Monday, August 29, 2011

Six-Book Trilogies and Vernon's Corollary

Though I don’t watch the HBO series The Game of Thrones my oldest son persuaded me to read the books. I bought the first four books for the Kindle™ so I can read them on my phone and iPad, anywhere. Each device keeps track of my latest reading location. Fantastic!

From Wikipedia, the books so far

The novels are collectively referred to as A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. The five available books are A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. The novels are captivating, and the writing is good, but I find myself wishing it was a tighter story.
This isn’t the first time I’ve thought that.

From Wikipedia. I loved this cover.

In 1990 a book called the Eye of the World captured my imagination. Written by James Oliver Rigney, Jr under the pen name of Robert Jordan, this book catapulted me into The Wheel of Time universe and in the following two years I read the next three books with delight. Then I stopped, for two reasons. Firstly, the time between books became annoying. As the lag went from months to years I tended to forget what happened previously. More worrisome to me was that the story continued to grow. What was originally a six book series continued to expand. A story that originally centered around a few kingdoms expanded to encompass continents. At the time of Jordan’s death in 2007, eleven books were published. Brandon Sanderson was brought on board to complete the series with a final three books, the last to be released in 2012.

From Wikipedia, the paperback version.

In 1997 it happened again. Terry Goodkind released the paperback version of Wizard’s First Rule and I was hooked. Drawn into the fantasy realm of The Sword of Truth series I eagerly read the next three books, but fell prey to the same malady as before. The time between books caused me to lose my reading momentum and the world was growing, the story becoming larger instead of coming to a close.

The One Ring rang true, then the story ended. Epic.

The beauty of The Lord of the Rings was that it was a trilogy. When I first read it I actually started with the second book. I didn’t know any better - I don’t think I knew what a trilogy was then. The story had boundaries, and even though each book was long, there was no time lag between reading each part. An epic story, an epic cast, and an epic ending.
So I’m a big fan of well-written stories, and even enjoy the epic ones. And though there might be a lot of people who are interested in the generation by generation history of a fictional realm, I’m not. I don’t know the history of my own world that well; why do I want a detailed history of an author-created world? Give me enough to support the story, perhaps a trifle more, but when the story ends, let it end. That’s Vernon’s Twenty-first Rule of Verbiage, and it’s a good one.
Perhaps I need Vernon’s Corollary: If a trilogy is six books long, that’s probably five books too many.

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