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Author Topic: Books that break "good guy always wins/lives" scenario  (Read 1403 times)
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exGoneGolder
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« on: May 26, 2009, 08:10:05 PM »

Hi all,

I have been reading some of my fathers old Ken Follett novels (Eye of the Needle, Jackdaws, etc) and while I thought they were great, the one thing that drives me crazy is that you know the hero will survive, and you are never worried about his/her survival. IMHO, this jast makes the book to predicatable/hollywood.

I would really apprecaite any suggestions of some Novels that break this convention. (I am a fan of George RR Martin fantasy novels because I think he is great at never letting you know who will live or die.)

I really enjoy Suspense, Fantasy, Mysteries...

Thanks!!!

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Larraque
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2009, 08:17:24 PM »

If we tell you the hero doesn't win/live then doesn't that spoil the book?
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kratz
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2009, 08:18:37 PM »

Yeah, if we tell you anything you just have the opposite problem...
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exGoneGolder
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2009, 08:21:56 PM »

So I'm screwed either way?!  crybaby
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wonderpug
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2009, 08:25:39 PM »

I recommend the novelizations of Star Wars I-VI.  You'll never guess what'll happen to that kid they find in the desert.
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2009, 08:28:02 PM »

Quote from: wonderpug on May 26, 2009, 08:25:39 PM

I recommend the novelizations of Star Wars I-VI.  You'll never guess what'll happen to that kid they find in the desert.

They find him in the desert?! Great, thanks for giving it away.   icon_evil
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2009, 08:40:29 PM »

Protagonist failure is the central schtick of the Sir Apropos of Nothing series.  I remember the first book being pretty funny, too.
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Jag
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2009, 08:56:35 PM »

Try
Spoiler for Hiden:
A Song of Ice and Fire
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2009, 09:05:23 PM »

I'll second Jag's suggestion.  Some of the plot moves there floored me.
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2009, 09:17:47 PM »

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Great Gatsby
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2009, 09:22:26 PM »

Quote from: Jag on May 26, 2009, 08:56:35 PM

Try
Spoiler for Hiden:
A Song of Ice and Fire

Meh. I didn't see that you already listed GRRM.

I'll recommend Steven King's Darktower Series then. Very dark and gritty, but engrossing to read.
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Razgon
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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2009, 09:25:49 PM »

Quote from: Jag on May 26, 2009, 09:22:26 PM

Quote from: Jag on May 26, 2009, 08:56:35 PM

Try
Spoiler for Hiden:
A Song of Ice and Fire

Meh. I didn't see that you already listed GRRM.

I'll recommend Steven King's Darktower Series then. Very dark and gritty, but engrossing to read.

okay - this post makes no sense to me - you DO realize you'r Jag right? :-D

other than that - since you like fantasy, try Steven ERiksons series about the Malazans, starting out with the first one Gardens of the Moon. There's some plot twists in that serires that are just awe inspiring

edit: okay, I'm an idiot, Jag - sorry for misunderstanding :-D
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brettmcd
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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2009, 11:43:12 PM »

I would recommend a lot of the dragonlance D&D novels, lots of the heroes die all over the place in those books.
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« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2009, 12:01:33 AM »

I also second the Dark Tower series. Book 1 and 2 are a little slow but still very good. The series really picks up around the end of the second book, and never slows down after that. In fact, I'm in the middle of re-reading the entire series again for at least the third time.

Oh, and I just happen to be giving away Books 2-4 for free!
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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM »

I really thought the Dark Tower series fell off the rails towards the end.  Or I was just not interested anymore.  I think once
Spoiler for Hiden:
you write yourself into your fiction novels the way King did
it's all over.

Obviously you have George Martin covered, so I won't mention that.  If only The Sopranos was in book form...

I'm a fan of Michael Chabon's books, and they're not necessarily about "protagonist wins/loses".  The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was excellent, and I also enjoyed Wonder Boys and The Yiddish Policeman's Union. 

There's always A Brave New World and 1984 for classics.  Or some Vonnegut maybe.  Haruki Murakami is always good for mind-bending novels. 
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« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2009, 04:42:29 AM »

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM

I'm a fan of Michael Chabon's books, and they're not necessarily about "protagonist wins/loses".  The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was excellent, and I also enjoyed Wonder Boys and The Yiddish Policeman's Union. 

