Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Next Week on This Screen! -- sequels and sadness

I hate sequels.  They have the feeling of a serial that didn't know when to quit.

I think a problem inherent in the sequel as a literary form is that, all too often, it seems to be an afterthought, and I have the distinct feeling that the last two I've read are exactly that.

The concept of the sequel is not to be confused with the extremely popular--and extremely profitable--"trilogy" genre, which seems to have taken over the world of young adult literature in recent years.  Those things aren't really sequels--the authors know well in advance that they have a longer story to tell, but divide it into partres tres for the easier digestion of their younger readers.  I suspect too that having a story in three parts is in no small part a marketing angle as well; you get to sell three books instead of one longer one, and you also get to make three different movies out of them.

The sequel was always a bad idea with movies--other than maybe, and I stress maybe, Star Wars--has there ever been a sequel (much less a continuing saga) that was worth a damn? It's not a new development; the earliest one I can remember is "Son of the Sheik," a 1926 follow up to the smash hit "The Sheik."  Valentino looked pretty great in all that fake Arabian stuff, but the original wasn't that great and the sequel was abysmal (though the presence of Vilma Banky sure helped).

I've harbored this opinion for years and so I don't know why I had to pick up the sequels to The Shining and The Talisman this year.  Really I do know why; when I'm not wearing my official English Teacher Hat (which actually takes the form of a tweed jacket with elbow patches) I love reading horror stories.  I particularly loved The Talisman when first I read it thirty some years ago.  I had already developed a fascination with the idea of alternate worlds or alternate realities, and Talisman is a definitive in the genre.  Besides its protagonist was more or less my age, so his journey through worlds really hit home.

Black House, its recently published sequel, could only disappoint.  Except that it really didn't, or it wouldn't have as a stand-alone novel.  I so badly wanted a couple of evenings' escape to the fascinating world of the first novel  that, when the sequel promptly didn't really have much to do with it, it was primed for failure in my eyes.  The young protagonist of the first book is all grown up now; what was once an otherworldly quest has pretty much turned into a detective novel, albeit a really long one that involves some supernatural crap thrown in.  Oh, it works, and it's a pretty good read--but just as Taco Bell is delicious as long as you don't try to think of it as being Mexican food, Black House is a great novel as long as you don't try to think of it as the continuation of The Talisman.

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