Retroactive destruction

There are some novels that are truly magnificent, that remain with you for years and at times influence who you are. Most authors, having written such novels, are wise enough to leave their works alone and move on to something else. A few authors will embark on writing a sequel.

A few sequels match or even excel their first book (Vernor Vinge’s novels are the classic example). Most sequels are merely good, or merely bad. However, there is a special breed of sequels that are so awfully, soul-destroying terrible that not only do they waste your time and money, but they manage to retroactively poison your appreciation of the first novel.

It’s as if they reach back in time to when your read the first novel and infect all the happy memories that you associated it with. Previously, I’d only heard of one such set of sequels that were so bad that I’d be told never to read them (the Endymion books, in case you were wondering). Today, I was unfortunate enough to read the sequel to ‘Against The Fall Of Night’ (aka ‘The City And The Stars’) by Arthur C Clarke, called ‘Beyond The Fall Of Night‘.

Clarke didn’t actually write ‘Beyond…’; instead, he farmed out the job to Greg Benford, who is otherwise a very competent author. For some inexplicable reason, Benford managed to botch it up so badly that the sequel is entirely pointless, and as an added bonus, it practically defecates on the the beautiful universe and characters that Clarke built up in his first novel. It’s that bad. And I wish that I’d never read it.

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