A post at Book Riot: Cliffhangers: is the suspense worth it?
Spoiler: my opinion is NO. Let’s see what the author of the post says …
Oh, it turns out she is even more NO that I am:
Because cliffhangers occur at the end of a story, I finish the book with a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing. It ruins the whole reading experience for me. It could have been a fine book up until the final “…”
For me, when a book leaves off like that, even if I really want to see what happens, and even if the Goodreads reviews are decent for the sequel, I refuse to read the next book.
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Usually. But being burned by cliffhangers long ago when I was young and impressionable means that I generally try to avoid reading more than than the first book of a series until the whole series is complete. I hate the feeling of dread when I am coming up on the end of a book and there doesn’t seem to be room left for the story to finish. It makes me want to just stop right there, without getting to the final …..
In case you are interested, here is the book that gave me a serious aversion to cliffhangers: The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly
When I read this book, it had just come out. That was 1986. I think this was the worst cliffhanger I had ever seen. It’s still in the top ten. The second book did not come out till 1988. Note that the hatred of cliffhangers this series instilled in me has lasted, so far, for 32 years. Pretty sure this is an aversion that is not going to wear off, ever.
It is of course much worse when the second book never actually comes out at all.
Things I don’t mind: a book that ends with loose threads. As long as something important is wrapped up, I’m okay with it. For example, take Foreigner. Waiting for the actual end of that series, well, a person could live a full life and die of old age before it ends, apparently. (Which is great, I’m not remotely tired of it yet.) But there’s no problem because (a) every book is self-contained, or (b) if not, at least every sub-trilogy is self-contained, which is close enough.
With new-to-me authors, I read the first one to see if I like it, then buy the others as they come out and shelve them until the whole series is available. This worked well for The Thousand Names series, the first three books of which were pretty much self-contained but the fourth of which ended with a cliffhanger. I was really glad I had the fifth right there.
Note that if readers don’t buy the books as they come out, the publisher may decide sales don’t justify finishing the series at all, so there you are, stuck with half a series. This is highly unfortunate, to say the least, and that is why I do buy the books and hang onto them while I wait. I have no problem looking at a book without reading it for a year or two or three. Ten might be different, but that’s the risk you take when you buy books as they come out. Hopefully the author won’t be struck by a meteor before finishing the series, but you never know.
How about you all, do you feel the same way about cliffhangers? Can you peg a book that burned you badly enough with that kind of ending that you have never quite gotten over the experience?