How Not to End a Story

I finished The Plague Forge, the last book in Jason Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle. And while I am not angry and do not regret reading the series, for on all other points he scored very high, I am disappointed. I am reposting my review from GoodReads here because I know some of the people following this blog are writers and this is a good lesson of how NOT to handle resolving a story.

Warning: Spoilers.

>This final installment in the Dire Earth trilogy has many of the same good points of the first two books: The compelling mystery of the builders, the well-drawn characters, first rate action, great visuals, the tension and jeopardy of the race between the two factions trying to complete the puzzle in time with no idea of the outcome. And the outcome of the mystery is unexpected. I also give Hough points for breaking up the unlikely romantic pairing of the first book and keeping them broken up, allowing them to find mates with whom they shared more common ground. And for making a character that was a bastard in the first novel become more three-dimensional and redeem himself. And it was kicked off by him getting what he wants. That was an unusual character arc that Hough made work.


The detail did become excessive. We do not need a map of every corridor the characters walked down, especially when some of the features did not factor into the plot. The action, specifically the fights, became protracted. More in amount does not necessarily equal “more intense.” By the end it had started to feel like a slogg to read.

But where the book really failed was the ending. The reader has been following these characters trying to unravel and fight to overcome the mysterious “Builders” who have destroyed their world for three novels. We get to the very end where the biggest mystery of “Why” is about to be explained…

And then we cut to a letter-form epilogue that explains, 50 years after the fact, in broad brushstrokes what the mystery was and what the results were. Really. I flipped the pages back because I thought I had missed some. It was that sudden. The reader is robbed of the climax of the story. They are refused the emotional resolution of the characters reacting to the reality of what happened, the thought-provoking, debatable morality of what the Builders did, the choice the characters are given, and the debate among them that must have ensued.

And there was no reason for it other than Hough just did not want to write it. And authors can’t do that. Just no.

So while it was an enjoyable read, in the end the book is a let down.<

Yeah, don’t do that.  It’s just lazy. Give your audience a real climax and real resolution.

(And this is another sign that publishing editors do not do their jobs anymore. I can’t imagine why any editor would have let such a glaring flaw go and not sent it back, asking Hough to write what should have been the final chapter. )


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