marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

philosophical mediations on Changes, The Red Pyramid, and the problem with sequels

Which is not, to be sure, as bad as the problem with prequels and how they box you in. Still -- what are you going to do?


You could, to be sure, make them self-contained.  No event in one book impacts the events of another.  Characters who reappear are static, and there from the beginning.  This can get dissatisfying, monotonous, and implausible.

Suppose, on the other hand, the events in one book do affect the next.

If you stick to the same cast of characters, either the series will end because the characters have developed through all their problems, the series will limp on with characters who have completed their arcs, or the story will effectively turn into the self-contained books because while they make changes, they do not make effective changes, leading an unrelenting assault of problems.  Similar effects with settings or magics or events or things.

When you add more stuff, you soon find the world getting larger and larger.  And stuff that logically would reappear doesn't because it doesn't get remembered, or it would make the story too large.  And even at the same time, characters reappear for bit parts with varying degrees of elegance, but no room on the front stage.  And backstory gets more and more complicated.  (Gets complicated with the same cast too, but less so.)

Jim Butcher's Changes -- well, the first thing I noticed about it was when I first heard it was coming out.  The title is not one of the two word paronomasia (or pun o:) that he's been using in the last twelve books.  And he made changes all right.  Several major plots have had a fork stuck in them, but good.  My own suspicion is that he wanted to clear the stage, which had gotten too cluttered.  Sure, all the stuff floating about could be fun, lending solidity to the world, but even before this point, I had wondered about stuff getting dropped when I thought it would come it.

Now, Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid is a different kettle of fish.  Percy Jackson and the Olympians ended with an obvious sequel hook:  a new Great Prophecy.  It worked well in that book, as closure, definitely tying off the series, which had been about the fulfillment of the old Great Prophecy.  The Red Pyramid is not that sequel.  In fact, there are two throw-away lines that point to it taking place in the same universe (in which case the world-building got a lot more complex), but it's about the gods of Egypt.  And the magicians, who do not worship the gods.  They use them.  (With some reason.  Greeks and Romans prosecuted magic as impiety, with the Roman republic having the two largest witch-hunts on record, with thousands of victims, but Egyptian writings show them -- well, not mixing religion and magic, since they didn't seem to distinguish, but in the same passage imploring and threatening the gods.)  Carter and Sadie, the heroes, also learn about their heritage, but it's a rather different one.  Personally, I suspect that Riordan might have wanted a change of scene.
Tags: aesthetics, backstory, character arc, minor characters, sequels, series, world-building: other

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