Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A new and ridiculous project

Ok, so fantasy fans will probably know of the Wheel of Time. That mammoth series of novels by the late Robert Jordan that started back in the late 80s and he was still writing when he died. WoT was a rollercoaster of a series. And by that I mean it climbed up, and up, and up, and then rolled on downhill for far too long. The first 5 to 6 books, each of which was huge, were awesome. Like you couldn't put them down. They did involve swords, and magic (of a particularly interesting sort), and prophecy and fate, but in a relatively new way and told in a very compelling fashion that made them just great. But Jordan had a flaw, in my opinion. He kept biggering. He started with a full cast of 3 male characters, 2 female characters, 1 sorceress, 1 warrior, and was doing well with it. He started with a huge world with many cultures that were interesting, and a lot of history to the world (nowhere near as much as the Malazan books, but more than most settings). This was pretty big. But then he started adding new characters, and new obstacles, and new descriptions of all these myriad cultures and so forth in each book. So the cast grew and grew, the plot lines multiplied almost exponentially, and somewhere along the lines it wasn't fun any more. It wasn't compelling, and it was repetitive. The main character, the doomed hero, would be down, almost out, then take over another kingdom. Oh, and he'd kill an evil sorcerer or 2. Next book he's down, almost out, then kills a sorcereress and takes a new kingdom. And on. And on.

So the first 6 books were great. The next 5 books were, well, not so great. Almost mediocre. In my opinion. And I hate to say that because the first 6 books were so very very great. So Jordan was still writing these, and they were still selling wonderfully (mostly because so many of us wanted to know how the hell he was going to wrap this thing up, which he swore he would do), and he was, in fact, writing what he swore would be the final book. It looked impossible to do. He had so many plot lines, so many characters, and aside from one memorable event each of the last 5 books seemed to make things muddier and harder to resolve instead of showing a progression towards a climax. But I hung in there, boy did I.

Then he died.

Note to those who have read earlier posts - I had never met nor had any contact with him in any way. This was not my fault.

But when he died, the empire of his novels was such that it could not be allowed to fade into the gray. Instead, the publisher and Jordan's wife, who I gather had been his (not always so skilled, perhaps?) editor, sought out a new author to finish the series based on Jordan's extensive notes, stated plot line (which he had shared with his wife and family), and those fragments of book 12 that he had written. Jordan had been quite ill and knew his time was limited, I think, and so had kind of paved the way for this.

The guy they got to write this last, mammoth book was Brandon Sanderson. I'd never heard of him until he was chosen, but once he was I read about 5 of his books (maybe his only 5, I'm not sure) and found 3 of them to be just awesome and the other 2 to be very good. And for the first time in a decade I was excited for the next WoT book. No offense to Mr. Jordan, actually. I think that he was sick, and tired, and that it was just getting away from him. Or maybe it's just me and my awful taste in novels, and the last 5 books were really great, and I'm being fickle. Always possible, but all I can do is share my own opinions.

So all of this, ALL of it, is just my little preamble for the new project. Book 12, by Sanderson and, posthumously, Jordan, is out. Surprise! It isn't the last book. The last book was so huge, as laid out by Jordan, that Sanderson was only able to squeeze the first third of it into book 12, so there will also be a book 13 and 14. I'm sure the publisher is really broken up about that. Again, given the state of affairs prior to book 12 it's not at all surprising, really, that this will take a 3 part "final book." I bought book 12, sat down to read it, and then it hit me. I couldn't read this. I could barely remember the events from the first 6 books, and I could literally remember ONE of the events from the last 5 (they were just that non-memorable). So if I wanted to read this right, and see how Sanderson had done, I would need to start back at the beginning.

I debated this, because hey, that's a lot of reading, and at least half of it will be not great stuff (though I hope that I'll see things I like that I missed before) but I started this new project about a month back. I've now read almost 3 of the first books and am liking them just as much now as I did the first time I read them. I'm looking forward to the next 3 at least, and then we'll see how it goes. I don't think I'll eschew all other reading in the meantime, though. There's still nonfiction and, as importantly, a new Malazan book I need to devour. But I'll work through the WoT books as soon as I can. I am going to avoid all reviews of Book 12, so when I do read it I won't be expecting Great Things or dreading another Disaster. Reviews can really ruin things sometimes.

In many, many months I'll let you know how book 12 is. Then I'll read the reviews. I expect that book 13 will be out by then, and then it'll just be about a year before the final, final book is out.

What I won't do is subject you to a summary of each book as I read them, partly because I'm not that cruel and partly because Sanderson already did that long before he was chosen to write book 12. The really great thing about imaginary readers is I can imagine that you're even interested in looonnggg rants about series's you either never will read or already read and know about. I love my imagination!

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