how bewildered I was over Joe Abercrombie’s “Half the World” being such an improvement over the first book in the Shattered Sea series, “Half A King”. Now that the third book in the series has been released I decided to reread “Half A King” and see if my opinion has changed.

It has. I don’t have Patrick Rothfuss’s hype for the book clouding my opinion anymore nor does the predictability of the plot bother me because obviously having read it before I already know what happen. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel that way anymore because it was overhyped and the plot was predictable. However, there are details that I missed the first time around that made Yarvi’s fate at the end seem less disappointing and more foreshadowed. His meeting with Mother Gundring at the end set up the continuing conflict for the rest of the series and I felt like I completely missed it the first time.

My point is, “Half The World” changed my opinion of “Half A King.” That usually doesn’t happen with sequels from my experience. Sequels tend to be less than or equal to the original. A poor sequel can make an opinion of the first stronger. A poor sequel can run the enjoyment of the first. What if, though, you disliked the original but loved the sequel as the case with myself and the Shattered Sea series.

What if “Prometheus 2” fixes everything about the first one? What if “Alice Through The Looking Glass” takes the taste of disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” out of our mouths? What if another Indiana Jones could make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” worth watching? Most movies don’t get that chance and for good reason. Making a movie requires a lot of money, therefore, to invest it into a sequel to an underperforming movie would be a bad investment. Then again, not all poorly received movies do badly at the box office nor is a poor opinion of anything completely objective.

With video games, it’s more than the story you have to think about. The gameplay can completely change from one game to another. “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of the first “Mass Effect”, but the gameplay so much improved it makes playing the first one difficult to endure. “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” takes place in the same universe and the share the same history but the stories are self-contained and the gameplay is radically different enough they could have no connection whatsoever. “Borderlands 2” takes the concept of the first and blows it up twice as large to great success.

Back to books, should the first book of a series be judged on its own or as part of the whole? Yes and no. For me at least it’s a case by case basis. The disappointing epilogue of “Harry Potter The Deathly Hallows” doesn’t change my enjoyment of the rest of the books in the series but “The Well of Ascension”, the second book in the “Mistborn” series managed to ruin the first book and the third for me. Though I still enjoy it, “A Feast for Crows” is slow compared to three previous books in “A Song of Ice and Fire” but it doesn’t take anything away from them. “The Lord of the Rings” completely changes the importance of BIlbo’s journey in “The Hobbit”, but it doesn’t suddenly become any less a children’s novel.  Before it was revealed that Go Set A Watchman was revealed to be a first draft never supposed to be published I had decided to never read it knowing it would ruin Atticus Finch for me based on the news that he was now an elderly racist. Don’t even get me started how “The Silmarillion” both changes and doesn’t change “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at the same time.

So a sequel can change the perception of the original. It can improve it and worsen it. The question comes down to like it did with “Half the World”, whether you should give the sequel to an original you were not fond of a chance? Books, movies, video games, television shows can all cost money to consume one way or another. You may not have the money or you may have too busy a life to risk the chance. Keep in mind though what you may be missing out on. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s worth risking your time and money.



Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION « Nerdist.

Over on Amy Ratcliffe is starting a book club. The first book she’s selected is J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Silmarillion which I read right before returning to college in 2012.

It starts off slow but by the end I really loved it and contains the most intense stories J.R.R. Tolkien has ever written.

The Silmarillion was intended to be the three-volume Translations from the Elvish Bilbo wrote in Rivendell and later left to Frodo. Christopher Tolkien later said he regretted not making this apparent in the published copy of the book.

My Rocky Relationship with Audiobooks.

Oh god somebody listen!

Reader can’t get into audiobooks

I’ve written previously how I listen to a lot of podcasts. Well, one of the advertisements often given on a podcast these days is an offer for a free audiobook from when you sign up with a special site or promo code. The problem is I just cannot get into audiobooks. I don’t want to say it’s the readers fault but the reader definitely has something to do with it.

Take the A Song of Ice and Fire audiobooks by George R.R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice. He does a unique voice for every character and I do not enjoy a single one of them. When I mentioned this to my brother-in-law he said it was the influence of the show. I gave this some thought and I realized when I read an Eddard Stark chapter I don’t hear Sean Bean as his voice or Peter Dinklage when I read a Tyrion Lannister chapter. Still, Roy Dotrice’s narration for the characters doesn’t match either. I am not criticising his performance at all. From what I can tell it’s superb, but not for me.

You would think it might just for that series because of the varying voices Dotrice uses and the characters being younger than they are on the show. Nope.

Same thing happened to me for many of my favorite series. I’ve tried listening to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Dark Tower by Stephen King and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. All of them read really well by different actors and voice actors but I end up just turning it off.

There are some that have fallen into the yeah, that’s okay but still doesn’t retain my interest which include the fully casted versions of American Gods and World War Z along with The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ll probably keep trying to give them a chance.

There are two that I have enjoyed and they are both read by the author. Maybe that’s the key? I really don’t know. While I’ve heard nothing but praise for the version read by Stephen Fry, the audiobook version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams read by the author is the only one I’ve read all the way through. His comedic delivery, his cadence and that charming British accent matched the reader in my mind with the reader of the audio.

Another one I’ve enjoyed is American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson, also read by the author.  What is different about Ferguson’s book, which I highly recommend, is that I only listened to it and never actually read it. Perhaps that’s the key? Maybe I should search out audiobooks of books that I’m slightly interested in or heard great praise about but have no intention of reading (coughTheHungerGamescough). It is definitely something about.

I constantly hear about how great audiobooks are. For those who commute in their car audiobooks are so great. For professional authors who travel a lot audiobooks are a lifesaver. For people living in L.A. who are stuck in traffic for ridiculous amount of time, audiobooks are the only ways left to read. It’s one of those forms of media I keep giving a chance but always going back to reading rather than listening to them. I’ll just have to keep trying.