Tag Archives: Jean M. Auel

5 Stories That Need a Prequel

Last week I was scrolling through the list of new ebooks at my local library and stumbled across a title that made me grin. Marilla of Green Gables: A Novel by Sarah McCoy was written to tell the story of Marilla Cuthbert’s life before she and her brother became the permanent guardians of Anne Shirley.

As a lifelong fan of Anne of Green Gables and the many sequels to that tale, I’ve often wondered why Marilla was such a stiff and proper woman when she first met Anne. L.M. Montgomery only gave a few hints about Marilla’s childhood, and most of them were vague.

While I wait for a copy of this prequel to become available at the library, I thought it would be interesting to list some other books that would benefit from a prequel to explain things in them that their original versions never got around to describing in full detail to the audience. Some of them I’ve discussed on this site in the past, while others are brand new these types of posts.

There are mild spoilers to follow in this post for certain titles, so reader beware.

1. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

This first book in the Earth’s Children series began with a five-year-old child named Ayla getting lost in the woods after an earthquake killed her parents about 30,000 years ago in ice-age Europe. It probably would have been unusual for parents to be travelling alone with such a young child, and it would have been unthinkable for someone so young to survive long at all in the woods by herself.

It bothered me when this series ended without any resolution for who the main character’s original people were or why her parents were travelling alone with her when they died. Based on how many different tribes she met as an adult and how small and interconnected the human population was in general in this universe, I would have expected someone to remember hearing something about a young family disappearing without a trace a decade or two before.

Well, either that or Ayla was actually the daughter of time-travelling scientists who hadn’t made contact with ancient humans at all before their untimely deaths. But if that theory is true, why would they take a child on such a dangerous trip without at least bringing a few more adults along to help look after her and gather data about what life was really like back hen?

2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Since Ransom Riggs is still writing and publishing new portions of this series, I hope he will eventually dive into the history of what life was like for Miss Peregrine and other Peculiars before they were forced to hide in time loops.

I’d imagine that there is a massive difference between having to relive the same day over and over again for decades to avoid being eaten by Hollowgasts (a violent monster species in this universe) and choosing to do so.

It’s hard to imagine what life was like for the Peculiars before their lives were constantly put into terrible danger. I’d like to think they had peaceful and creative existences at one point in their history.

The development of the current plot line in these books has been fantastic so far. I’d simply like to see the same attention paid to how all of this began in the first place. If that ever happens, this might become my favourite young adult series of this century.

 

3. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill.

There are a lot of things I have to avoid saying about this book in order to avoid giving away any spoilers for it.

Freida, the main character, had spent her entire lifetime being groomed to be the perfect wife for a man she’d never met. She was raised in an environment that was very similar to a boarding school or other institutional setting. Along with her classmates, she lived, studied, exercised, and relaxed within the same four walls.

The audience quickly learned that all women in this society are raised in these school but that none of the men are. While I can’t give you any details about why this society was set up that way, I will say that I really wish we could have a prequel to this tale that explained more clearly when and how men and women were separated this way.

There was so much ground left to cover on that topic by the time I finished this novel. It could more than fill out the pages of a full-length prequel.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Once again, the main character of this book grew up in a boarding school sort of place that had strict

rules about what their students were allowed to do. Unlike Only Ever Yours, these characters had no idea what their fate would be when they grew up.

All they knew was that they were special for reasons their instructors never went into detail about.

Just like in the previous section of this post, I can’t go into many details about what was really happening in this universe other than to say that all of those adults weren’t feeding, educating, and protecting hundreds of children out of a sense of goodwill for our species. There were dark reasons for their actions that eventually began to come to light, but never to the degree I would have liked them to.

This was the sort of social experiment that I really thought should have been fleshed out in greater detail. If it were to actually happen in real life, there were be a lot of people who were vehemently opposed to it every step of the way.

Realistically speaking, how did the folks who created this system deal with the protestors? Did they keep it top secret, or did they find more violent ways to suppress the opposing side?

A prequel would be the perfect place to show how the idea for this school first took root and why it was allowed to continue.

5. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. 

Yes, I know I’ve blogged about this one before. It’s been so long since my last mention of it that I simply had to bring it up again since this is the sort of story that haunts me long after I’ve finished the final scene.

For those of you who haven’t read it yet, The Unit is about a futuristic version of America where women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 60 who haven’t met specific milestones like getting married or having children are forced to donate their organs and other tissues to people who need them. Yes, this included organs that one can’t live without like the heart.

What frightened me the most about this world was how realistic it felt. Forced organ donations are already known to be happening in certain parts of the world today. While it still feels unrealistic for it to occur in North America where this tale was set, I would have loved to know how such a system was sold to the population at large in a fictional version of the United States.

