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What's your take on cliff-hanger endings?

I just finished reading a novel which ended with the main character struggling to keep his head above water after a giant wave washed him overboard in the middle of a terrible storm.

The best comparison I can think of would be if Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone had  ended the moment Professor Quirrell unwrapped his turban to reveal Lord Voldermort's face on the back of his head.

I'm all in favor of an author forshadowing the next novel in a series, but this ending didn't work like that. It was a cliffhanger. The main character hadn't even achieved his story goal.

I suspect what happened was the publisher decided the original novel was too long and asked the author to split the ms into a series. To be honest, though, 
I felt cheated, as if the publisher had tried to trick me by withholding the last chapter of the book.

How about you?

What's your take on cliff-hanger endings?

Poll #1832882 What's your take on cliff-hanger endings?

How do feel about a novel which ends in a cliff-hanger?

So long as the book's main story is done, it wouldn't bother me.
It's at best unsporting, and worst annoying.
Something else, which I'll mention in the comments

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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 11th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
Cartoons don't get much more existential than this...

But, seriously, if we wanted an endless series of cilffhangers,
we'd be buying comic books...
Apr. 11th, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
True dat :)
Apr. 11th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
To me, it depends. If the main story is done, there will be a follow up, and the writer churns out books like clockwork, I don't mind. I'm pretty cool figuring that I can sweat and wonder and be excited until the next book comes out a year later.

But if the author isn't 99% sure that he/she can follow that kind of schedule, it seems unfair. Like Msstacy said, if I wanted endless cliff hangers, I'd buy comics.
Apr. 11th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
I think it bugged me more because the story's main problem (get item A safely back to Britain and deliver it to person B), hadn't been solved.
Apr. 11th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
If the main story is done, no problem whatsoever. If not, then I feel I'm being tricked into buying the next book for closure. I can forgive that if the books are good, but the only example I can think of off the top of head...well, I regretted spending the money.
Apr. 11th, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
In this case, the main story was definitely not done :(
Apr. 11th, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
I love chapter cliffhangers.

I rather like cliffhangers at the end of a book IF--and ONLY IF--the author has the entire series of books coming out within months of each other. (Two authors I read had their books released this way.)

I loathe cliffhangers if it's going to be several years until the next book comes out.
Apr. 11th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
A love a good chapter cliffhanger too.
(no subject) - heleninwales - Apr. 12th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
It bugs the heck out of me. The worst one I ever encountered was in a science fiction duology in which the cliffhanger ending actually involved a cliff. Essentially I ended up reading a 1100 page novel that had been split into two books.

I also prefer series that have finite, planned endings, such as Glenda Larke's fantasy trilogies, and Gail Carriger's five-book Parasol Protectorate series. Both of these authors and their publishers are reliable in getting the books out in a timely manner, so I don't feel I've forgotten everything by the time the next book comes out.
Apr. 11th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
To be fair, I suspect it was probably the publisher's decision, but it totally put me off reading anything else by this author.
Apr. 11th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
I think it's a cheap trick. It would put me off too because it feels manipulative toward the reader, ie toward me.
Apr. 11th, 2012 07:30 pm (UTC)
I really wouldn't mind if it were done to set up a brand new adventure, as they did with TV shows like Quantum Leap, but this wasn't the same :(
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 11th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
A fair point, Sue. I read the 1066-page all in one version myself. Mind you, I suspect I'd have been moffed if I'd read Fellowship when it first came out. I believe there were several years between each installment.
(no subject) - mary_j_59 - Apr. 12th, 2012 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mary_j_59 - Apr. 12th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 13th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
A cliffhanger ending is always kind of annoying to me - less so if there's other books in the series, but in a stand-alone it's maddening. Even worse is that ambiguous 'draw your own conclusions' ending where the author doesn't provide closure and just lets the reader decide what happened. It's not my job as a reader to decide what happened - I want to know.
Apr. 11th, 2012 07:42 pm (UTC)
It's not my job as a reader to decide what happened.

I know exactly what you mean, Laura :0

Apr. 11th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
The story arc has to be resolved, even if future events are foreshadowed. I was so annoyed by the way Gene Wolfe just ended the first Book of the New Son that I still haven't read the rest, despite people whose opinions I respect saying I should.
Apr. 11th, 2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
That's exactly how I feel, which is a shame, because chances are the poor author had little say in the matter.
Apr. 11th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
If the next book (or books) are already out or coming out very soon I don't mind too much. I hate it if it feels like they just cut the book in half, but if it's a good transition point and part of a series or story-arc, then it's okay. (Like say, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.)

If the author takes years between books then I will avoid the series until it's done. Not taking the chance of getting involved in something that may never get completed. Plus I dislike picking up a sequel and not remembering what had happened previously but I loathe recaps - would rather reread the first book.
Apr. 11th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
This felt to me as if the book finished 90% of the way through the story :(
(no subject) - ladysaotome - Apr. 11th, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 11th, 2012 09:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Cliffhangers are fine in those old penny-dreadfuls, but to end a novel with one is cheating. If the major story arc is COMPLETE, well, then it can be fun, but ending just as it's supposed to climax?? No way no how.
Apr. 11th, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
Lol, I just had a thought: Wouldn't I feel silly if I find out there were supposed to be seven audio discs in the case, not six? :)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Apr. 11th, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Apr. 12th, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2012 03:47 am (UTC)
I really think, Jon, it depends on how they are done. To me, the end of The Two Towers is still the most wrenching cliff hanger ever; poor Sam realizing (as he believes) his mistake, and racing after the orcs holding Frodo captive, only to slam into a door. It must have been awful for the readers back in the 1950s! But I think Tolkien plays fair with the scene. There is a sense of completion of the main story, and also of inevitability. What I find really annoying is when an author does something similar without ever showing us what happens immediately after the cliffhanger (yes, Philip Pullman, I'm talking to you! I thought the ending of The Subtle Knife was really, really, annoying - both for being a rip-off of Tolkien and for leading, in the end, absolutely nowhere. And Pullman's generally a good writer!) It's even more annoying when the cliffhanger seems to come from nowhere - plot contrivances that are designed to leave you on edge are irksome!

So it really depends on the story, and the way it's told. I'm okay with cliffhangers if they are done well.
Apr. 12th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
Fair enough :)
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )

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