I brought him up in one of the other threads.

Also, a not so feel good book that I'd recommend to any fans of real 'literature' is The Dwarf by Par Lagervist.
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Pyperkub
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« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2009, 05:55:40 AM »

King is good at this.  In three of the four books listed below the protagonist is unsuccessful.

Thinner
Pet Sematary
Christine
Carrie
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Jaddison
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« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2009, 10:09:20 AM »

Stephen Donaldson's Gap series, I never knew what was next and it is daker and grittier than just about any other series I have read.  A very good and interesting read.
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« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2009, 10:54:07 AM »

Quote from: Jaddison on May 27, 2009, 10:09:20 AM

Stephen Donaldson's Gap series, I never knew what was next and it is daker and grittier than just about any other series I have read.  A very good and interesting read.

+1 !! very good read, although second volume is a bit longish
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« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2009, 01:37:59 PM »

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM

I really thought the Dark Tower series fell off the rails towards the end.  Or I was just not interested anymore. 

For me Dark Tower was all about the journey and not the conclusion. I typically don't like those types of endings, but when I was finally done I realized that I honestly didn't care how it ended because I enjoyed the story for what it was. That was unique for me at least.
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« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2009, 01:46:00 PM »

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM

The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was excellent
thumbsup
Awesome book. Very entertaining historical fiction about the start of the comic book industry, along with being a Jew or gay in the 1940's & 1950's America.
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Big Jake
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« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2009, 02:38:12 PM »

Jag, that was a very sagacious way to view the ending of the Dark Tower Series.

A dumber man, say..me, would just point out that Steven King is a terrible hack who just wrapped up the series in truly stupid ways just for the sake of being done.  Seriously, a pop culture reference and a tired cliche?  Really? That's the best he could do?  The brilliant job he did with the middle of this series (Wizard and Glass is arguably the best thing he has ever written) is looking like a total fluke.

And a big vote on Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  The second Book (Chain of Dogs) details exactly what I think your looking for. The people therin live in a fantasy world where karma and justice aren't always a given.
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« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2009, 03:31:23 PM »

Brian Lumley's Necroscope series is pretty awesome. I think its classified as horror
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« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2009, 03:36:36 PM »

Quote from: Big Jake on May 27, 2009, 02:38:12 PM

And a big vote on Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  The second Book (Chain of Dogs) details exactly what I think your looking for. The people therin live in a fantasy world where karma and justice aren't always a given.

That's a truly fantastic series...and the second book is Deadhouse Gates, but the Chain of Dogs is a plotline in that book which really is heartbreaking.

Even worse than that, however, was the ending of the 3rd book, Memories of Ice.  God damn, that's a heartwrenching ending...
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« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2009, 03:39:21 PM »

Quote from: Toe on May 27, 2009, 03:31:23 PM

Brian Lumley's Necroscope series is pretty awesome. I think its classified as horror

I love that series.  I stopped after about the third or fourth book, though.  I really do need to go back and finish the series. 

By the way, if you get a chance, read his short story collection A Coven of Vampires .
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« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2009, 04:10:49 PM »

Old Yeller smile
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« Reply #26 on: May 27, 2009, 04:43:46 PM »

Has anyone who read the Dark Tower series read the graphic novel/comics?  I have found them to be very good with not much duplication.  It definitely fills in the gaps with why and how Roland became so obsessed with the Tower and the Crimson King.

I don't see King as a hack at all, in fact i think he writes about old people and children better than most.  I think SK writes mostly about relationships and wraps them in fantasy/horror.  Dreamcatcher comes to mind but so does Hearts in Atlantis.  Insomnia was a great book and his treatment of old people was wonderful.
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« Reply #27 on: May 27, 2009, 04:52:17 PM »

King (whom I loved when I was in college, but I'm not as crazy about his later stuff, which may just be due to my aging tastes) loves pessimistic endings, and lots and lots of his books and short stories have downright nihilistic endings.