Would the general public have believed that these people were dying willingly to save strangers? Had this group of people been so dehumanized that average folks no longer thought of them as fellow human beings? I had so many questions about how this system had been sold to society in general that were never answered. A prequel would be the perfect way to finally know how and when the protagonist, Dorrit Weger, and all of the other people sent to The Unit were marked as dispensable without anyone fighting to save them.

What stories do you wish had a prequel?

Saturday Seven: Series That Should Be Turned Into TV Shows

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

A friend of mine is absolutely obsessed with Game of Thrones. I’d guess that at least a third of the conversations we have somehow include a reference to this show. Even though I’ve never actually watched Game of Thrones, I’m beginning to understand a lot of her references to it because of how much she talks about it.

The more she gushes about it, the more I think about all of the series that I’d love to see brought to the small screen. All of them are so full of dazzling details about their worlds that it would take a few seasons of a TV show to even begin to fully explore what they have to offer.

 

1. The Earths’ Children series by Jean M. Auel. 

This series has it all: adventure; action, mammoths, romance, unsolved mysteries, Neanderthals, and even a stubborn pet wolf that occasionally refuses to do what he’s told.

Ayla, the main character, was a human who was orphaned at the age of five in an earthquake. She was discovered and raised by Neanderthals. The Clan of the Cave Bear told the story of her highly unusual childhood. The sequels showed what happened after she was disowned by the folks who raised her and forced to eke out a living alone while she searched for signs of other humans.

Without giving away any spoilers, I was not happy with how the final book ended due to how many conflicts were still left unresolved in the last scene. If this were made into a TV show, we’d have another chance to resolve those issues for the characters.

 

2. The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy Robert J. Sawyer.

If only all of you knew how tempted I was to talk about nothing but Neanderthals today! I love stories about them, and there are a lot of great ones out there. I might just have to blog about them on a future Saturday Seven post.

The unusual thing about this series is that it’s set in the present day. Ponter Boddit, the main character, accidentally pierced the veil between his Earth and our own early on in the plot and ended up accidentally getting transported to our universe. On his alternate version of Earth, humans died out tens of thousands of years ago while Neanderthals like him had become the dominant species.

I can’t tell you anything about the Neanderthals’ version of Earth without giving away major spoilers, but I was fascinated by all of the cultural and physiological differences between them and us. Some of them were things that I never would have thought of as a possible difference between our two species.

 

3. The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.

This series immediately came to mind when I saw the film The Martian a few years ago. Colonizing Mars would be an incredibly expensive and difficult endeavour for the first few generations to do it.

Based on how much audiences loved watching Matt Damon’s character figure out how to survive alone on such a harsh planet, I think there would be an audience out there who would like to see Nadia Cherneshevsky and her team struggle to create the first Martian settlement.

Future generations in this trilogy even eventually terraformed Mars into something very Earth-like with lakes, forests, and everything else you’d expect from a habitable planet. How cool would that be to see on the small screen!

 

4. The Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia E. Butler.

This series began with a massive nuclear war that (supposedly) killed every last human on Earth. The main character’s husband and son were among those dead.  When she woke up in an unfamiliar place hundreds of years later, she had no idea why or how she was still alive. It turned out that an alien species called the Oankali had intervened at the last possible moment and saved a small percentage of humanity from certain extinction.

That paragraph alone could provide enough fodder for the first season of a TV show, and that barely scratched the surface of everything that happened in this trilogy. Not only did the main character have to grieve the loss of her family, she had to figure out why the Oankali had saved a small percentage of humanity and what they wanted from us in exchange.

 

5. The Quintaglio Ascension trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer.

I have five words for you: intelligent dinosaurs who can speak.

Afsan, the main character, was about to go through a rite of passage that would make him an adult in the eyes of his society when this tale began. His species worshipped a heavenly body known as the Face of God. Every Quintaglio (which is their name for their reptilian species) must go on a quest to observe it when they become an adult.

The problem was, Afsan noticed something about the Face of God on his journey that contradicted a major tenant of his religion. He then had to decide whether to reveal this knowledge or keep it to himself.

The world building was extremely well done. Afsan had a deeply reptilian understanding of the world, and it showed in how he responded to all kinds of situations that a human would have a completely different response to. For example, the way his species treats their young is nothing at all like how humans treat their young. He would be as horrified by some of our practices as we would be of his, and that would make for must-watch television in my opinion!

 

6. The Avalon series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. 

I was never particularly into any Arthurian legends, but I loved this series immediately. The Mists of Avalon retold the legend of King Arthur from the perspective of his sister Morgaine. While The Mists of Avalon was technically made into a mini-series many years ago, the next six books in the series have never received the same treatment as far as I know.

