Let’s talk about Two

Today is April 2nd, so let’s talk about the number two — in books of course. Often books come in sets of three, a trilogy. A set of two books seems incomplete, as though it is waiting for a third. (Of course these days, some authors find a trilogy is just not enough room to tell their story. A series of seven has become popular, but we don’t exactly have a collective term for that. A Heptology? It doesn’t have the same ring as trilogy.) And the second book of a trilogy, the middle book, is often the downer book. Lots of conflict, little resolution, the hero/good guys are down on their luck. It is the “Empire Strikes Back” effect.

I’ve observed this effect in many trilogies, including the one that came before “Star Wars,” The Lord of the Rings. Hey the second book of that trilogy is even called The Two Towers. In a trilogy by Walter Jon Williams called Dread Empire’s Fall the second book is called The Sundering. In my notes when I read the book I said it was a typical second book of a trilogy with the “Empire Strikes Back” effect. It could also have been that Williams’s series, like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings is about the little guy vs the big bad empire guy.

How about you? Second books in trilogies — disappointing or the greatest thing ever? Counter-examples to the ones I’ve proposed?

 

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