Some of the movies based on his books didn't have the guts to follow through on the book's ending, like...
Spoiler for Hiden:
In the book Cujo, little 8 year old Tad dies though his mom does finally kill the rabid Cujo. The movie didn't have the guts to do that (he has a moment where he *seems* to have died, but as I recall it, CPR revives him).

And some of the movies did follow through on the endings, such as...
Spoiler for Hiden:
Pet Cemetery did follow through on the book's little "tyke back from the grave" murderer, and then his father having to kill him with an injection. It's not a great movie imho, but some of that stuff is hard to stomach. Or Cronenberg's "The Dead Zone" though that syndicated TV show has probably made everyone think the book had a happier ending. icon_razz

I did receive his latest short story collection (After Sunset) for Xmas, and it's chock full of stories with endings like that (though not always). In his older years, and now that he's not the raging alcoholic/drug addict he has painted himself as being during his early-mid 1980s heyday, he writes at times quite a bit differently than I remember him. If you stopped reading him 15-25 years ago, you might be surprised at his current writing style (I don't guarantee you'll like it), though the "old" King still comes out in some of his straight-ahead short horror stories.

While I agree that specific book recommendations would be spoilering, maybe it would just be helpful to point him generally in the direction of authors who aren't prone to neat, tidy endings. I think part of the problem is people want to sequelize and franchise everything to death, and if you're prone to killing off your protoganist or blowing everybody up in the final scene, it doesn't make that easy to do, though there's always "prequels." smirk
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« Reply #28 on: May 27, 2009, 04:58:14 PM »

Quote from: Jag on May 27, 2009, 01:37:59 PM

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM

I really thought the Dark Tower series fell off the rails towards the end.  Or I was just not interested anymore. 

For me Dark Tower was all about the journey and not the conclusion. I typically don't like those types of endings, but when I was finally done I realized that I honestly didn't care how it ended because I enjoyed the story for what it was. That was unique for me at least.

I can't stand this argument. No offense against you personally but King and others have made that argument about this and other stories and here's my question: "So if the story is about the journey, then why should I care about what happens when the journey ends?"

Spoiler for Hiden:
By the end of the story, the characters will usually have changed for the better or for the worse, and worlds will have been changed. Yet my argument on the Dark Tower series is that it basically is little more than The Matrix series if the series had followed the One prior to Neo. It would end as all the others have, only maybe there would a slight hint that next time things would be different (ala the horn that Roland ends the story with). So why the hell couldn't we have had THAT story instead, King? Was 30+ years not enough time to draw a conclusion? Hell I came up with a better one in about 15 minutes after finishing the book.

In my ending, Flagg is still the dangerous wizard he always was and when he realizes Mordred has entered his mind, manages to trap Mordred there and paralyze him. Flagg then stomps the spider to death and rips off the seal from his chest (aka the key to the Tower). He then heads straight for the Tower knowing the sub-routes throughout the world. As such, it comes down to a footrace to the Tower. "The man in black fled across the blasted wasteland and the gunslingers followed." It comes down to Roland and Flagg shooting at one another as they both race for the Tower across the field of roses while dodging attacks from the Crimson King.

I hadn't planned anything more than that, but that alone strikes me as way the hell better than what King did.

Yes I'm still bitter at the final book and a half of the Dark Tower series. smile I maintain that Wizard & Glass though is one of the finest books I've ever read, period. I still have trouble believing just how great that book is. It is magnificent.
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« Reply #29 on: May 27, 2009, 05:23:13 PM »

Quote from: Daehawk on May 27, 2009, 04:10:49 PM

Old Yeller smile

I hear they're doing a remake with Yeller yankin' the gun out of the boy's hand at the end and taking out the entire family...
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« Reply #30 on: May 27, 2009, 05:23:22 PM »

Quote from: whiteboyskim on May 27, 2009, 04:58:14 PM

Quote from: Jag on May 27, 2009, 01:37:59 PM

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM

I really thought the Dark Tower series fell off the rails towards the end.  Or I was just not interested anymore. 

For me Dark Tower was all about the journey and not the conclusion. I typically don't like those types of endings, but when I was finally done I realized that I honestly didn't care how it ended because I enjoyed the story for what it was. That was unique for me at least.

