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11 Book Sequels You Probably Didn't Know Existed

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We get frustrated with Hollywood's propensity for weird sequels that seem to have little or nothing to do with the original, but it just so happens that the practice is older than filmmaking itself. Several classic stories have strange follow-ups you've never heard of, like...

1. The Starlight Barking

In case you're unaware, Disney's 101 Dalmatians was actually based on a novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith. You may also be further unaware that Smith wrote her own sequel that Disney ignored, titled The Starlight Barking.

Instead of just being a rehash of the original, Smith's story takes a very bizarre turn and involves all the world's dogs finding every living thing besides themselves in a form of stasis caused by a dog-like alien named Sirius, who invites them all to abandon Earth and join him on the Dog Star.

2. The Giver Trilogy

An extremely popular book for middle school students, Lois Lowry's The Giver has become an instant classic in the 20 years since its publication. Countless children have been assigned essays about how they interpreted the book's ambiguous ending, but they could have saved some time and just read the book's two (with a third on the way) sequels instead.

The first sequel, Gathering Blue, is only tangentially related to The Giver by being set in the same universe. However, the following book, Messenger, ties the two together and features the return of Jonas, the main character from The Giver, who obviously did not freeze to death at the end of that book.

3. The Book of the Green Planet

Although Steven Spielberg had every intention of creating a sequel to 1982's movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, things never really came together for it, and now, 30 years later, it looks extremely unlikely that it will ever see the light of day. Unless you read the semi-official novelized sequel, that is.

William Kotzwinkle, who wrote the novelization of the original film, published The Book of the Green Planet in 1985. In it, E.T. returns to his home planet of Vomestra, where he's punished for his trip to Earth and, thanks to a telepathic link, finds that Elliot has begun to grow up and forget the lessons learned from their time together.

4. Little Men & Jo's Boys

Louisa May Alcott's classic, Little Women, is actually already two books in the first place, with the first volume being Little Women and the second being Good Wives, but since they're usually compiled anyway, that hardly counts as a sequel. Luckily for this list, Alcott also produced two actual sequels, Little Men and Jo's Boys.

Little Men revolves around a group of young orphans who are students at a school run by two characters from Little Women, Jo March and her husband, Professor Friedrich. Jo's Boys, a direct sequel to Little Men, features the orphans as adults and shows how their lives changed as a result of interacting with the March family.

5. Closing Time

Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was one of the most popular novels of the 20th century, so much so that it even spawned the term "catch-22" as an everyday phrase. But what's not so popular is the book's sequel, Closing Time, published more than 30 years later. Since the original book was about World War II, long over by that time and not as ingrained into the cultural consciousness as it had been, Heller instead sets the sequel in '90s-era New York City, showing how various characters from the original novel deal with the difficulties of old age and their own mortality.

6. Paradise Regained

Whether you've read it or not, John Milton's Paradise Lost is one of the most influential works ever created. In fact, Milton's poem is responsible for a large percentage of common misconceptions regarding the contents of the Bible, meaning that it not only changed the face of English literature, but Western religion as well.

What failed to make nearly so much of a splash is Milton's follow-up poem, Paradise Regained, which was published in 1671, four years after Paradise Lost. As opposed to the original's 12 books, Regained is a mere four. It tells the story of Jesus' temptation by Satan as seen in the Book of Luke, but the poem never really caught on like the original and is widely unknown today.

7. The Tom Sawyer Series

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is one of the most read books in America today, and it's not exactly a secret that Twain later had Sawyer return in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But these weren't the only two adventures the boys had. Twain actually published two other novels in the series, both more than a decade later.

The first, Tom Sawyer Abroad, features Huck, Tom, and Jim attempting to cross the ocean in a hot air balloon while facing numerous hurdles along the way. After that came Tom Sawyer, Detective, which has Tom and Huck attempting to solve a mystery involving stolen diamonds and a possible murder. Further, Twain had three incomplete Tom Sawyer novels--Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians, Schoolhouse Hill, and Tom Sawyer's Conspiracy, the last of which was very nearly completed.

8. The Gone With the Wind Sequels

Margaret Mitchell's beloved Southern romance was not only one of the most famous books of the last century, but also spawned one of the most popular films to boot. Oddly, it took nearly 60 years for people to try to wring more cash out of it.

The book has four sequels, with varying levels of authenticity. The first, Scarlett, was an authorized sequel by Alexandra Ripley and was widely panned. A second that ignores Scarlett, Rhett Butler's People, is a re-telling of the original novel from Butler's point of view by author Donald McCraig.

Then there are the unauthorized sequels: The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall is a satirical re-telling from the perspective of an O'Hara family slave. Finally, The Winds of Tara by Katherine Pinotti is a direct sequel to the original that the Mitchell family legally blocked from publication in America.

9. The Second Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book is as famous for its Disney animated adaptation as it is for its common usage in elementary school curricula. The book, which is actually just a series of tangentially related short stories, is one of the most well-known and popular in the English language today.

A year after The Jungle Book's release, Kipling wrote a follow-up book called The Second Jungle Book, featuring five further adventures of Mowgli and his friends. Although Disney made an animated Jungle Book 2 and a live-action film called The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo, neither actually follows the plot of The Second Jungle Book.

10. The Last Ringbearer

J.R.R. Tolkien's sprawling Middle Earth series covers more than a dozen books, several of which were published after his death. Of all of his extant materials, however, one culture's history is mostly ignored--that of the people of Mordor. True, they're the bad guys, but shouldn't they get a say?

That's the premise behind Russian author Kirill Yeskov's unauthorized sequel, The Last Ringbearer. While it's not an official sequel, the book is actually fairly popular on its own merits. Yeskov presents Mordor as a highly advanced society based around science and technology. Not unlike Gregory Maguire's Wicked, The Last Ringbearer argues that "history is written by the winners" and that Mordor was actually a victim of the primitive cultures of men who blindly followed the Luddite-esque Gandalf.

11. The Amityville Saga

You probably knew from the various films' advertising campaigns that The Amityville Horror was based on a true story. How much is true is, naturally, a matter of contention. But, while the first film (and its remake) was based on the purported experiences of George and Kathy Lutz and the second film was loosely based on the actual DeFeo murders that occurred in the house, all the rest of the films are wholly fictional.

The Amityville books, however, tell a different tale. The Lutz family claimed that their paranormal experiences didn't end when they left 112 Ocean Avenue. According to The Amityville Horror Part II, the demonic forces continued to plague them at Kathy's mother's house. A second sequel, Amityville: The Final Chapter, that also claims to be true, says that the haunting even followed them to California. Other books followed, some even featuring the Lutz family, but all were acknowledged as fictional.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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