How does the story end?

A mountain road leading into a foggy forest

Maybe it's the completist in me, but I just can't stand an unfinished story. You know, like when you’re watching a TV series, and you find out after you're invested that it got canceled unexpectedly. Even worse in my opinion is a book series that the author doesn’t finish! The most infamous example is George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" which inspired HBO's "Game of Thrones" series. The fifth book in the series, "A Dance with Dragons" was published in July 2011, which means fans have been waiting for the sixth book, "The Winds of Winter," for 12 years as of July 2023.

The one I can’t wait for is the third installment of the "Kingkiller Chronicle" by Patrick Rothfuss, which, like Martin’s upcoming book, already has a title, “The Doors of Stone”. We’ve been waiting even longer than Martin fans since the second book, “The Wise Man’s Fear," by 4 whole months! We also keep getting teased with a release date that turns out to have just been rumor. So frustrating…

There are many more unfinished series. Some are just slow in coming, and some are unfinished due to the author passing away. Below is a list of some of the more popular series I’ve found and the reason they’re unfinished.

  • Octavia Butler’s “Parable” series (1993-1998) - Butler passed away in 2006, and so the third book, “The Parable of the Trickster,” was never written.
  • Melanie Rawn's “Exiles” trilogy (1994-1997) - She's writing books in other series instead of the third Exiles book, “The Captal's Tower."
  • Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series (2006-2013) - Lynch has published several short stories, alone and as part of an anthology, since 2013, but has yet to release another novel, including the fourth installment of this series.
  • Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander” series - She is writing much more slowly due to her involvement in the Starz TV show that started in 2014, but she's still working on the books.
  • David Gerrold’s “War Against the Chtorr” series (1983-1993) - In 2017, Gerrold announced the titles of the fifth and sixth books, though he plans on seven books total. As of 2023, 25 years after the fourth book, they have not yet been released.
  • Sue Grafton’s “Kinsey Millhone Alphabet” series (1982-2017) - The series had a clear endpoint, starting with “A is for Alibi.” Her last novel, “Y is for Yesterday,” was released in 2017, only months before her death. She hadn’t started writing the last book planned for the series, “Z is for Zero.” Her family has no plans to finish the series without her, and her husband and daughter have both been quoted saying the alphabet now ends at Y.

Sometimes an author, their family or estate will allow the completion of a novel or series by sharing the story rights with another author or by using a ghost writer. Frank Herbert’s “Dune” is a good example. After “Chapterhouse: Dune” was released in 1985, fans were left with a cliffhanger, even after his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson started writing “Dune” prequels in 1999. It wasn't until six books and seven years later that the cliffhanger was addressed with “Hunters of Dune” in 2006, 21 years after “Chapterhouse” was released. It just goes to show that we should never give up hope!

Another example is a favorite series of mine, Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time,” which was completed after his death, using his notes, by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. I think he did an excellent job of continuing the tone of Jordan’s writing, which doesn’t always happen. In fact, I think he did such a good job, he should ghost write the third book of the “Kingkiller Chronicle!” If Patrick Rothfuss needs the help, of course…

Would you want to read an incomplete series? Or do you get frustrated with them, too? Do you have a favorite unfinished series that I missed? Who do you think could ghost write it?