People seem to have a split opinion on prequels. On the one hand, you have stone cold classics like The Hobbit or that one Narnia book that's not as good as the others. On the other hand... you have all those Star Wars movies with the racist aliens. A sequel asks the question, "What happens next?" but a prequel asks the question, "What was going on before the actual story started?" Love them or hate them, here are a few prequels you've probably never heard of.
Of course, not all of these prequels were written by the story's original author. Some of them were always part of the plan, but some of them came decades, or even centuries later. All of them delve into the backstories of the characters we love with... mixed... results. A few of these prequels add dimension and social context to a beloved classic, exploring the historical world surrounding them. Others are possibly just trying to make a buck off of literary name recognition. But if you ever wondered what Huckleberry Finn or Captain Flint or Mr. Rochester were up to before their more mainstream stories, then you might want to check out one of these prequels:
1'Finn' by Jon Clinch
Yes, Huckleberry Finn is already a sequel of sorts to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. But Jon Clinch went even further into Huck's world with the brutal, intense story of the Judge, Huck's terrifying father. Finn is a very different sort of book than Huckleberry Finn, but then again, Clinch isn't trying to be Mark Twain (which is probably for the best). The result is a dark, complex novel exploring the darkest corners of American history through the father of an American icon.
2'Porto Bello Gold' by Arthur D. Howden Smith
Shockingly, Porto Bello Gold is not a very expensive mushroom, but rather a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (written by an entirely different person). It tells the story of Captain Flint and Murray stealing treasure and then burying said treasure, and... that's about it. As the very non-committal New York Times quote on the cover puts it, this book is a "good old fashioned pirate story," which "includes many of the characters" from its source material. Not exactly high praise, but accurate.
3'Garden of Shadows' by V. C. Andrews
Look, I'm not saying that Flowers in the Attic is a bad book... it's just that most people know it as that book about the brother and sister who get locked in an attic and have sex with each other. That's not the kind of premise you necessarily want to know more about. But still, if you're a fan of dark, twisted sagas about horrifying families, Garden of Shadows is a deeply engrossing prequel, that actually gives a somewhat believable (if disturbing) backstory to that famous attic.
4'The Family Corleone' by Ed Falco
Yes, this is a prequel to The Godfather and yes, it's based on an un-produced screenplay. This book tells the story how the Corleone family rose to power, and it's filled with clever details for anyone who knows the Godfather franchise well. If you don't already know who the Corleones, are, though... maybe don't start with this one?
5'Skagboys' by Irvine Welsh
Skagboys isn't exactly an unknown book, it's just far less popular than it's "sequel," Trainspotting. In Skagboys, Mark Renton and his friends start out as impressive young men with promise. Over the course of the novel, though, they slide into drugs, petty crime, and violence as England's working class falls apart. There's a lot of grime and quite a few laughs in Skagboys, but Trainspotting is still a pretty tough act to follow (or precede?).
6'Once Upon a Time in the North' by Philip Pullman
The great Philip Pullman is planning to grace all of us with a brand new trilogy set in the world of The Golden Compass. But in the meantime we have his novella, Once Upon a Time in the North, which fills us in on how the Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby became friends with a giant talking polar bear.
7'Before Green Gables' by Budge Wilson
Did we need a prequel explaining what Anne was up to before she was "of green gables"? No. Is this prequel an adorable edition to the Anne books anyway? Opinions differ. Budge Wilson is not L. M. Montgomery, but her version of Anne is still sweet and precocious. She's just hanging around horrible, abusive adults all the time, because this is the story of Anne back when she was an unwanted orphan (and it gets surprisingly gritty for an Anne book).