Superheroes hold a special place in our hearts. There is a certain allure to watching men and women with super powers fight evil and save the world time and again. Even since their inception in the pages of comic books and novels, superheroes have dominated our pop culture. Everyone knows Batman, Superman, Captain America, and Spider-Man. The Marvel Cinematic Universe reintroduced us to Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and more. Today, superheroes dominate. Part of our allure is the power fantasy. We want to be these people and posses their powers. Part of it is pure spectacle. The Battle of New York in the first Avengers film remains an action masterpiece. But part of our attention revolves around the story of Icarus. We enjoy watching these powerful people come low and being reminded that they are still mortal.
Not everyone reads books for romance or adventure. For every book with happy events and writing that makes you feel good, there are five more than plumb the depths of depravity. The horror stories, the mystery tales. These are the books one reads when they want to examine the darkness that can exist out there in the unknown. We read mysteries because we do not want to know everything, and we read horror because we want to be scared. These genres are often paired together in an unholy matrimony of darkness, decay, and eldritch scares. Horror and mystery combine perfectly for the simple reason that we do not know everything.
Creating a sequel is not a simple undertaking. There is a lot of responsibility to follow up the first installment of the series in a way that satisfies your audience while also changing the game to ensure you are not remaking the original work. There is a balance that must be found, and the best sequels are oftentimes the ones that flip the original around. Instead of raising the stakes, they lower them. Think of The Empire Strikes Back’s, The Last Jedi’s, or The Wrath of Khan. The first movies in all of these series involved some sort of world-ending threat. The sequels focus in on the characters. The sequel, in this way, is easy to mess up, but better than the original when done right.
Few fantasy series are as popular as The Lord of the Rings. Originally published between 1954 and 1955, this trilogy was written as a sequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s earlier novel, The Hobbit, published in 1937. The tales of Middle-Earth, of hobbits and elves and men, inspired generations of writers and storytellers in a way not many other works of fiction have. Many novels and series attempted to capitalize on Tolkien’s success, but none ever came close to his great heights. Years later, Peter Jackson adapted the books into a beloved film trilogy, and film history is full of movies and TV series trying to mimic his feat.
I was caught countless times, and angered my middle-school teachers, reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in class. In fifth grade alone, I must have read and re-read Tolkien’s creation over half a dozen times.
Readers will be forgiven for believing that all science-fiction originates in the West. Since the inception of the genre, American and English authors have dominated the field, telling the stories we all know. Jules Verne was a pioneer with The War of the Worlds, William Gibson created the modern vision of virtual reality with Neuromancer, and George Lucas will go down as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time for creating the universe of Star Wars. But science-fiction does not belong to the West alone. The Three-Body Problem, written by Liu Cixin, is a work of Chinese science-fiction. Part one of a trilogy, the novel is not just a good read, but an important one as well.
The law of the United States of America is a fascinating beast. It shapes so much of our daily lives behind the scenes. Labor laws dictate how much workers may be paid and how often they may take a meal break. Financial laws are meant to ensure proper practices by the banks and large corporations. Criminal laws inform us what actions are illegal and what actions are perfectly accepted. However, the law is not always moral or proper. Laws exist criminalizing things which should be allowed, and actions which should be illegal are legal. Not too long ago, Canada legalized marijuana nation-wide, repealing laws whose original aid in racist paranoia. In the Unites States, it is still legal to secretly record conversations in most states. The legal thriller genre looks at the often-times ridiculousness of the law and uses it for inspiration.
Last week was a busy week here on City on the Moon. I reviewed the entire Wayward Pines trilogy, a series of novels by Blake Crouch written several years ago. After reading three books in around a week and half, I needed a break. As much as I love reading and writing these reviews, it can be difficult to balance that with a full-time job and other hobbies. But I try my best to find and read and recommend books to you all.
All that aside, it seems my break lasted less than a week. I picked up John Grisham’s The Rooster Bar today. Couldn’t help myself. I have not even started reading yet, but I can say that this will be the subject of my next review. It is a return to the legal thriller after publishing Camino Island, which I read last year and mentioned in one of my reading lists. This time around, Grisham dives into the scams that are for-profit law schools, and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.
Check back in next week for my full review. Happy reading!
This review marks the end of a full week of Wayward Pines reviews. Pines, Wayward, and finally The Last Town. The hallmark of a trilogy is one, complete story told over the course of three parts. There is a structure. Part one established the world, the tension, the characters, and sets up the main conflict which will percolate through the entirety. Part two ramps up the tension, answers some questions and leaving others for the finale, and ends in such a way as to set up the final part. When part three begins, it is non-stop. Everything that came before ends here, and most, if not all, questions must be answered. This is the final chance for the creator to show the story as they want it to be shown, to impress upon their audience what the story truly meant.
The second part of a trilogy has a few very specific jobs to accomplish. After the first part sets the stakes and shows the main characters achieving some measure of victory, the second part slows things down a little. It shows us the new normal after the first part and, over it’s course, ramps up the tension and stakes until ending on a cliffhanger to set up the third and final part. A good second part will answer questions you had leftover from the first part, while raising a few more, and leaving some you may have asked since the beginning unanswered until the very end of the trilogy. If the second part has done its job, the eventual cliffhanger will be something you did not expect, something which makes you excited, eagerly awaiting the finale to the story.
The United States of America is a large country, with settlements ranging in size from cities like New York and Los Angeles, to towns with only one or two permanent residents. To the residents of these small towns, it is likely paradise. To an outsider, there are few things more frightening than finding yourself trapped there. Small town Americana has been a favorite setting of thrillers and horror films for decades, with good reason. In these small towns, everyone knows their neighbors and their neighbors’ business. Outsiders are immediately recognizable, and there is usually the sense that they will never fully integrate. The remoteness nature of these small towns breeds a fear of lawlessness for the outsider, the worry that they could simply disappear from the lives of their friends and family, never to be heard from again.