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10 Book sequels that took forever to be published

Since quarantine has left me with extra time on my hands, I’ve been looking for reading material. A fan of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, naturally I checked if the next books, Winds of Winter, had been published yet. Nope, still waiting. It got me thinking, how normal is it to take that long to write a sequel?

While most authors will churn out their sequels pretty quickly to capitalize on the popularity of their work, Martin is not alone in taking his sweet time. Here are 10 sequels that came out many years after the original.

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and The Testaments (2019)

You might be forgiven for thinking that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was only published recently, as it was only made into a TV show in 2017, but in reality, it was originally published in 1985. That means that the recent sequel, The Testaments, was published 34 years later! Both books are set in a world where a crisis has formed a new society where fertile women are enslaved and used to reproduce the human race inside a strange puritan culture.

Ray Bradbury – Dandelion Wine (1957) and Farewell Summer (2006)

A prolific writer, Bradbury only set a few of his books in a small fictional Illinois town called Green Town, which was supposed to represent the small community that he grew up in during the 1920s. He first wrote a series of short stories about his experiences there, through his alter ego Douglas Spaulding, that was published in 1957. While Green Town was referenced in some of his other stories over the years, he only wrote an official sequel near the end of his life, Farewell Summer, published in 2006.

Bret Easton Ellis – Less Than Zero (1985) and Imperial Bedrooms (2015)

The original novel, Less Than Zero is about a hedonistic young Clay living a life of privilege in Los Angeles. Thirty years later the author decided to revisit the character and, as an adult, make him even more monstrous. He allows himself to rewrite many of the events of the original story by having the narrator Clay, saying that the writer resented him and therefore didn’t represent the whole truth. This provided fans of the original with some extra Easter eggs in the sequel.

Joseph Heller – Catch-22 (1961) and Closing Time (1994)

In Catch-22 we meet Bombardier Yossarin, an Air Force pilot in World War II who is out to get as much as he can for himself. It is difficult to imagine his character and that world without the backdrop of the war. But 33 years later, Heller managed to impress us with the sequel, as we see our protagonist facing similar challenges in “normal life”. Maybe the fact that the first book was banned in several places caused him to take so long to get motivated for the second.

Stephen King – The Shining (1977) and Doctor Sleep (2013)

One of the most well-known horror stories of all time, largely thanks to the film starring Jack Nicholson, it wasn’t laziness that stopped King writing a follow-up. The author is nothing if not prolific. But 36 years later King decided to revisit the character and look at the impact of the experiences on the son of the first story. Naturally, there has already been a film, this time starring Ewan McGregor.

Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) and Go Set A Watchman (2015)

There are few people who aren’t aware that a sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird unexpectedly emerged 55 years after the first book was published. But this sequel is controversial. When was it written? Is it actually a sequel? Is it a sequel to the first draft of the original book that was very different? Did the author ever want it released? All these are compelling reasons to read the book, even if it doesn’t touch the original for quality.

Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club (1996) and Fight Club 2 (2015-16)

Better known from the film than the book, the sequel, which takes the form of a 10 issue comic book series, was nevertheless welcomed by fans. In the original book, we meet an unnamed mad who fakes illness to join support groups, and there meets a man who changes his world completely. In the sequel, we finally learn the name of our protagonist, as he battles the same old demons, but in new circumstances.

Upton Sinclair – King Coal (1917) and The Coal War (1976)

In this case, the delay in the publication of the sequel wasn’t down to the author. Upton Sinclair submitted the manuscript for his follow up to King Coal only a few years after the original book was published. But the publisher didn’t think it was interesting and decided not to publish. Only 59 years later did another publishing house pick it up. The first book looks at the lives of coal miners in the United States in the 1910s, and the sequel continues the adventures of the protagonists.

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954)

Tolkien originally wrote The Hobbit as a book for his children, but it became a huge commercial success. A sequel seemed like a good idea. But the academic doesn’t seem to have been in any hurry to actually write it. You can see his academic side in the book in the attention to detail, the maps and the languages he created. The result was not another kid’s book, but a piece of high literature that gave the children who read the first book a critique on war, but with goblins and wizards. What didn’t change between the books is Tolkien’s complete absence of understanding of women or the need for female characters at all.

Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)

Whether you prefer Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer, if you are a fan of the writings of Twain, you are just happy that there are a few more of them in the world. While Twain wrote a number of things in between, Tom Sawyer Abroad is the true sequel to the original. And the author has fin with it. He draws in all his favorite characters, and pokes fun at other popular literature of the day.

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