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richard morgan
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 02:15 pm:   

Okay, for those who wondered - that's the end of The Wasteland by TS Eliot, who Steph Swainston and I have just been beating up on a parallel thread. (Well, he's dead - what's he going to do about it, huh?)

THIS is a thread about great last lines in novels. I'm going to set the ball rolling with Jim Thompson, who (at least twice to my knowledge) manages to end first person narrated novels with the death of the protagonist:

Savage Night:

"Death was there. And he smelled good."

After Dark, My Sweet:

"I just kind of stopped all over."
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richard morgan
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:33 am:   

Gorky Park starts like this:

"All nights should be so dark, all winters so warm, all headlights so dazzling"

and ends like this:

"black on white, black on white, black on white and then gone."

Beautiful novel, stands out in the international thriller/crime genre like a racehorse in a bunch of camels.
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richard morgan
Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 - 10:39 am:   

And here are a few SF beginnings from that old master, Bob Shaw:

"In spite of all his efforts, Tavernor was unable to remain indoors when it was time for the sky to catch fire."

- the Palace of Eternity

"I think I can be of service to you," the pale stranger said. "I want to commit suicide."

- Waltz of the Bodysnatchers

"It was a trivial thing - a cigarette lighter - that finally wrecked Philip Connor's peace of mind."

- a Full Member of the Club

and a hokey old golden age standard given a twist:

"Candar waited seven thousand years before he saw his second spaceship."

- Ship of Strangers
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - 02:31 pm:   

Gorky Park, what a brilliant first line. Now I want to read it.

And thanks, by the way, for recommending SNOW - Orhan Pamuk. In the three opening pages I actually shed a tear (now that is not like me), because I wanted to be able to write like that. Not envy, not at all; recognition of how very, very good he is. It is a calm, warm feeling, that recognition of genius. You feel like you've known the words all the time. You feel like you've come home.

I last had that feeling with 'Smilla's feeling for snow', 'Perfume', 'Light', some others which were equally smooth. I'm now collecting all Pamuk but if I used the word 'genius', I mean genius in the piece of work, not in the man: his 'White Castle' is his first book and not up to scratch (could be marred by translation).


Bob Shaw - great stuff.

from Ragged Astronauts: 'It had become obvious to Toller Maraquine and some others watching on the ground that the airship was heading into danger.'

WORST first lines:

1. Dune. 'A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.'
Ack!

2. 2001. 'The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended.'

3. Satanic Verses. ' "To be born again," sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, "first you have to die." '

4. Paul Clifford, by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton: 'It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.'
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Jesse Jordan
Posted on Sunday, June 24, 2007 - 07:10 pm:   

New to the board here. Just finished re-reading the Kovacs novels (in the span of about 4 days!) and want to thank Richard for the best reads I've had in a long time.

I'm breaking the rules of this thread by quoting not a last line, nor an opening line, but an opening passage from Alan Moore's "Watchmen":



Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire thread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.

The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.

The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"...

... and I'll look down, and whisper "No."

:-)
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Kiran Patel
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 - 03:36 am:   

Not trying to suck up to the thread starter or anything, but these have been my favourite two last lines for a few years now:

In close second, from some book or other:

"This after life shit is overrated."

But the best, just for the impact to the story, has got to be from Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks:

"Thi starz 1/2 movd"

Seriously, the scope of those four words still gives me goosebumps.
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richard morgan
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 - 06:36 am:   

Thanks Kiran - I'll take close second to Banks any day and twice on Sunday - he's one of my favourite authors (though personally I don't think Feersum Endjinn was one of his finest)

Broken Angels - yeah, I think it was part way through that book that I suddenly started to be really afraid of Kovacs. In the planetary war setting, the return from the dead theme I'd touched on in Altered Carbon suddenly took on all its zombie/demonic implications for me. The idea of someone who gets to go to paradise, but just doesn't rate it much and would really rather get back to the hellish realities of life in a profession of violence - that ethos was very appealing, and at the same time very scary. It's that sense of elemental unstoppability, of something you thought was dead or at least at rest, waking up and coming at you once again.

Also, of course, it's an ending that points up the fact that the various fictive paradises that religion has dreamed up for us would in fact very quickly become boring for anybody with any trace of a human spark - truth is, we just aren't designed for long term bliss. Which fact can also be a bit scary, if you stare into it for long enough.......
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Kiran Patel
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 - 07:20 am:   

Strange. Feersum endjinn is one of my favourites along with Use of Weapons, which also has a top class ending. Not a last line, but nearly:

He pressed the gun hard against his temple and pulled the trigger.

The besieged forces round the [battleship] broke out within the hour while the surgeons were still fighting for his life. It was a good battle, and they nearly won.

I had the timely fortune of reading Broken Angels at the start of March, 2003. A world preparing for war over resources that the populace neither endorsed nor supported.

As far as favourite character names go, Djoko Roespinoedji is a clear winner. Asuming, that is, that Im pronouncing it correctly:

JOKE-Oh Rows-pin-OH-gee

?
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richard morgan
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 - 12:16 pm:   

Ah - Use of Weapons - now you're talking......

Djoko Roespinoedji, yeah, that sounds about right, though it's hard to recall now - like an awful lot of the names in Broken Angels, this one was borrowed from a list of the overseas students I taught on a pre-sessional English course in the summer of 2001, so it's years since I heard the name uttered by someone who knows. The real Djoko wasn't, of course, anything like the character in the book - although, now I come to think of it, like an awful lot of the students who'd come to do postgrad studies in Marketing, he was a rabidly neoliberal little guy......so maybe there was a trace of inspiration there....
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Kiran Patel
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 - 01:30 pm:   

Its just one of those incongruities: initially - when you see the name Djoko Roespinoedji - you get kind of jarred behind the eyes. You can't scan any further until you've audibly reconciled the seemingly bizarre visual arrangement of letters into something sensible. Its really nice when that something turns out to be not just sensible, but effortlessly mellifluous, and from then on every time you see the name your ears read it for you. It also fits into my head as part of a song:

Good King Wenceslas looked out... Djoko Roespinoedji.

Don't ask me why.

As for long term bliss, I don't think we're designed for long-term anything. We have the ability to auto-normalise any persistent situation, to reset the benchmark. It implies that everything is comparative, and also points to the reason why its good to leave the comfort zone once in a while - go camping in the rain for a week and tell me if you don't notice your ceiling when you get home.

This living-in-a-house shit is overrated.
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richard morgan
Posted on Monday, July 02, 2007 - 06:13 pm:   

:-)
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Franjo Franjkovic
Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2007 - 06:08 am:   

My favourite last line ever. Mike Hammer after he shot Charlotte in the end of "I, the Jury" and she is dying right in front of him, asking how he could kill her:

"It was easy," I said.

That's the best ending Spillane ever wrote and the most badass line, any noir-character ever said.
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Kiran Patel
Posted on Monday, November 12, 2007 - 04:00 am:   

Just to refer back to the title of the thread, I noticed last week that the name of the virus in Heroes is the Shantih virus.

Now i've not read The Wasteland (but i have seen Children of Men and read Consider Phlebas & Look to Windward (!) ) but was wondering why a virus that affects super-powered people would be named suchly. Any shouts as to relevance, anyone? Or is it just a standard label for the end of the world?

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