Thursday, December 03, 2009

The wheel just keeps on turning...

I'm a cynical bastard at heart.

For instance, when I heard that Michael Jackson was dead I immediately thought, "Hoax!". He was in a lot of debt, old, and in danger of becoming irrelevent, never mind that half the world thought he was a kiddie fiddler. So why not fake your death, cash in on the increased record sales through third parties and, I dunno, have facial reconstructive surgery, change your name and move to Armenia. Or something.

Similiarly, when I first read on the web that author Robert Jordan had died, my immediate thought was, "BASTARD BETTER NOT BE DEAD BETTER BE FAKING IT BASTARD."

A little more to the extreme side than the reaction to Jacko, I admit, but I cared not a jot for the so-called King of Pop, whereas Jordan was responsible for the literary equivelant of Star Trek in The Wheel of Time series.

I picked up the first part of this series in 1998 and immediately fell in love with it. It's rich, incredibly detailed and complex. Complete nerd-bait, in fact. I remember being told by a Waterstones shop assistant while I was buying book seven that he'd stopped reading at the fourth one as he "couldn't keep up with all the plot lines". Christ, did he get out easy.

Jordan ended up prevarivating too much, spending two chapters where a page would have done, introducing extra plot lines and characters just - it seemed - to keep us all reading. The series moved further and further from the giant of the fantasy world, and closer and closer to becoming a commercial shill, a £20 hardback shat out every other year for guaranteed returns. It reached its nadir, in my opinion, with books nine and ten which were essentially the same damn novel. The eleventh book (not bad for a six-part series, how Adamsian) moved things on a bit, perhaps because Jordan knew his health was failing him. I didn't know he was sick until he died, but even then I was hoping - just as Stephen King hoped of himself - that he would live to finish the series.

And then he died.

But! The wheel turns on and on, especially when there's money to be made. The announcement that a little known "fantasy author" would pick up the baton and complete Jordan's magnum opus filled me with little more than dread. I'd long lost my love for the series, but was determined to read to the end, if only to find out what the ending actually was. Book 12 (book twelve-and-one-third to be more precise) has reignited the torch I once held for the world of The Wheel of Time.

It's obviously another authors work. There are shifts in tone and the dialogue is a little less, well, "fantasy" (the word "homicide" stands out as being blatantly out of place) but the pace of the series finally picks up and there are more threads tied off and more plotlines closed in this chapter of the series than, it feels, in the previous two. Only a million more to go then...

I had feared that the series would veer off into a completely commericalised and empty experience - much like Raymond Fiests work has ended up - but I'm glad to see that Brandon Sanderson has completed the best entry into the series since, arguably, 1994's Lord of Chaos. That's a long time waiting, but, to continue the analogy, Trekkies had to wait 13 years between First Contact and Star Trek.

The wheel keeps turning. Hopefully, soon, it'll stop, and we'll get the ending to this series we've been waiting for.

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