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Serial Escalation / Literature

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  • In the first Harry Potter book, three people die, all of them offstage. Several are seen on-page.
  • From the first chapter of The Princess Bride comes this gem. By the end of the book, Buttercup's all but describing her love as "over nine thousand."
    "I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn't matter. I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now than when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison."
    • Westley then tops that by explaining how much greater his love is compared to hers.
    • Referenced (and parodied) in Jack of Fables, when Jack copies this speech practically word for word and tells it to the Snow Queen. Unlike Buttercup, though, Jack doesn't really love her and just wants to mooch off her and live in her palace as long as he can.
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  • A Running Gag in Loyal Enemies is that the various races the heroes meet bestow progressively bigger armies upon them as gifts for favors the heroes have done (and to stick it to the previous race in the chain). The dryad queen gives them a unit of dryad soldiers. When the elven king learns about it, he gives them two units of elven soldiers to help them. And when the heroes help a local dwarven clan, the entire clan decides to aid them in their fight. Funnily enough, when the armies actually show up for the battle, there are even more members of the alliance.
  • How many missiles can be fired off at once in an Honor Harrington battle? In the whole first book, covering months of time and multiple battle scenes, we saw perhaps dozens of missiles fired. By the last book, in the climactic battle, half a million are fired in the opening salvo.
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  • China Miéville's Iron Council - What sort of golem is Judah Low going to whip up this time?
  • Pandora's Star features a battle in which a wormhole-jumping spaceship instantaneously warps around a planet fending off an enemy barrage. The adversary's response? Open enough wormholes around the ship to blast it with ninety-six nuclear missiles from every conceivable angle.
  • The Lensman series is made of this with its Lensman Arms Race. Gee, where to even start? Galactic Patrol starts with spaceships capable of ninety parsecs per hour and firing "super-atomic" explosives (which might be matter-antimatter explosives, since they liberate 100% of their mass-energy). By the beginning of the third book there are flotillas of armed, moving planets; by the end, whole planets made of antimatter are used as faster-than-light projectiles routinely, and there is a psychic super-mind (the "Unit") capable of destroying the Eddorian planet, which "all the physical weapons of all the universes" could not harm.
    • Um... not quite. The planet-sized antimatter bombs were never FTL, except in their transport from place to place. You're confusing them with the Nth-space planets. The Unit did not actually destroy Eddore; it was merely the 'chisel' for the shattering of the Eddorians' final lines of TELEPATHIC defence (and their subsequent destruction) by the Arisians' and Lensmen's telepathic 'hammer'. The planet remained intact.
    • And you forgot the Sunbeam, which takes the entire energy output of a star and turns it into a BFG. And the bad guys were already working on a improved version that would be able to hit a target across interstellar distances.
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    • As far as the enemies themselves, every book ends with the heroes destroying the Big Bad, only to discover he was actually The Dragon to some even greater threat.
  • The Dresden Files: What mind-blowingly awesome trick will Harry pull this time? How many new scars can he get? How much more badass can Murphy become before she becomes the female equivalent of Kamina? How bizarre and gory can the villains' tactics get? How much can we scale up the Gambit Pileup? How pretty can Thomas be? How's Harry going to top The Dinosaur Incident? How much ass can be kicked? How many more mind-blowingly evil and powerful people can Harry piss off?
    • Lampshaded in one of the later books, when Harry reminisces about how much Bianca scared him when he was up against her, even though by that point he recognises that she was little more than a Starter Villain. Admittedly, she had a Small Role, Big Impact, but the impact was largely accidental, and she was neither particularly powerful nor clever compared to the Faerie Queens, Fallen Angels and Eldritch Abominations who are Harry's main enemies as the books continue.
  • And on that note, Codex Alera: How outnumbered can the heroes be? What ridiculously over-the-top awesome plan is Tavi going to pull off next?
    Bernard: Big?
    Doroga: He saw that the creatures tracked him by heat. So he set the forest on fire.
    • Part of Tavi's modus operandi is to get the enemy somewhere he can light a whole bunch of them on fire- hell, one time he not only did it once, but twice, and then followed it up in the climax of the action by- after his foes have used their magic to block out the sun- bringing the sun to them. Magical multiple refraction laser, activate!
