Prequels – why we should never go back

Posted: January 2, 2014 in reading
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thinking about Redwall also reminded me of its prequel, Mossflower. I enjoyed Mossflower. It had many of the things that I’d loved in the first book – animals with funny accents, fantasy action, delicious sounding food.

Now that's what I call a boat

Now that’s what I call a boat

But somehow it didn’t feel quite right. The legend of Martin the Warrior loomed so large over Redwall that reading about his adventures couldn’t live up to the vague but exciting image I had in my mind. It’s part of the problem with the Star Wars prequels too – they could never live up to the things us fans had imagined over the years.

Are prequels always doomed to disappoint? Given the pictures we all paint in our minds about what’s come before will they always leave most of the audience disatisfied, no matter how hard the author tries?

I don’t know for sure. I can’t think of enough prequels that I’ve read or watched to draw a firm conclusion. But as logic goes it feels right.

What do you think? Can you point me at some good or bad prequels? Or do you feel the same about sequels too?

  1. The main prequels I’m aware of are the Dune prequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson. My main issue with them is that they sometimes go against the canon established in the original books. That’s a cardinal sin, in my mind.

    • That seems like an odd thing to do, given that their core audience is fans of the original books. But then I didn’t get past the third of the original volumes.

      • I suspect they simply don’t know canon as well as Dune geeks like me.

        With hindsight, maybe they should have got some Dune geeks to proof read and make sure they didn’t make this sort of mistake. A lesson for others to learn?

  2. glenatron says:

    I can’t think of many good prequels, possibly only one. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock is probably my favourite book- beautiful and strange and curiously plausible considering its content. The antagonist in that story is the protagonist’s brother, which is one of the many layers to its greatness. About ten years later Holdstock wrote a prequel, Gate Of Ivory, Gate Of Horn and the hero is the brother from the first story. Not only is it a fantastic book in its own right, it makes complete sense of his behaviour in Mythago Wood and gives that story a new layer of depth and tragedy that you aren’t conscious of when you read it for the first time. The prequel is probably one of the reasons that Mythago Wood remains a book whose mysteries I still want to lose myself in.

    Fifteen years later he wrote a third book in the series, this time a sequel. It was disappointing.

    • Interesting example, though having a quick read about it on t’internets, it looks like Mythago Wood is an odd piece in many ways. I’m guessing this is another book you’d recommend?

      • glenatron says:

        Absolutely – there is nothing else like it and it is absolutely the most compelling idea for a story; simple and complex, diving deep but maintaining pace, a journey into the nature of story that is also a fantastic story in its own right. All of that and it’s not even very long. Maybe I am due for a re-read, come to think of it.

        Also, if you read Gate Of Ivory, Gate Of Horn ( also an amazing gyre on Culhwch And Olwen, among many other things ) one of the characters you meet is an ancient shaman who derives his powers from the Totem Beasts. A concept I considered sufficiently strong at the time of reading it.

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