If your jaw is still on the floor after the shocking twists in Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones (read no further if you haven’t watched it yet; here there be spoilers!), well, join the club—I experienced the same thing when I read A Storm of Swords a few years back: disbelief, followed by rage, followed by depression (with a bout of light book-throwing in there somewhere). Pretty much, I felt like this guy, who just finished watching a harrowing scene from season one of the show (warning: colorful language). And yes, I probably should have been expecting it after Ned lost his head in A Game of Thrones, but it takes guts to kill off half your main characters in one chapter. Apparently George R.R. Martin has guts.
With that in mind, here are a few other books that had no qualms about pulling the rug out from under readers and not worrying about hurting anyone in the process (once again, spoilers, obviously):
1) Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: Throughout the book, our unnamed narrator is deeply involved with charismatic troublemaker Tyler Durden—first drawn to him, then horrified when he learns of the depths of the man’s depravity. So it’s pretty surprising when we learn that the narrator actually IS Tyler. Special kudos to director David Fincher for managing to make this twist work on film.
2) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: What seems like a pretty straightforward young adult novel about kids playing war games becomes something much more when we figure out that the climactic battle against a massive alien fleet was no mere simulation, but a real battle that resulted in the deaths of billions of aliens—an entire species, in fact (sorry we didn’t tell you about the genocide, kid). It’s enough to make you think twice before stomping on your next goomba while playing Super Mario.
3) Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Just after you’ve finished having your life affirmed by the uplifting story of a boy surviving against the odds after spending months on a lifeboat with a ferocious tiger, Martel brings the hammer down—there was no tiger, and the events on the boat were a bit less magical than advertised (unless you are enchanted by cannibalism, I suppose).
4) Atonement by Ian McEwan: No one would call this WWII drama a happy story, but it was certainly a lot happier when we thought the two lovers at its center, Cecilia and Robbie, were reunited after the war. Yeah, no—that was just a story the girl’s sister invented to try to make up for the fact that a lie she told directly resulted in Robbie dying at the front and her sister being killed in a bombing raid. But how is she going to make up for the fact that she tricked me into reading the book?
5) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: An oldie but a goodie. Just when you think things are finally going to work out between shy-but-steadfast governess Jane and the taciturn-but-tender Edward Rochester, you find out the reason for all the weird sounds and mysterious fires that have been occurring with regularity at Thornfield Hall—Rochester’s crazy first (and remaining) wife has been holed up in the attic for years. Couldn’t anyone have mentioned this before the wedding started? (But don’t fret, I have one final spoiler for you: reader, she married him.)
What’s your favorite literary twist?