  • Matthew Reilly books. Where to begin? Oh, let's go with flying a stealth plane out of a collapsing ice cave, killing twenty men with one grenade, pinning a man trying to kill you while missing a leg, crushing Humvees with a plane in an underground hangar, driving said plane into an elevator shaft large enough to hold planes with the elevator over fifty feet down, hijacking a space shuttle, chasing down a ballistic missile with a plane, getting on the other side of a car pinning you to a tunnel wall by driving up the wall and flipping the car over the other's roof, getting a boat dragged by Boeing 747, flipping a double-decker bus over a wall so that it lands on its roof and rolls the right way up, killing a helicopter with an enemy-driven jet ski, having a convoy chase down a jumbo jet on an Egyptian highway, climbing from one plane to another while both are flying, a one-winged 747 sliding down a slope of spikes, a tsunami throwing a supertanker up a mountain, one man holding off a platoon from a citadel by using trebuchets, killing your enemy by decapitating them with a subway, having an fight scene beneath a descending elevator, running thirty feet on the backs of caimans, and disarming a planet-destroying bomb from inside a tank that fell from a plane 30,000 feet up.
  • Tau Zero concerns time dilation in a slower-than-light colony ship, the Leonora Christine. To begin, it flies close enough to lightspeed that a 30-something-light-year journey will only take about a decade, from the point of view of the ship...but the main reason for this is the need to decelerate. When the ship's deceleration system is damaged and the crew need to find a safe place to turn off the engines without being shredded by interstellar hydrogen, they need to accelerate closer and closer to lightspeed, to increase the time dilation on-ship enough to be able to survive the journey... but the faster they go, the emptier space has to be to count as a vacuum...and the faster they have to go to be able to survive the longer and longer journey to the emptier stretches of space. By the time they find a region of space that's empty enough for them to repair the ship, the Big Crunch has started, so they have to wait for it to finish, along with the ensuing next Big Bang, calculating their deceleration to end up in a star system where they'll most likely find an inhabitable planet. It's made even crazier by the fact that the ship's objective speed only changes by the tiniest fraction of a percentage of the speed of light.
  • For Paul Bunyan and other Tall Tale characters this is pretty much the reason they exist, to make each subsequent story even bigger, more outlandish, and more absurdly implausible than the last. For example, after all the story's explaining how inhumanly large Paul is, there then come along story's like "Paul Bunyan's Cornstalk," where the eponymous stalk of corn grows so fast that, when Paul tries to chop it down, he's never able to hit it twice in the same place; by the time he makes a second swing of his axe, the stalk's grown so high that the first chop mark is over his head and out of sight!
  • How many potential murderers will reveal to Father Wolfe their motives and opportunity to commit the crime in Father, Forgive Them?
  • How much drugs can Duke and Dr. Gonzo put in their systems? Answer: a lot.
  • The New Jedi Order series: how many planets and how many billion people are we going to obliterate/kill/sacrifice today while the heroes care little?
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Red Wedding. Because Robb broke off an arranged marriage one of his daughters, Walder Frey has many of Robb's Bannerman and army massacred. Then he kills Robb. Then he kills Robb's mother Catelyn Stark. Then Arya Stark is nearly killed.
    • Regarding Shagga, son of Dolf, who has a thing for axes:
      Kevan Lannister: The big hairy one wanted two axes, black steel, double-sided.
      Tyrion Lannister: Shagga likes axes.
      Lord Lefford: He still had that woodaxe strapped to his back.
      Tyrion Lannister: Shagga is of the opinion that three axes are better than two.
  • McAuslan: How many people can you rope into a Highland reel? Apparently, after trying (and succeeding) for the Black Watch's record of sixtyfour, the General insists that they try for three figures. Said and done, after roping in a bunch of prisoners of war, the sentries from the neighbouring garrison and a bunch of people who have come up from a nearby town to see what the hell is going on, the Regiment dances a Onehundredandtwentyeightsome Reel, a grueling process which takes over two and a half hours.
  • In terms of going figuring out who the Big Bad is supposed to be, The Enchantment Emporium starts with Allie trying to find out what happened to her grandmother. Then she finds out there's a sorcerer in town. Except, he's waiting on the appearance of a Dragon Lord, that turns out to be Jack, his son. Then several other Dragon Lords- Jack's uncles- show up, split between helping and hindering the first one.note . Then Jack's mother, a Dragon queen, makes an appearance....
  • The poem titled A Cut for You [1] has a rather gory case of this as its about two friends (presumably female, according to one of the lines) playing a game where the goal seems to be who can cause themselves the most injury. The game ends when one of them hacks off a limb and they declare it a tie.
  • Fox and O'Hare: The danger ramps up slowly but surely as the series progresses, to the point where The Pursuit starts with Nick getting kidnapped.
  • In Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle, Lux is first asked by Krulcifer to pretend to be her boyfriend, to stop her family badgering her into getting married. Later on, she brings him to her homeland with the pretence that they're engaged and are regularly having sex (by this point she's actually attracted to him). And then Lux and Philuffy have to infiltrate a hostile country with the cover story of being newlyweds.


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