I've just finished reading Ken Macleod's Engine City
and, as it's the third part of Engines of Light
, it got me thinking about trilogies. I think it was because I enjoyed it more than Dark Light
that I got to thinking about why it is that the second part of a trilogy is often, but not always, the weakest part of the series especially when you look back on it as a whole.
Mainly, it's because the middle part is where things get developed, rather than initiated or resolved. While this is common to any story (classic three act structure: get them up into a tree - throw rocks at them - get them down from the tree) it becomes a specific problem within the trilogy in that it has to pick up an ongoing story at the start and then hand it on at the end. Sub-plots and the like can get resolved, but the main plot that's driving the overall story obviously has to remian unresolved which means the middle is without a fixed beginning or end, just flowing from one into the other. While it might seem vital and important at the time it's experienced, when the story is completed, it can seem like quite a saggy bit in the middle where the author is just moving characters around, setting everything up for the final part.
Anyway, I thought I'd open this up for suggestions - what trilogies can you think of where the second part is as good as, if not better than the other two parts? I can think of two off the top of my head, and there are no doubt others, but I think The Subtle Knife
is the equal of the other two parts of His Dark Materials
and The Empire Strikes Back
probably the best of the original Star Wars
trilogy. The Subtle Knife
does it by not just deepening and widening the story, but by going off from a new start and giving us Will's story, which counterpoints Lyra's story in Northern Lights
, while Empire
does it both by having the best action sequences in the trilogy and having one of the classic second act reversals with 'I am your father
' putting everything from the first two films into a new light, and setting up the conclusion. Plus, it doesn't have any bloody Ewoks.