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5 Popular Novels That Had Unnecessary Sequels

December 8, 2019

For decades, this book had no sequel, and everybody was better off for it.

Sequels have a bad reputation, and they probably deserve it.  Even though almost everybody agrees there are too many sequels, especially for movies, sequels keep getting made, and they often keep making money.  Maybe the problem isn’t so bad in literature, but there are still some examples of unnecessary sequels to popular books.

To be fair, sequels not written by the original author don’t count.  It’s not fair to blame Margaret Mitchell for a bad sequel to Gone with the Wind.  It’s not fair to blame Mario Puzo for a bad sequel to The Godfather.  It’s really not fair to blame Truman Capote for a bad sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird (but I’ll get to that later).

Having established that, here are five great (or popular) novels that have unnecessary sequels:

Popular Novel-The Shining by Stephen King

Unnecessary Sequel- Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

Stephen King fans probably disagree with me about this, but they’re more biased than I am because they’re Stephen King fans and I’m just a guy who used to read Stephen King books.  I liked The Shining a lot, but decades later I had no interest in Dr. Sleep.  Looking back, The Shining might not even be as good as I remembered it.  Some of the writing in The Shining was pretty bad, but I didn’t recognize bad writing back then when I first read it.

When I finished reading The Shining, I wanted more Stephen King, and I got more Stephen King with The Stand.  Then I got even more Stephen King with It, and I stopped reading Stephen King.

Even at my peak of Stephen King interest,  I didn’t care about what happened to the kid at the end of The Shining.  I barely even remember the kid’s name.  I’m not saying Dr. Sleep is a lousy book (I haven’t read it).  I’m just saying that nobody ever clamored for a sequel, and that makes the sequel unnecessary.

Popular Novel- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Unnecessary Sequel- Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman is fairly despised because it was promoted as a sequel or companion novel when it was really just a rough draft that was stashed away in an attic.  I don’t blame the book publishers for selling it as a sequel.  I blame book buyers for falling for the trick.  I’m as gullible as a guy can be, and even I knew this sequel was a scam.

Almost everybody knew Go Set a Watchman was a scam, and it still sold a lot of copies.  If the publishing companies are open about how they rip off the public and the public still falls for it, the book publishers will never stop.

Go Set a Watchman might also validate those who believe that Truman Capote actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.  I used to joke about that just to tick people off, (I’m not like that anymore), but now I wonder.  The quality of writing in the two manuscripts is so different that it’s almost like they were written by… two… different… people.  Maybe I shouldn’t even count Go Set a Watchman as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, but the publishers put Harper Lee’s name on the cover of both books, so I had no choice..

Popular Novel- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Unnecessary Sequel- The Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry

I’ll admit, it’s been decades since I’ve read The Streets of Laredo.  I don’t remember much because I tried to forget it as soon as I was done.  As far as I’m concerned, The Streets of Laredo never happened.  It was never written.  It was never alive for me.

The Streets of Laredo isn’t just an unnecessary sequel; it’s a bad sequel, and it’s a bad sequel for several reasons.  It takes beloved characters from Lonesome Dove and ruins them.  In some ways, The Streets of Laredo make the events in Lonesome Dove irrelevant.  I actually got angry at The Streets of Laredo because of the way the characters were treated.

Some might say that it’s a sign of a great author that readers get mad when the characters get mistreated.  Yes, Lonesome Dove was a great novel that treated its characters, even when horrible stuff happened to them, with respect.  The Streets of Laredo was downright disrespectful.  And it was unnecessary.

Popular Novel- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Unnecessary Sequel- Tom Sawyer, Detective by Mark Twain

I’m a fan of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  It isn’t my favorite book ever, but I respect the character.  Tom Sawyer hated school.  He protected Becky.  He spoke up for an innocent man even when it put his own life in danger.  He figured out a way to get other kids paint the fence for him.

Tom Sawyer, Detective might be okay, but nobody asked for it.  I read the first few pages, and it was okay, but I didn’t finish it.  Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer, Detective decades after Tom Sawyer, and maybe he wanted to recapture former glory or maybe he needed a quick bestseller.

Or maybe Mark Twain was ahead of his time with Tom Sawyer, Detective and nobody has recognized that because nobody read the book.  That would have been frustrating, to have written a detective novel ahead of its time, but so few people read it that it was never even discovered in the time it was meant for.  Maybe I’ll try reading it again, just to make sure it wasn’t (or was) ahead of its time.

Popular Novel- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Unnecessary Sequel- Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008, so it must be a great novel, but I’m not sure because I’ve never read it because I didn’t care who Olive Kitteridge was/is.  I’ve never even heard anyone talk about Olive Kitteridge.

It’s not the only recent (from my point of view) Pulitzer that doesn’t get talked about.  I’ve never seen anybody read Tinkers either or Less.  Readers, however, passionately argued about A Visit from the Goon Squad.  Readers also argued about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and then the author made it worse by getting accused of sexually harassing women (though he MIGHT just be an awkward guy who doesn’t know how to interact with females).

In its favor, Olive Kitteridge won an Emmy in 2015, but it was for Limited Series, so the interest in Olive Kitteridge is limited (limited is their word, not mine!)

If Cormac McCarthy wrote a sequel to The Road, I’d understand it.  I’d be skeptical, but I’d understand it.  Readers love The Road.  People still read The RoadThe Road is still relevant.  But I don’t want a sequel for The Road either.  If there’s no sequel for The Road, then a sequel for Olive Kitteridge is also unnecessary.

*****

But enough about me!  What do you think?  I’m sure there are a bunch of popular novels that I missed.  Maybe you even disagree with some of my choices.  Either way, leave a comment below!

One Comment
  1. You make a good case against the sequel to Mocking Bird – if this was really just a draft it;s unfair to the author to pass it off as a fully fledged novel
    Not sure I understand the case against Olive Ketteridge sequel though – even if you havent heard of it that doesn’t make it wrong to publish a sequel. There are loads of bloggers who talk about it…

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