Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wheel of Time Update

Ok, quick break from grant work to let you all know that 1) Shifter is still alive and 2) Shifter is STILL reading Wheel of Time. I am now on book 11 (Knife of Dreams) and am only about 200 pages away from FINALLY getting to read the new book, The Gathering Storm. Reading the series has been an interesting experience. First, it has taken longer than I thought. Partly because I just couldn't help myself from cheating and reading other books here and there, and partly because other things ate my life (such as evil Facebook games, now dead to me). One of the things that surprised me was that overall I enjoyed most of the series more than I had recalled. There is an undeniable change in the style and nature of the writing as the books progressed, which still does make me sad. The books were always filled with detail, from Eye of the World on, but it used to be filled with rich and interesting detail. After 11 books it just got to be repetitive and boring detail. It's hard to criticize Jordan for this because, well, he's dead, but also because he just kept doing what he had done all along. Maybe that's the problem - he needed to adapt by giving less of the agonizing details as he went on. I think a part of it was that the storyline got to be very complex, and he had to remind the readers, in each book, who everyone was, what they looked like, what their accent was, what clothes they wore, and even (occasionally) what the hell they were doing there. Oddly enough he didn't remind you often about that last point, which I really would have appreciated.

But this post was not meant to complain about WoT. On the contrary, in spite of the writing style I found that I enjoyed the books straight through much more than I had one at a time. I was better able to remember all the characters and plot lines, and that did make it more interesting. I was more, rather than less, frustrated by all the little re-descriptions that were required in each book (you'd still be getting those half way through every book), but I could see why they were there. But I now agree with Brandon Sanderson, oddly enough, that the series was not written to be read one book every 2-3 years but instead as a series. One can speculate on the wisdom of writing a series of HUGE books that has TWELVE VOLUMES (now expanded to 14 by Sanderson because book 12 would have been the size of an unabridged dictionary) and expecting it to be read in sequence over a short period of time, but there you have it. There are a few freaks (e.g., me) who will do this, but most people probably won't.

In any case, the 11th book, which I am on, is a lot of fun, as was book 9 (Winter's Heart). In it you can see that Jordan really means to bring this all to a close - the last battle is coming and there will actually BE a last battle, not just some convenient narrative trick that avoids it even happening. Which is surprisingly rare sometimes - lots of build up then "presto, quest solved" happens too often in fantasy. But Book 10, Crossroads at Twilight, was pure dog doo. It is the one book that Jordan said he was not pleased with, it's the one book Sanderson, his fanboy/successor (who I do like a lot as a writer, fandom aside) said he wasn't thrilled with, and it is the one book I wish I had never read twice. If you try this experiment I'd advise reading the cliff notes version of the book online. It will save you time, brain cells, and sanity, and you'll be less confused and better informed than if you had read it.

So, probably within the week (work allowing) I'll actually be reading the novel I set out to read 8 months ago. And they said I wasn't single minded! I can't wait to see how Sanderson tackles Jordan's world and plot.


Seeker said...

I read the first book and just could NOT get into it for some reason...I love series books that create whole new worlds. Maybe...after I have read the THREE SHELVES worth of unread books I have in my office I will try this series again.

Yes...I have a rule..I CANNOT buy one more book until I have read those 3 shelves....very hard..

Shifter said...

Truth to tell, if you didn't like the first book, I'd abort, abort, abort. It does get better in the second 2, but then it gets harder and harder. If you don't love it right off, it doesn't bode well.

Good luck though on the 3 shelves! I've got my couple of shelves waiting too.