In my Victorian Sci-Fi thread I mention 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as having a terrible ending, which it does. There’s a Monty Python sketch where two guys are in front of a firing squad, the commander yells “Fire!” and then you see a title card saying “scene missing”. Cut to the two guys on a sidewalk miles away, saying, “Whew, what a lucky escape!” Funny as that is, it’s essentially the end of 20KLUTS. It’s like Verne ran out of change for the typewriter or something, so he had to wrap it up RIGHT NOW.
I also mention it as being almost as bad as then Ending of Huckleberry Finn, which is notorious for its silly, cop-out ending, in which pretty much the rest of the book is made totally useless (though people have defended it fairly well).
I read and enjoyed Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson, even though all three of them have awful endings. In each of them, a big riot starts for no apparent reason and then the action just stops.
What other books come to mind as being very good up until the end?
The Horse Whisperer started out okay. But then the ending ruined the whole damn thing. A young girl is severely traumatized by watching her friend die in a terrible equine tragedy. With his friendship and patience, she is finally coaxed into beginning to recover…and he ends up getting himself killed in a terrible equine tragedy.
I thought the last chapter ruined About a Boy. I thought it was going to be a book which taught readers to appreciate quirky individualists. But then came the last chapter, the message of which may be summed up in one word: CONFORM!
Ann River Siddons “Outer Banks.” Beautiful story, beautifully written. All about a quartet of women growing up in the south, getting back together on the coast and talk to each other about their lives. One of the women had cancer, I believe, and part of the book dealt with her struggles with treatments and mortality. You know, gushy stuff.
Then at the end, in the last five pages, one of the women, who had been made the butt of jokes during the flashbacks, pulls out a gun and tries to kill them all. I dam near dropped the book from shock. You might as well expect Madame Bovary to pull out an uzi and say ‘make my day.’
What’s worse, Siddons screwed up the narrative so badly, I couldn’t figure out just how the story ended. It was obvious the bad girl got hers and the women survived, but you couldn’t figure out how.
Do you actually think Thomas Harris sat there in front of his computer and said to himself, “Gee, I think I’ll completely fuck around with Clarisse’s character development. That’ll go over really well with my fans.”
I don’t think so.
Clarissa’s “mental transformation,” if one wishes to call it that, is actually fairly understandable when looking at what happens to her.
Her career as an FBI agent is utterly destroyed thanks to both the tabloid press and another arm of the government.
Her boss and mentor has a severe heart attack and soon after dies.
3)She goes to capture Hannibal and is witness to a fairly horrid scene and she is shot with a tranc and winds up being Lectors “prisoner.”*
*While a “captive” of Lector she is subjected to various drug injections a more then a little hypnotism.
Given all of that, I’m not at all surprised at what happened to her.
Stephenson is already beginning to repeat. It sux0rs, because he’s such a cool author. For the record, another of his books, The Big U, has a similar extended brawl / stop ending. On the other hand, it’s far better than the others.
I’ve avoided reading ‘The Stand’ on the sole basis of scuttlebutt about the ending/climax. Would someone care to spell it out explicitly, in spoiler tags, so that I may be vindicated?
It, by Stephen King. Probably the scariest book I have ever read, but the ending - terrible! The horrible frightening monster is a giant spider? And the little girl has sex with all the little boys in order to defeat it? Ew! Ick! And most of all, totally stupid!
The Stand spoiler One of the bad guy’s servants, who happens to be a deranged pyromaniac, brings a nuclear weapon into Las Vegas (bad guy central). At that moment, Flagg (the bad guy), fires a ball of energy from his hand (he’s basically a demon, so it’s magic) to kill some good guys. He loses control of the energy and it comes back down in the form of the hand of God, hitting the warhead causing the bomb to detonate, killing everyone. Sort of a literal deus ex machina.
I didn’t think it was too bad of an ending, really. It fit the rest of the story pretty well. King has had much worse, namely Needful Things.
I actually think he thought this instead: “I’ve made a comfortable living writing well-constructed formula thrillers. If I’m going to be survived by anything approaching a literary reputation, I’d better shake things up with this next book. Hannibal Lecter could be as big as Dracula, but Bram Stoker was a one-hit wonder and a literary lightweight; I’d like to avoid that fate. Maybe if I fuck with Clarisse’s character development and mess with my fans’ expectations…”
The movie had a much more satisfying ending, IMHO.
King said in Danse Macabre (his personal thoughts about horror and supernatural writing) that the writer is in a real bind when it finally comes to opening the door and showing the reader the horrible thing behind it, as the reader is most likely to think, “oh, is that all? I imagined something far worse”. Either that or never show the monster and leave the reader feeling cheated. I felt that in IT the spider form of the moster was more forced by the children than by IT, they saw what they feared it would be and it was.
Ick factor aside, that “ceremony” was form of binding spell that forced the kids to come back to Derry to finish what they’d started (or kill themselves) and made them remember what had happened. Everyone else who left Derry forgot what when on in that town – and things never got reported widely. (Rather like Sunnydale).
My hypothesis is that Harris, being the contrarian that he is, was getting so mightily fed up with the studio harrassing him to finish his next installment that he decided to screw with them by writing an unfilmable grotesquerie that, as an added bonus, fucked with Clarisse’s character development. Alas, he over-estimated the intelligence of modern-day Hollywood and the movie was made anyways. The joke was on them and, ultimately, on us.
That said, I kinda, sorta liked the book. It takes a special sort of genius to come up with torture by flesh-eating boar.
Harris has stated on many occasions that he has never seen ANY of the filmed adaptations of Red Dragon, Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal, because he feels that if he does so, then he will be writing for the screen and not for himself and therefore won’t be “true to the characters.”
I think a lot of people just had what happened in the movie version of Silence, which while it was a good movie, wasn’t as layered as the book was. Plus I think people, for whatever reason, were pissed off when 1/2 of Hannibal was set in Florence.
I’m sure that a lot of readers, if not the majority of them, would disagree, but the last two pages of Midwives by Chris A. Bohjalian more or less ruined the book for me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more used by a writer…I was fooled utterly up until the end.
While the ending of Snow Crash did indeed, er, “suck”, it pales in comparison to the horrid ending that Peter F. Hamilton unleashed on the clueless readers of The Naked God, the final book of the otherwise excellent Night’s Dawn trilogy. The plots, sub-plots, and tangential plots do get convoluted and dropped sometimes, but the overall reach of the story transcends Dune, Foundation, and Star Wars put together. Then, in the final 30 pages, he commits the worst offense a writer can do:
uncover some all-powerful alien creature that solves all the major problems and everybody lives happily ever after.
The story certainly wasn’t building up to anything like that. It almost seemed as if his publisher called up and said, “We need that final draft TODAY” when in fact Pete still had several more chapters to go. I didn’t throw the book into the trash because the rest of the story is still well worth reading. But I’ll never forgive Hamilton for what he did (short of writing a fourth book proclaiming that the end of the third was some sort of dream sequence).