One thing to note before you start reading this: I haven’t written anything in a long time. I’m just gonna ramble. Note 2: I started writing this before Echoes and some of the stuff meant to be here ended up there, so not much rambling! :)
I just finished watching American Reunion. I loved it. I watched Men In Black3, and I loved that too. You know why? Because once I get started on a tale, I want to know how it ends. Not necessarily the complete ending, with everyone dying off, but an ending that gives closure. I always wondered what became of J after he let Laura go. I always wondered how K was in his younger days. I love to know the history of a tale’s universe, it’s back-story, as it’s sometimes called. MiB3 gave me that and a fitting end, a nice little joke about chance. Similarly for American Reunion. Jim and Michelle getting married, Oz not even in the picture, Finch doing his usual thing… No, no: That’s not how that tale would end. There always has to be an epilogue. An epilogue gives us closure. A bit of what happened later, to tie up all the loose threads. These movies were exactly that: Epilogues to a much-loved tale long told. Maybe that’s why I am not too excited about Grown Ups 2: Grown Ups was an epilogue to a tale never told - but maybe it can be the prologue to a tale yet to be told. Dragging on a film series like they have done with Saw
- that is an abomination, a sin.
Maybe the epilogue of War and Peace affected me a bit too strongly: It was the first epilogue that I read so labelled. The earlier novels I read, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre had similar chapters too, short, but satisfying. War and Peace, on the other hand, had an epilogue befitting its length. It contained a lot of interesting thoughts. The passage on how the French Revolution happened was one of the funniest passages I have read, and since then, I have had a bit of reluctance in studying our world’s history, absurd as it is - why should any other world’s history be any less important? That is why, to me, the Lord of the Rings is the greatest tale I have read. The appendices provide some more information about that world, and the Chronology tells me how it ends for each member of the Fellowship. The death of Aragorn, followed by the departure of Legolas for Valinor (accompanied by Gimli, so it has been told) concluded that tale for me. Contrast this with Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which most of you will know better as the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Its final lines are so written that the overwhelming sense of uncertainty filled with hope would be thoroughly destroyed by an epilogue. That is why I regard The Shawshank Redemption as the greatest film ever made: It transcended the book it adapted. It’s ending, and the movie in general somehow managed to be as good as, if not better than, the novella. Few, if any, adaptations manage that. Most fumble at it - like a teenager fumbling at a bra strap. Some mess it up completely - like Jim with Nadia. The Shawshank Redemption redeemed them all.
But when it comes to tales that demand epilogues, I think the standard to beat is set by Foundation and Earth and Rama Revealed. Both books are just that - a conclusion to a long tale. Both have fitting titles. Rama is revealed - somewhat. Earth and Foundation - the two ends of the Galaxy - the beginning and the end. To end a tale that spanned around 22,000 years, three separate series and 16 or so books in all would take a masterpiece - and Asimov, the master that he is, did it oh so well. And the sly devil managed to slip in a few threads to continue the tale, too. Reading that novel as the ship entered the Solar System is one of the defining moments of my life. Meeting Daneel Olivaw there, I realised why inevitably most people are theists. Seeing Daneel there, I felt all the emotions people feel on seeing an old friend. Most importantly, since I hadn’t read the prequel books, I wasn’t sure I’d meet him - a successor perhaps, but not Daneel himself. But to know Daneel was present all along, guiding, helping humanity - that was a relief. We really are too stupid to live long, you know.
But let us leave these depressing thoughts. The prequel books to Foundation - aha! Just as most tales leave me wanting to know how it all ends, most also instil a desire to learn how it all began. Reading Forward the Foundation and Prelude to the Foundation brought home how delightful a well-written prequel truly is. It lends context the entire series,explaining details that otherwise never really stood on their own. The Silmarillion was the other great prequel I read. It’s not really a prequel, since it was a separate book, taking place Ages before The Lord of the Rings. Reading The Silmarillion was like reading ancient history, and the discrepancies between it and the tales told in Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle Earth books made it seem all the more like real history, as if these were events that really happened, but with no trustworthy and complete records. It was fascinating. Many people can’t comprehend how I can reread a novel or a series of novels from the start - don’t I already know what’s going to happen? I do, in a general way. However, there are several tiny details which attain greater significance in the context of what happens later on. These details are like an “Aha!” moment, not quite Eureka! but a flash of recognition when you realise that the Towers of Midnight are mentioned as early as in book two of The Wheel of Time - The Great Hunt, and all those dreams that Egwene has in book three foretelling events well in to the tail-end of the series. It’s quite fun, actually, re-reading those books. I wonder what A Memory of Light will be like… Will it have a great epilogue? Will it give closure? Or will it be like Inheritance and make you wonder when the next part’s releasing? :/