A note on sequels

2016-04-24

I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, genres filled with long running book series. Until the last couple of years, I mostly avoided any series that wasn’t already complete. First, I don’t like truly “epic” sci-fi fantasy. On-going series without an end in sight, or series that go beyond roughly 3,000 to 4,000 pages never end well for me1. I simply lose interest. Second, I worry that series won’t actually reach completion, either because the books are not successful enough or the author gets writer’s block2, or even just getting caught up in waiting way too long between books3. Third, I like to actually remember what happened, especially in the kind of complex stories I like to read.

Some series do really well with sequels. I recently read through Kelly McCullough’s Fallen Blade series, and although it is complete and I did read the books in succession, they always made a clear attempt to reintroduce everything about the novel and the necessary bits of past events. In fact, McCullough was so good at this , it was almost obnoxious to read the series all in one go4.

But other books seem to provide no help at all. And I am now deeply invested in several series that have not yet completed. Right now I’m finally reading Poseidon’s Wake, the third and final novel in Alastair Reynolds’ Poseidon’s Children trilogy. Because it had been so long, I had forgotten critical parts of the earlier two novels that I enjoyed so much. Now, nearly 40% through the book and thoroughly engrossed, most of the key information has miraculously come back to me. But I found it difficult to get through the first 5% or so of the novel if for no other reason than I was trying to remember what was in Blue Remembered Earthand what was in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 23125.

I must admit, I am often impressed with my own ability to recall details of a story I read years earlier when encountering a sequel, because I seem to remember far more of it than expected. But I wonder, what must the editing process on a sequel be like? How do authors and editors decide what can be assumed and what cannot?


  1. See Wizard’s First Rule, Dune, and A Song of Ice and Fire

  2. See Patrick Rothfuss. 

  3. I think I really learned this waiting for the conclusion of His Dark Materials, which felt like it took a goddamn life time. 

  4. I assume these books must be geared toward young adults and that this impacted the “hand holding” involved in moving from book to book. I’m not sure if they’re considered YA fiction, but the writing certainly had that feel. Still, they were wonderfully fun quick reads. I read all six books from November 23rd through December 14th. 

  5. A novel I did not enjoy nearly as much, but which seemed to have very similar themes and setting and which I read three months prior to Blue Remembered Earth and On the Steel Breeze

This entry was tagged as reading

Jul 06, 2015

Returning to Tumblr

I have had a Tumblr site for a long time but never knew what to do with it. What is Tumblr exactly? Is it a hosted blog? Is it a hosted blog for hipsters? Is it a social network? Why should I put content into Tumblr?

I have this blog ...

Jul 05, 2015

News on Assertions in R

How many times have you written R functions that start with a bunch of code that looks like this?

my_funct <- function(dob, enddate = "2015-07-05"){
if (!inherits(dob, "Date") | !inherits(enddate, "Date")){
    stop("Both dob and enddate must be Date class objects")
  } 
...
}

Because R was designed to be interactive, it is ...

Jun 15, 2015

Rhode Island Disease

When discussing policy in Rhode Island, I almost always encounter two bizarre arguments.

  1. Rhode Island is completely unique. Ideas from other places don’t adequately take into account our local context. What is working there either won’t work here or isn’t really comparable to our situation here.
  2. What ...

Apr 17, 2015

Acceptable Terms

An initial proposal has been made to the city of Providence and state of Rhode Island to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island and move them to a new stadium along the river in Providence.

The team is proposing that they privately finance all of the construction costs of the ...