Structure of a trilogy.

Two things happened this week, one important, one amusing now, but less so then. First, the important thing: My ebook Jonathon Munros  is now available ( ) and not only that, I got a good review ( This is the third (and perforce, final) of the trilogy, First Contact. One of the points raised by the reviewer was a comment on my comment in the blurb about whether the other two in the trilogy have to be read first. Now obviously it is desirable that they are, but it brings to question, how should a trilogy be structured? My personal view is that each should have an ending that resolves something, but until the last one, obviously not everything.

Trilogies (or other multiples) can go from essentially separate books that are connected by the same character(s) through to what is essentially one long story. Most are somewhere in between. One problem for the author is how provide the starts and ending at the transitions. Some authors seem to leave the endings as some sort of suspension, encouraged perhaps by the end of TV seasons where everybody is left in an impossible situation. My personal view is, as a reader, I do not like that. I think that when the reader finishes a book, even though the story is not finished, it should feel like the story has reached a stopping point and something has been resolved. Trilogies have a strong history, perhaps the most famous being Lord of the Rings. The structure of that is interesting because while each book has an ending of sorts, it is obviously not the end in the first two. Equally, the second and third start where the previous one left off, which probably requires that the earlier ones be read first. Is that desirable?

Rightly or wrongly, I feel that structure is important and I think I have it under control. Fortunately, First Contact has a “three-act” type structure, but that still required something to close at the end of each book. At the end of the first book (A Face on Cydonia), five main protagonists had embarked on an expedition to assess whether the face was an alien monument, and if so, what was it there for? However, the story that linked the three books involved the problem that Earth’s economy was largely beholden to giant corporations, and the people in them were prepared to do anything to promote themselves. These five protagonists had five different and almost mutually incompatible agendas, and the book ended with the question of the face being resolved, but in a way that was unexpected to each of them, and each was presented with exactly what they did not want. So one problem was resolved, a new one (what could they do about it?) was introduced, and the problem of governance remained unresolved in the background. The protagonists had plans, but at the end there was no pressing crisis, and I think that is a fair ending, although it was probably the least satisfactory of the three.

The problems for the second book (Dreams Defiled) included how to start it and how to end it satisfactorily. The starting involved each protagonist setting out on his or her particular objective, and that permitted a small reminiscence. However, each protagonist failed in some sense, failures included accidental death, murder, subversion, lack of ambition, too much ambition, a lack of morality and a willingness to do anything to advance, so the second book ended with all the protagonists of the first either dead or subdued, but with the dystopian background enhanced. The second book is essentially about what the Romans called imperium. The book ended with the dreams of the first book vanished, and a general lack of justice being prevalent.

The third book starts out with revenge, it produces androids, and they seek revenge, first on what they think they ought to do, and then for what happens to some of them as the authorities try to stop them. So, while its beginnings require acceptance of some background, such as why a character wants revenge on another (and it is explained briefly early in the story) if that is accepted, it is essentially stand-alone. Each book is really about something different, but with an over-riding struggle between protagonists throughout the trilogy. The ending resolves all previous issues, except the dystopian nature of the social environment. It ends not with everyone living happily ever after, but rather a return to an inherently rotten “business as usual”. That leaves the question, is this structurally sensible? Someone else will have to tell me.

 My second major event. Once again, shaken but not stirred! I was sitting in front of my computer when a 6.6 on the Richter scale struck. The chair I was using has a swivel and the ability to rock back a little, and it appeared that the frequency of the ground waves (about 15 Hz, I was told) struck some resonance with me and the chair, so, full value! (A bit scary, actually, at the time, but once over, these thoughts run through the head, so I thought I should share them.) Another little story. Apparently one of the junior schools was practising “earthquake drills” and they were just under their desks when it struck. Later one of the young children remarked, “Great special effects!”