They really fleshed out this world, though, and I think it would be wonderful to finally see the entire story from beginning to end on the small screen. One of them, Ancestors of Avalon, even described how and why Stonehenge was created. Sadly, I’ve forgotten most of the plot of that book, but now I really want to reread it. I am just a little bit obsessed with Stonehenge in general, so it would be really cool to see those scenes come to life.

 

7. The Watership Down series by Richard Adams.

Anyone who has read this blog for a long time and remembers how much I love rabbits won’t be surprised by the final entry on my list at all. I can’t imagine many things more interesting than an entire TV show about a warren of rabbits who are desperately trying to find a new home.

While there were cute and fuzzy moments just like you’d expect from this species, there were also a lot of heart-pounding action scenes. Life is frightening and dangerous for prey species. This is even more true when a large group of rabbits are trying to move to a new home through completely unfamiliar and often dangerous territory. I think this book would make a fantastic TV show because of that.

Have you read any of the books on my list this week? What series do you wish would be turned into a TV show?

Winter Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Toronto has been enjoying milder winter weather this past week or two, but it looks like our temperatures are soon going to plummet once again.

Every time this has happened during the winter of 2017-2018, my mind has drifted to the stories I’ve read about imaginary or otherworldly wintery places that appealed to me for a wide variety of reasons. Winter is my least-favourite season of the year, but it does become slightly more appealing when I think about experiencing it in places that are nothing at all like Toronto.

Narnia as It Was During the End of The Long Winter

From C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I spent four years of my childhood in Laramie, Wyoming, so C.S. Lewis’ descriptions of a world where it was always winter actually sounded kind of familiar to me.

We could experience snow there at any point between September and May. Even the brief Wyoming summers were much colder than the ones I experienced later on in life when my family moved back to the midwest.

Some kids might have been frightened by the idea of a winter that never ended. I liked the long, snowy winters of my childhood, though, and wasn’t particularly bothered by the idea of them lasting forever. (Although, now that I’m an adult, I feel very differently about this topic!)

One of the nice things about the reign of Jadis, the White Witch who cursed the land with everlasting winter, was how resourceful the creatures who lived there learned to become. The book never exactly described how they managed to find enough food to survive for so many generations in the bitter cold, so I’m going to have to assume that both magic and luck were involved.

My favourite scene in this book was the one where Lucy and Susan noticed the first sign that The Long Winter was coming to an end. I won’t give it away for anyone out there who hasn’t read this story yet, but it was a very fitting twist on what many people consider to be the best part of this season.

Alaska as It Was in 1920

From Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.

Jack and Mabel, the main characters in this tale, had no idea what was happening when they first caught glimpses of a child running around in the Alaskan wilderness alone in the dead of winter.

This is the kind of story that can’t be pinned down to any one genre, and that’s one of the many reasons why I love it so much.

Is it a fantasy tale about a childless couple whose overwhelming desire to be parents magically summoned a daughter for them?

Are the main characters’ sometimes-bizarre interactions with their daughter a metaphor for how unresolved grief can pop up in all kinds of unexpected ways over the years?

Did Jack and Mabel meet a real abandoned child who had somehow figured out how to survive in a fiercely cold and unforgiving environment before they took her in?

The winter weather in Alaska could easily be used to support any of these theories. It could almost be considered a character in and of itself because of how influential it was on how the plot unfolded. While I wouldn’t want to experience that time and place for more than a few minutes, I am curious to know what it would feel like to live in a small, isolated cabin in the middle of a gigantic Alaskan forest during one of their many blizzards.

Jack and Mabel must have yearned for spring unbearably by this time of the year.

I have a very strong opinion about how this book should be interpreted based on the clues provided by the weather, the characters, and the circumstances under which the child is found, but I won’t share it publicly to avoid giving anyone spoilers for the ending.

Europe as It Was 30,000 Years Ago

From Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunters.

The Mamutoi were the first band of humans that Ayla, a human girl who was raised by Neanderthals, had ever met.

Other than the joy of seeing a herd of mammoths in person, by far the most appealing part of this book to me was how closely-knit the Mamutoi were. The climate they lived in was far too cold to allow for much outdoor time during the winter at all, so this tribe spent those months indoors working on small projects and celebrating various festivals.

The best scenes in this book showed what it was like for roughly twenty adults and children to live in a cramped space together for months on end. Yes, there were times when the introvert in me wondered if anyone ever went outside for the express purpose of having a few moments of pure silence, but there were many other times when I saw the benefits of this kind of living arrangement.

For example, the children in this tribe were doted on by everyone. They knew who their parents were, but they also all felt perfectly comfortable going to any adult for food, comfort, entertainment, or to learn new skills.

Chores like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of people who were too sick, injured, or elderly to do certain things for themselves were also shared pretty evenly. Given how lonely Ayla had been earlier in her life, this doesn’t seem like a bad way to spend a winter at all.

What winter worlds from your favourite stories do you wish you could visit?