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Separation of Power (Mitch Rapp, #5)
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CONVENTIONS OF SPYING > Is the cliffhanger bad?

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message 1: by Samuel , Director (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
While building up a reading list for this year, I trawled through several amazon reviews, both good and bad. But an interesting thread that seemed to emerge with all the bad reviews were complaints about the use of the cliffhanger ending. Complaints about it seemed to be how it denied some kind of "pay off" or felt "cheap", among other things.

Now, I've never really had a problem with it. In most of the books I've read where it featured, most of the authors execute well enough so it does its intended job, heightening your desire to find out what happens next. On a side note, it cropped up in book series where the authors wanted to do an arc, of sorts. Vince Flynn's "The Third Option" and "Separation Of Power" is a good example of this.

So, the discussion questions:
Is the cliffhanger fine as a convention in this day and age or does it annoy you and feel out of date?

If spy thrillers with cliffhangers annoy you what are the reasons why?

Are the two common complaints I've noted (Denies some kind of payoff and feels "cheap") valid to some extent?

What would be your own theory on why the cliffhanger in a spy thriller isn't as liked as it once was?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.


message 2: by Samuel , Director (last edited Feb 03, 2015 03:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Act Of Terror (Jericho Quinn, #2) by Marc Cameron
State of Emergency (Jericho Quinn, #3) by Marc Cameron
Time of Attack (Jericho Quinn, #4) by Marc Cameron
Day Zero (Jericho Quinn, #5) by Marc Cameron
An example of a series in the genres we look at using cliffhangers, is Marc Cameron's counter-terrorist thrillers. Since book 2, the author has had developing a story arc centered around a conspiracy to install an Islamist Extremist as the POTUS. Hence, he's been using cliffhangers, to help continue this narrative. Now, his series is in good health with spectacularly high Amazon reviews but the few negative ones complain about his use of the cliffhanger. One in particular likened it to "a never ending TV series".
Has the tradition of longer story arcs, like John Le Carre's KARLA trilogy become unpopular or is it something else?

=[UPDATE]=
I know it's early on but I took a second look at the negative amazon reviews and (as of typing 4/2/14) the only thing they complain about is the cliffhanger ending. Smells of nit-picking to be honest.
http://www.amazon.com/Day-Zero-Jerich...


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian | 19 comments Personally I like longer story arcs that can go on for multiple books, but they can be tricky to pull off. It all depends on the execution. The ones who do it best seem to almost be running two stories at a time in each novel. One story gets tied up by the end while the other overarching story continues and often provides the cliffhanger at the end.


message 4: by Samuel , Director (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Ian wrote: "Personally I like longer story arcs that can go on for multiple books, but they can be tricky to pull off. It all depends on the execution. The ones who do it best seem to almost be running two sto..."

That is what Mr Cameron tries to do in his books and what the great science fiction/espionage drama Person Of Interest does as well. There's an A Plot and a B Plot. The first is a stand alone, closed circle story while the latter is developed over a longer period.


Jack (jackjuly) | 145 comments I'm on book three now, I use a modified Cliffhanger. Wrap this story up but leave a little hint as to what comes next.


Jack (jackjuly) | 145 comments Samuel wrote: "Ian wrote: "Personally I like longer story arcs that can go on for multiple books, but they can be tricky to pull off. It all depends on the execution. The ones who do it best seem to almost be run..."

NCIS does that same thing.


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian | 19 comments I'll have to try Marc Cameron's books. He's been in my Facebook friends list for the last billion or so years, but I've yet to pick up one of his novels. Sounds like it might be time to change that.

Have you all read anything by Matthew Dunn? He's become one of my favorites over the last few years. He's a former MI6 officer and a great writer.

- Ian


message 8: by Samuel , Director (last edited Feb 03, 2015 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Ian wrote: "I'll have to try Marc Cameron's books. He's been in my Facebook friends list for the last billion or so years, but I've yet to pick up one of his novels. Sounds like it might be time to change that..."