I can't stand this argument. No offense against you personally but King and others have made that argument about this and other stories and here's my question: "So if the story is about the journey, then why should I care about what happens when the journey ends?"

None taken. In retrospect it is how I decided to view the series. Your passioned writing in the spoiler obviously shows that you enjoyed the books as well (at least some of them). Why not enjoy it for the entertainment it provided and not worry about whatifs?

Either way, the debate these books have created across the Geekverse proves that the series, if nothing else, is thought provoking. So in writing these books King did create his opus or is he just a massive hack? biggrin
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« Reply #31 on: May 27, 2009, 05:30:38 PM »

I think King has as many "uplifting" endings as he does dark endings.  but clearly opinions vary.  I ahve read or listened to almost everything he has written for the last 15 or so years.
Spoiler for Hiden:
King didn't write that ending because that is not where the story took him.  I think the book is about Roland unable to choose love instead of the Tower....probably a metaphor for King's life.  All Roland's companions opt out and I think it is clear that they will not be his companions again as he cycles yet again through his chase.
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« Reply #32 on: May 27, 2009, 05:35:26 PM »

Quote from: whiteboyskim on May 27, 2009, 04:58:14 PM

Quote from: Jag on May 27, 2009, 01:37:59 PM

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM

I really thought the Dark Tower series fell off the rails towards the end.  Or I was just not interested anymore. 

For me Dark Tower was all about the journey and not the conclusion. I typically don't like those types of endings, but when I was finally done I realized that I honestly didn't care how it ended because I enjoyed the story for what it was. That was unique for me at least.

I can't stand this argument. No offense against you personally but King and others have made that argument about this and other stories and here's my question: "So if the story is about the journey, then why should I care about what happens when the journey ends?"

Spoiler for Hiden:
By the end of the story, the characters will usually have changed for the better or for the worse, and worlds will have been changed. Yet my argument on the Dark Tower series is that it basically is little more than The Matrix series if the series had followed the One prior to Neo. It would end as all the others have, only maybe there would a slight hint that next time things would be different (ala the horn that Roland ends the story with). So why the hell couldn't we have had THAT story instead, King? Was 30+ years not enough time to draw a conclusion? Hell I came up with a better one in about 15 minutes after finishing the book.

In my ending, Flagg is still the dangerous wizard he always was and when he realizes Mordred has entered his mind, manages to trap Mordred there and paralyze him. Flagg then stomps the spider to death and rips off the seal from his chest (aka the key to the Tower). He then heads straight for the Tower knowing the sub-routes throughout the world. As such, it comes down to a footrace to the Tower. "The man in black fled across the blasted wasteland and the gunslingers followed." It comes down to Roland and Flagg shooting at one another as they both race for the Tower across the field of roses while dodging attacks from the Crimson King.

I hadn't planned anything more than that, but that alone strikes me as way the hell better than what King did.

Yes I'm still bitter at the final book and a half of the Dark Tower series. smile I maintain that Wizard & Glass though is one of the finest books I've ever read, period. I still have trouble believing just how great that book is. It is magnificent.

I liked the ending of the Dark Tower well enough but I have to admit I would have preferred your ending.

To the original question I would suggest the
Spoiler for Hiden:
Long Walk
also by King as Bachman.  It leaves you guessing until the very end as to who will live or die.  The fact that I read it right when the reality TV craze was first starting up added a lot to the story. 
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« Reply #33 on: May 27, 2009, 05:43:22 PM »

There's also the sword of truth series which has its fair share of questionable outcomes. I second (or third) the Necroscope series (1-5) the addon series left me disinterested.

Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series was also filled with heroic failures - I highly recommend it if you're too happy.
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« Reply #34 on: May 28, 2009, 03:07:15 AM »

Quote from: Lordnine on May 27, 2009, 05:35:26 PM

Quote from: whiteboyskim on May 27, 2009, 04:58:14 PM

Quote from: Jag on May 27, 2009, 01:37:59 PM

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 27, 2009, 01:03:16 AM

I really thought the Dark Tower series fell off the rails towards the end.  Or I was just not interested anymore. 

