Bad Endings - Novel Divison

There have been threads on endings of TV shows and endings of movies, but no recent threads on endings of books. Which books do you think had poor endings? Possibly, you really enjoyed the read & the ending ruined it. Or you overlooked it. Either way, I’d be interested to know.
For me - the Harry Potter books. Now, I’m not a fan of the series generally but I understand the appeal & liked the first one. It’s the epilogue of the last book I hated. Really poorly written & thought out, I think.

Not in any way inclusive or exhaustive, but a few that stick out in the mind.

Spoilers, obviously.

Inkheart is an amazing juvenile fantasy about the power of books and imagination and love. The two following books are horrid and soul-killing. There is nothing, and I mean that quite literally, nothing worth saving from those two books, and they furthermore serve to tarnish my memory of Inkheart.

Incarceron and Sapphique are a duo of YA fantasy books about a far future dystopia and a prison world gone mad. Incarceron is amazing. It’s inventive, creepy, the settings are monumental and clever, and the characters act in ‘natural’ ways for their backgrounds and environments. Sapphique takes the concept, dials it up to 11 without structural support, shits on the settings, turns interesting characters into a copy-and-paste love triangle, and contradicts everything the reader and characters learned from the first book. Sapphique is one of the few books I honestly wish I hadn’t read.

8 Million Gods by Wen Spencer is a recent urban fantasy set in Japan. It’s really interesting and immersive until about the 2/3rds mark, where literally, nearly everyone who reads it goes - ‘Jesus, was she so far behind schedule that they couldn’t even do a single editing run?’ It’s just abysmal. I went so far as to recommend the book to a friend only if they would stop at a certain point and let me tell them the ending in a less sucky manner. Epically bad finish.

Hunger Games I feel would have been a lot better if the last book had moved away from Katniss’ perspective. I also feel strongly that it would have been much more impactful if the worldbuilding had been stronger, so I don’t know that I can call that entirely an ‘ending’ problem, it was just a problem that showed up for me most at the end.

Here’s where I might get flayed. I love Tolkien, but the ending to The Hobbit always made me a little confused and unhappy. Thorin goes mad, Bilbo turns into a thief for real, massive armies appear out of nowhere, and a deus ex arrow from a bit character saves the day. Everyone smiles, shakes hands, and goes back home. I know it’s adapted from bedtime stories, I know he wasn’t up to his ears in invented mythology yet, but it still is a very odd ending to what had been until that point, a straightforward adventure yarn.

Those are the ones off the top of my head.

John Grisham’s The Partner. The ending manages to be a non-sequitur yet is still spoiled earlier in the book - an impressive achievement in incompetence.

Stephen King’s The Stand. Folks hold it up as one of his best, and it is for, like the first 90%. Then it gets all Deus Ex Machina and leaves me cold.

Pretty much anything by Neal Stephenson. Love his mind; hate his endings.

I came in to add this, but there is also a very out of left field sex scene that leaves a bad impression.

It’s not the ending of a book per se, but the ending of a whole series. Ender’s Game starts off brilliant. Speaker for the Dead can stand among the best on its own merits. And then the other three books in that series… I don’t know the back story for Orson Scott Card during that time, but reading that whole series is like watching an author go completely insane through the evidence of his novels.

And in second place for the same phenomena: The Hyperion Cantos.

I’m a little annoyed by the ending to Lord of the Rings/Return of the Kin. Really, once the eagles pick up Sam and Frodo, it’s done. We don’t need to know who married who or what the coronation was like. Anything we can’t figure out could be handled with a little extra foreshadowing elsewhere. Just give us one final amazing “visual” of eagles swooping away from an exploding volcano and we’re good.

I will Third The Stand which is still my favorite novel despite the ending. I would also add It as a great book with a poor ending.

King’s Cell was a great set up in search of a story.

Even as a kid, the end of the Dragonlance Chronicles kind of disappointed me. Maybe because I read the Legends first (which were superior and had a great ending) but the Chronicles just kind of stopped.

OMG yes. I remember the first time I read “Cryptonomicon” and getting down to the last few pages and thinking “How is he going to wrap this up?” Well, he didn’t, it just sort of ended. It’s almost like reading a long novel and finding out that someone has torn out the last couple of chapters. Great book, but when it ends you’re like “Wait… that’s it?”

GAH! I meant King’s IT, NOT The Stand! IT is the one with the out of nowhere bizarre sex scene that is so squicky it ruins the ending.

I was trying to figure out what you were referring to…

No, enormous friggin’ book that when it ends gives you a sense of relief that you’ll never have to hold it up again. :smiley:

I mentioned this in another recent thread, but there’s a Sue Grafton novel - right around ‘P’ - that concludes in a reasonable style, and then in the very last paragraph a character makes a passing comment that completely undoes the solution of the crime and makes it clear they are the guilty party instead. No warning. No further resolution. Makes the latter half of the book essentially void of storytelling value. One of the few times I really did close a book and throw it.

I was racking my brains about that too. :stuck_out_tongue:

The Stephen King that bothers me the most ending-wise is the whole Dark Tower series. I’ve reread everything of his that’s more than a few years old (most of it multiple times), but was so filled with anger and disappointment that I’ve never re-read the last two, maybe 3.

Weirdly, I did like Wind Through the Keyhole.

John Grisham can’t end a novel to save his life. His endings aren’t necessary bad, it’s just that he builds up a huge amount of suspense and then the story just…ends. I don’t know if he ever learned how to properly end a novel because all I’ve read are A Time to Kill, The Firm, and The Client.

There’s one in the expanded version of The Stand (with The Kid), but not near the end.

Same thing with the “Alvin Maker” books. The first three are great, the fourth has patches of good mixed in with dross, and then it completely falls off a cliff. I think some of the explanation, sadly, is that gradually during the 90’s he DID go completely insane. “Empire” is my cite, though I’m sure others can find different ones.
Someone else who can’t do endings - Patrick O’Brian. And I love his books, but I’ve learnt to approach them basically as a serial, in which at moderately arbitrary points one book will finish and then another take up the tale. In fact, it amused me greatly that in “The Nutmeg of Consolation” there’s an actual discussion about book endings, in which a character is advised just to write a bunch of interesting stuff and, when he feels he’s run out of steam, just stop. That’s exactly what O’Brian does!

The prize for rottenest ending I’ve ever read probably goes to a Jane Austen ripoff called “Pride and Prescience”, which was going fairly well until about the 80% mark at which the author takes a sudden sidestep and we find all the Bad Stuff was happening due to previously unmentioned supernatural forces and a major character is possessed. Guys, the possibility of the supernatural is something you have to mention at the start of the book.

Charles Dickens’s “Our Mutual Friend” had a pretty bad ending; he clearly changed his mind about how the plot was going to end partway through and so he introduces a pretty dubious plot twist.

For what it’s worth, you might try powering through the whole thing again sometime. I was frustrated with the ending as well, when it came out, but I found it more satisfying on the second time through. Not entirely satisfying, mind you, and there’s no doubt that the last three books are the weakest, but I don’t know how else he could have ended it.

No reason you shouldn’t like Wind though; it’s just some extra material slipped between 4 and 5. Hasn’t anything to do with the ending, really.

Also, disclaimer: I was introduced to the series late–probably within 12 months before he announced he was going to finish up the last three. So that may have colored my perceptions.

So that’s what I was missing! I read the Kindle version and felt there was some essential quality of the book that I just didn’t get.

I may have mentioned it before, but I HATED the ending of North Dallas Forty. I don’t feel qualified to say it was because of faulty writing, though. I just hated that it was such a downer.