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As I finish up the second most-awaited third volume of the year, I’m left wondering about trilogies.

Hollywood has long taken advantage of the popularity of original works to produce sequels, but rarely are these films better than the original (feel free to post your inevitable defense of The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan here). Of course, Hollywood’s trilogies suffer greatly from the fact that they are rarely planned; rather, they are most often attempts to capitalize on the success of the original.

As such, they are generally ill-conceived, rushed, and often leave you even more depressed than when you started—Wachowski brothers, I’m looking at you.

But what of literary trilogies? Two of the biggest book releases of 2010 were conclusions to trilogies, the first volumes of which were released in the US in 2008: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games series seems to have been planned as a trilogy, but, while the Millennium Trilogy was only submitted to publishers after the (now late) author had completed all three books, rumor of a manuscript for a fourth book leads one to believe that the series would have continued.

What’s intriguing to me is that, while opinions vary on which book in the Millennium Trilogy is “the best” (as often seems to happen with books in an extended series), everyone I know who has read the Hunger Games trilogy was disappointed with Mockingjay, myself included.

Are the second and third volumes of literary trilogies doomed to disappoint? After all, people say that Purgatorio and Paradiso are a snooze, and only Inferno is worth reading. As I pick up Beaumarchais’s Figaro trilogy to prepare for Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro later this month, do I bother to read La Mère coupable?

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