For me Dark Tower was all about the journey and not the conclusion. I typically don't like those types of endings, but when I was finally done I realized that I honestly didn't care how it ended because I enjoyed the story for what it was. That was unique for me at least.

I can't stand this argument. No offense against you personally but King and others have made that argument about this and other stories and here's my question: "So if the story is about the journey, then why should I care about what happens when the journey ends?"

Spoiler for Hiden:
By the end of the story, the characters will usually have changed for the better or for the worse, and worlds will have been changed. Yet my argument on the Dark Tower series is that it basically is little more than The Matrix series if the series had followed the One prior to Neo. It would end as all the others have, only maybe there would a slight hint that next time things would be different (ala the horn that Roland ends the story with). So why the hell couldn't we have had THAT story instead, King? Was 30+ years not enough time to draw a conclusion? Hell I came up with a better one in about 15 minutes after finishing the book.

In my ending, Flagg is still the dangerous wizard he always was and when he realizes Mordred has entered his mind, manages to trap Mordred there and paralyze him. Flagg then stomps the spider to death and rips off the seal from his chest (aka the key to the Tower). He then heads straight for the Tower knowing the sub-routes throughout the world. As such, it comes down to a footrace to the Tower. "The man in black fled across the blasted wasteland and the gunslingers followed." It comes down to Roland and Flagg shooting at one another as they both race for the Tower across the field of roses while dodging attacks from the Crimson King.

I hadn't planned anything more than that, but that alone strikes me as way the hell better than what King did.

Yes I'm still bitter at the final book and a half of the Dark Tower series. smile I maintain that Wizard & Glass though is one of the finest books I've ever read, period. I still have trouble believing just how great that book is. It is magnificent.

I liked the ending of the Dark Tower well enough but I have to admit I would have preferred your ending.

To the original question I would suggest the
Spoiler for Hiden:
Long Walk
also by King as Bachman.  It leaves you guessing until the very end as to who will live or die.  The fact that I read it right when the reality TV craze was first starting up added a lot to the story. 



I have read The Long Walk and LOVED it. I don't think it needs a spoiler tag as the ending is not really good or bad. It's just a great story. LOVED IT!!!!!!! smile
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« Reply #35 on: May 28, 2009, 03:09:41 AM »

Quote from: Blackjack on May 27, 2009, 04:52:17 PM


While I agree that specific book recommendations would be spoilering, maybe it would just be helpful to point him generally in the direction of authors who aren't prone to neat, tidy endings. I think part of the problem is people want to sequelize and franchise everything to death, and if you're prone to killing off your protoganist or blowing everybody up in the final scene, it doesn't make that easy to do, though there's always "prequels." smirk

Thats what I guess I was TRYING to ask smile

I just want an author that has me worried about the hero. He may not kill the hero every time, but he is not afraid to pull the trigger sometimes.
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« Reply #36 on: May 28, 2009, 03:24:51 AM »

Quote from: hepcat on May 27, 2009, 05:23:13 PM

Quote from: Daehawk on May 27, 2009, 04:10:49 PM

Old Yeller smile

I hear they're doing a remake with Yeller yankin' the gun out of the boy's hand at the end and taking out the entire family...

And the dog is CGI now.
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« Reply #37 on: May 28, 2009, 06:46:12 PM »

I have found with the Hemingway books I have read that you never know who may or may not be around at the end of the book....
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« Reply #38 on: May 28, 2009, 07:08:29 PM »

Another one that comes to mind that really was a fantastic book (if you just saw the inferior movie, don't judge it) was Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Paralleling the Odyssey in the Civil War south at the end of the war... great book.
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msteelers
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« Reply #39 on: May 28, 2009, 08:54:39 PM »

Quote from: kratz on May 28, 2009, 07:08:29 PM

Another one that comes to mind that really was a fantastic book (if you just saw the inferior movie, don't judge it) was Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Paralleling the Odyssey in the Civil War south at the end of the war... great book.

Heh. I actually had to read that in English class when I was in high school. I thought it was terrible, and made my book report and presentation about why it wasn't a good book.

I got an A-.  icon_biggrin
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