Hey, y’all. It’s time for the monthly TCWT blog chain post, and unlike the last one, this entry will be on time. This month’s prompt is:
“What are your favorite book beginnings and/or endings?”
Oh, well this is gonna be easy. I’ve read a decent amount of books, many of which have some pretty spectacular beginnings and even better endings. First, I shall start off with the beginnings:
A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
When I first started this giant mammoth of a novel I was surprised by how readable it was. The only other epic fantasy series I’d read at the time was Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, so I came into this expecting purple prose and a bunch of names I couldn’t quite pronounce. I was wrong on both accounts.
Mostly. The prologue perfectly eases the reader into this harsh, cold world, without the boring pages of info-dumping so many fantasy novels resort to. Excuse me while I list a few of the things this prologue introduces you to:
- A giant 700 foot wall made of ice.
- Three characters who are surprisingly well rounded, considering how little page time they get.
- Oh, and EVIL ICE ZOMBIES.
Honestly, as intriguing openings go, you can’t get any better than that. The only possible exception I could think of would be evil ice unicorns, but that’s a bit of a stretch. In fact, the only beginning better than this would have to be:
Stephen King’s IT: (Spoilers, but only for the first 30 pages of this 1,008 page book.)
The ending to this giant novel was, well, a bit of a mess, if I dare say so. But the first section introduced you to the town of Derry, and made it clear that despite it’s cheery outlook, it is a dark and deadly place.
It opens up with a nice five year old kid named George losing his paper boat down a sewer drain. He’s all upset, until he sees a friendly clown in the gutter, holding his paper boat. This is the innocent little conversation the two of them had, with most of the descriptions cut out for brevity’s sake:
“Want your boat, Georgie?” The clown smiled.
“I sure do,” he said.
“‘I sure do.’ That’s good! That’s very good! And how about a balloon?”
“Well, sure!” He reached forward . . . and then drew his hand reluctantly back. “I’m not supposed to take stuff from strangers. My dad said so.”
“Very wise of your dad,” the clown in the storm-drain said, smiling. “Very wise indeed. Therefore I will introduce myself. I, Georgie, am Mr. Bob Gray, also known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Pennywise, meet George Denbrough. George, meet Pennywise. And now we know each other. I’m not a stranger to you, and you’re not a stranger to me. Kee-rect?”
George giggled. “I guess so.”
Shortly after this, Pennywise finally convinces George to put his hand through the drain, and then rips the poor kid’s arm off. The kid dies from a mix of shock and blood loss. Don’t feel too bad, though. The kid was an idiot. If any halfway intelligent person saw a clown hanging about in a sewage drain, they wouldn’t dare touch him, not even with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole. Besides, we all know that kid was going to end up dying later anyway, probably from forgetting to stop the car before stepping out, or maybe by starving to death after getting his hand stuck in a vending machine. By not killing him, Pennywise would’ve simply prolonged the inevitable.
But enough with the horribly-insensitive jokes on poor Georgie’s behalf: now I’m going to talk about the chapter after that, which is still technically the beginning.
This chapter takes place before, during and after a hate crime against an innocent gay couple in Derry, the town in which the novel takes place. To sum it up, a group of homophobic jerks saw an openly gay person named Adrian wearing a hat saying “I [heart] Derry!” So they felt that their “civic pride” had been wounded by seeing him wear that hat. One thing led to another, and they beat him up and threw him off a bridge, where Adrian was then finished off by Pennywise the Clown.
Here, King makes it clear that 1: What happened to the kid was horrible, and 2: The town of Derry is extremely homophobic, much more so than the towns surrounding it. This is partially shown in a flashback to when Don (Adrian’s boyfriend) takes him to see underneath the town’s bridge, where it’s littered with hundreds of writings like “STICK NAILS IN THE EYES OF ALL FAGGOTS (FOR GOD)!” and other even worse quotes I’m not going to include, because then my blog will probably get flagged or something.
Then you get this particular piece:
“Whoever writes these little homilies has got a case of the deep down crazies. I’d feel better if I thought it was just one person, one isolated sickie, but . . .” Don swept his arm vaguely down the length of the Kissing Bridge. “There’s a lot of this stuff . . . and I don’t think just one person did it. That’s why I want to leave Derry, Ade. Too many places and too many people seem to have the deep-down crazies.”
And that’s why Derry is so terrifying. Not just because of the crazy clown demon-thingy running amok and killing children and whatnot, but because that evil presence seems to be influencing the rest of the population. There’s racism and homophobia everywhere in the world, but there’s a much larger concentration of said hatred in this small, seemingly ideal town.
(As you may have been able to tell, It is the only book on this list I have with me at the moment, which is why I went into so much more detail.)
Some other great beginnings:
The Dark Knight. I know it’s not a book, but that opening scene was fantastic.
I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It starts off with the funniest bank robbery I’ve ever read, which admittedly isn’t saying much.
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. It opens with the brutal murder of an infant’s family, yet it’s described in a surprisingly child-friendly way.
Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve only read the prologue, but it was amazing. Whoever this Kelsier guy is, I want to high-five him.
Carrie, by Stephen King. (Spoilers for the beginning.) It starts off with the main character getting her period in the school locker room, which is embarrassing enough, but what makes it even worse is the fact that her crazy religious mother never bothered to tell her anything about the menstrual cycle, so she was freaking out, thinking she was dying, while all the other girls made fun of her. This gives her what I like to call INSTANT SYMPATHY POINTS from the reader, and that’s something only well written characters can get.
Now, what are my favorite endings, you ask?
Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
While I didn’t like the first three chapters, I was hooked by the end of chapter four and I loved everything about it, especially the final lines:
“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
These words are so moving and powerful (even more so when you know the circumstances surrounding them) that they’ve been quoted a billion times since, almost as often as the book’s opening lines.* Commissioner Gordon even quoted them at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.
The Dark Knight Rises
Just because of the A Tale of Two Cities quote, mentioned above.
Then I’d pick The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Anyone who’s read that book should know why.
And finally, I’d pick A Game of Thrones. Again. (Caution: Spoilers.)
This book started with ice, and ended with fire. Daenerys Targaryen started out as basically a sex slave, sold to a guy who was thrice her age and didn’t even speak the same language. I have yet to be put in such a predicament, but I assume my thoughts about it would be something along the lines of, “Well this isn’t very fun.” Yet Dany, over the course of the novel, grows from a shy, unambitious thirteen (yes, thirteen) year old girl, to a strong and confident ruler, and this makes her storyline the most satisfying one in the first book.
Oh, and dragons. She becomes the Mother of Dragons. If, after reading or watching this scene, you didn’t immediately pump your fist in the air, there are only two possible explanations:
1) Both of your fists have been stolen by the notorious Fist Thief of 1987, or:
2) You are a bad person, and your family probably doesn’t even love you.
Check out the other blogs in the blog chain:
September 2014 blog chain prompt/schedule:
Prompt: “What are your favorite book beginnings and/or endings?”
8th – http://zarahoffman.com/
15th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/
and https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)
*I hated those opening lines. I blame my English teacher for making me repeat them so many times.