As I draw close to finishing the first draft of my fantasy novel I’ve been thinking about endings and what makes a satisfactory one. I went to see the new Batman movie on its opening weekend and I came out of the cinema thinking – ‘wow, there’s a director who really knows how to do endings’. He ticks all the boxes and gives the audience exactly what they need. I can’t mention any details without giving it away but it was very satisfying on several levels.
Not so the novel I’ve recently finished reading by one of my favourite contemporary writers, Richard Morgan. His debut novel, the sci-fi noir Altered Carbon, was dark, brutal, funny and pacy. He followed that up with another three sci-fi books before tackling a fantasy trilogy.
I’ve just read the second in this fantasy trilogy and I found myself with the same problem I had when reading the first one – twenty pages from the end, I had to force myself to finish reading it. This is really not what you want and I’m interested in why.
Firstly I think there’s not enough increase in action, it’s much of the same. The plot doesn’t appreciably build. At the end the main character has to commit an assassination to save a friend from death but it doesn’t feel compelling enough. It feels like something he could have done half-way through the book.
Maybe it suffers from being the middle book in a trilogy and the big climax is left to the end of book three but each book needs to be complete in its own way or the reader simply won’t come back for the final installment.
But even more problematic, I think, is that the characters are almost without exception self-obsessed, self-indulgent and unsympathetic. Characters do need to be human and have flaws but I struggle to find anything redeeming about the three main characters in this novel. I actually couldn’t care if any of them died, hence the ending where the lives of two of them hang in the balance just doesn’t touch me.