Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!
Now we know that there may be good reasons for the author to deny us the books we want.
- Writer’s block.
- Realizing that they no longer accept the assumptions on which they based their fictional world.
- Their publisher folds.
- Their publisher decides not to publish any more books in the series.
- Major life changes, illness, and death.
Yes, we know all that. But we still wish matters were otherwise. Here’s a short list of the worlds that have left me wanting more.
Tanith Lee’s Biting the Sun series contains two novels: 1976’s Don’t Bite the Sun, and 1979’s Drinking Sapphire Wine. The human inhabitants of Four BEE, Four BAA, and Four live forever, indulged by their quasi-robot minders. All physical desires can be satisfied. The protagonist yearns for the one thing that this seeming paradise cannot offer; something meaningful to do with her life. They try to escape their Eloi-like existence and are thwarted. Systemic oversight? It soon becomes clear something darker is at work.
Lee reportedly planned a third book, but not only did it never see print, it’s not entirely clear what would have been written. As far as we know, the author left no drafts or notes. It’s a hopeless yearning, but…I would really like to see what Lee had in mind.
Michael Reaves’ Shattered World series contains two volumes: The Shattered World (1984) and The Burning Realm (1988). What made this sword-and-sorcery adventure series stand out for me was the setting: a world blown into fragments by a magical mishap, each fragment of which has a magically sustained biosphere. On the plus side, there’s a lot more surface area to live on! On the minus side, the arrangement was very hard on Chthonic entities who would prefer to avoid direct sunlight. Apparently other readers didn’t find Reaves’ tales of cursed items, werebear thieves, and cloakfighters as diverting as I did, because there have been no new installments since 1988 (to my knowledge).
Alexis A. Gilliland edged out David Brin and Michael Swanwick for the 1982 John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award, winning for the first two volumes of his Rosinante Trilogy. A liquidity crisis has promoted Charles Cantrell from project manager of the space colony Rosinante to part owner. The other owner? The labour union. The current administration of the North American Union administration looks askance at this cooperative venture, which threatens their power. Cue civil war, a golden age of space piracy, and the one true faith of corporate AI (artificial intelligence) Skaskash.
I acquired the first volume in the series, Revolution, thanks to the eye-catching Chris Barbieri cover (above).
I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.
David Gerrold’s 1977 Moonstar Odyssey (simply Moonstar in the 2018 edition) is set on Satlik, a terraformed world orbiting an atypical main-sequence star. The inhabitants of this fragile paradise are as engineered as their home, most importantly in the matter of sex. Children are born sexless; they decide at puberty to be either male or female. At least, that’s way society expects it to work but as with so many things biological, the reality is much more complex than a simple binary. Those who fall outside society’s narrow definitions meet vicious prejudice and abuse, doled out on flimsy pretexts. Not only does protagonist Jobe have the misfortune to fall between the definitions, but they do so during a major disaster.
As I mentioned in a previous review, I think the main reason Gerrold missed the Otherwise (formerly the Tiptree) Award Honor Roll is because Moonstar Odyssey predated that award by over a decade.
Of course, the series above all for which I would like to see further volumes is Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series. The series is thus far composed of The Steerswoman (1989), The Outskirter’s Secret (1992), The Lost Steersman (2003), and The Language of Power (2004). In it, a setting that at first glance appears to be a secondary fantasy world instead is revealed as the hardest of hard science fiction. What’s going on and why the world looks as it does is gradually revealed over the course of a series that exemplifies everything hard science fiction is supposed to be, but all too often is not. The only flaws in the series is that it is nowhere near finished, and that it has been sixteen years since the most recent installment. But I live in hope.
In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He is currently a finalist for the 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award and is surprisingly flammable.