Yes. Book 1 for me wasn't great. Book 2 was better, he clearly improved as a writer, and book 3 was very good. Still haven't read his new short story and book 4 however, although the latter has got the highest amazon reviews out of all his work.


message 9: by Samuel , Director (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
From Russia With Love (James Bond, #5) by Ian Fleming

Example of a cliffhanger ending being executed very well? Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love, a spy thriller argued to be his magnum opus. He used it because he wanted flexibility in killing Mr Bond off or bringing him back to life if critical reception turned out to be favorable. Perhaps it was better received than other, later uses of the convention due to him managing to make it unclear whether Bond survives.


message 10: by Samuel , Director (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
The Third Option by Vince Flynn
Separation Of Power  by Vince Flynn

And then we have the other type of cliffhanger. These two books constitute Mr Flynn's first experiments with a story-arc. At the ending of "The Third Option", you know Mitch Rapp will return, and although he's won the day, the threat has survived as well and is looming on the horizon.

Perhaps it's a personal connection with whoever the cliffhanger is subjected to, combined with executing it in a manner which generates suspense and uncertainty which makes it more meaningful to the reader rather than come off as cliché.


message 11: by Cphe (new)

Cphe From a readers perspective I will not purchase a book that has a cliffhanger.

There has been a lot written on amazon about this. Many readers don't like it.

1/ very often the first book is quite inexpensive and then subsequent books are expensive.

2/when you look at the final price over all it is an expensive option for multiple books.

3/ There are so many books to choose from these days that very often for a reader something else catches their interest and they forget about other books.
Often these type of novels are months in between.

4/ the competition is fierce with all of the books on offer.


message 12: by Samuel , Director (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Cphe wrote: "From a readers perspective I will not purchase a book that has a cliffhanger.

There has been a lot written on amazon about this. Many readers don't like it.

1/ very often the first book is quite ..."


Ah, very interesting points. This things up quite well. Thanks.


message 13: by Samuel , Director (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Cphe wrote: "From a readers perspective I will not purchase a book that has a cliffhanger.

There has been a lot written on amazon about this. Many readers don't like it.

1/ very often the first book is quite ..."


Points 3 and 4 I understand. So in your opinion, are the kinds of books which happen to be stand-alone plots superior to the ones with cliffhanger endings?


message 14: by Cphe (new)

Cphe Yes, I think they are - the story is encapsulated for a start.
I don't have to wait months for the next book to be put out.
Also with a long series (my opinion only) the quality of the story arc isn't always of a high standard.

If the first book in a series doesn't meet your expectations are you really going to purchase others, often months later in a series?


message 15: by Samuel , Director (last edited Nov 22, 2015 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
So can it be said that the average reader in this day and age is less likely to be a fan of a longer story arc? What a pity. Perhaps it's not true though.....all in the execution.


message 16: by Agnieszka (new)

Agnieszka (agnieszka7) | 23 comments Usually I don't mid CF-endings at all, often I even even really enjoy the policy where the first book is free or extremly discounted to give me a really good impression of the writing skills of an author and if I like him/her at all. The other point is if the author decides to publish always the entire story at once usually the reader doesn't have to wait that long as in case of serialized novels or novellas though these are rather unusual in espionage genre - I used to this kind of publishing more from two or three other genres. So here just my general thoughts about this topic.

Usually if I like the first book in a serial of novels (or rather novellas) I wait than for the box because either I am not willing to pay the price for the entire single books collection or by the time I discovered the series, author,... the box is available anyway :-)
Though when I discover there was a box and either publisher or Amazon took it off the market I'm usually so angry by that artificial pushing of the prizes it can happen I abandon that author for a while or at all - depends on my mood :-)

Up to now I can recall only one or two CF-endings I was so angry about I let them influence the rating and review - if I'm finished it by now :-) Though in the one case there was no real ending at all - the author just stopped the story at a given point and informed the reader it will be concluded in the next book (what a cheating is that). About the other one I'm no more sure what if the issue was at all about CF-ending - and both books where from a completely different genre.


message 17: by Samuel , Director (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Link to a subtopic thread which this one influenced greatly. https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


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