Wednesday 16 May 2007

Disaster Novels- How do You End Them?

Was listening to War of The worlds last night, specifically the best track on the album, which in my opinion is 'Brave New World'.
As an aside, my friend The Baker laboured for many years under the misapprehension that this was a great album to seduce women to. Myself, I think Sade works a lot better, but I do rate the album.

Anyway,it got me thinking that Wells' ending is possibly the second worst ending to a Sci-Fi novel ever. I reflected that ending it with a handful of men living in the sewers awaiting the rebirth of humanity would have been bleaker, but would have hit harder. The existing ending is a convenient cop out.

I then reflected that this would actually have been dangerously similar as an ending to the worst ending to a Sci-Fi novel, the awful fizzling out of The Day of The Triffids. A truly awful ending, as if Wyndham just couldn't be bothered any more.

It then occurred to me that it is hard to find a good ending to such a story.

Unforseen calamity strikes humanity.
Possible endings;
1. Unforseen event appears to cancel out first unforseen event.
2. No real ending as there is no hope for humanity in such a situation.

Neither can really satisfy, but maybe that's the point. It's not a begining, middle and end kind of story. The begining was the point, the middle was coping with the horror, the end is the whimper afterwards.

I dare say the dinosaurs would have found an ending to a novel which involved a meteor hitting earth and destroying most large reptiles equally unsatisfactory.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, CBI. Great book, and it feels _exactly_ like Wyndham, an author I really respect, got bored at the end. I don't blame him. He'd taken it as far as he could.

Anonymous said...

Best ending to a disaster flick? Probably the original Night of the Living Dead.

The first paragraph of this post .. like a foreign language to me I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I think the worst ending was for the remake of Titanic - where the old lady drops The Heart of the Ocean overboard. I think she ought to have sold the sapphire and spent it in cassinos. As for the scene with the old lady at stern of the ship ? She should have harked one back and gobbed a fleshy greenie over the side like Jack had taught her to do as a young girl.

Anonymous said...

Best ending to another disaster flick? How about John Carpenter's 'The Thing'.
Two men left alive, each one wondering if the other is the one infected with the 'beast'.
Never been bettered.

Anonymous said...

The invaders must have seen them, as across the coast they filed,
Standin' firm between them,
There lay Thunder Child!

I really need to dig out those cassettes. And then find something that actually plays them.

Also, I agree with the comment above about Night of the Living Dead.

Best. Ending. Ever.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I always did find "The War of the Worlds" ending a letdown but I never thought why he did it before. It's a long time since I read "triffids" so I can't really remember the ending. I'm sure your theory is right - there can be no satisfactory ending to stories like these. Now, which books do you think have the most pleasing endings?

Anonymous said...

I would say Wyndham redeems himsel with the ending to The Chrysalids, TD.
On the same note, Welshcakes, Huxley's ending to Island is gutwrenching- it is one of those few Utopian novels where it describes a place where I'd like to live, and it ends with the umpleasant wotrld outside eliminating it in the person of a tinpot dictator.
In a general sense, I think LOR has the best constructed ending, leaving us to return to a Shire which has been damaged by the war that we saw fought elsewhere.
Lewis' Perelandra again, very satisfactory ending.
Most pointless last chapters of a novel? The winner must be War and Peace. Great book, but no need to stick three chapters of lit crit at the end.