Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Light At the End Of The Booktunnel

These Wheel Of Time books by Robert Jordan (and now by Brandon Sanderson) have caused me more bookshelf grief than any other books I own. I mean, there are thirteen of them now and they just dominate two whole shelves in my library and when I look at them, I feel ashamed and annoyed.

Thirteen (and there will be a fourteenth next year) is far too many books to tell one story. No story needs fourteen books to tell. Not one. It's narratological laziness to so steadfastly refuse to wrap up like that. And something like six of these thirteen books have almost nothing at all happening of import. I have a kind of Stockholm Syndrome for these books, I think. Because I sort of hate them, but I just keep chugging along.

I'm pot committed.

And, when the series' author, Robert Jordan, died before finishing the story that was just perfect; I can't imagine how I expected any other outcome.

Now the good news is that Jordan's replacement, working from his notes, Brandon Sanderson, is clearly motivated to actually wrap it up. It can be almost maddening, the alacrity with which he wraps up the thousands of plot threads, actually, but it is welcome. Mostly, we are left to wonder why these plot threads existed in the first place if they could be so easily tied off. Still, after a half dozen books of noodling, it is deeply satisfying to smell a conclusion, no matter how rushed it ironically feels.

The bad news is that Sanderson, though a writer of obvious ability and prolificacy, is not the writer that Jordan was, nor does he have the grasp of character through dialogue that Jordan did. Sanderson frequently suffers from the amateur's insistence of making characters speak in too many words and explain themselves too thoroughly and, worse, he makes them all sound alike, shuffling off the subtleties of characters we had waaaaay too many books to get to know and replacing them with caricatures of those characters.

I dunno. This series has become like a failed relationship to me. You keep on chugging along because the memories of the good times and of your hope for the success of it burn brightly in your imagination, but the truth is that you are just waiting for the holidays to be over so you can break it off for good. I'll be glad when the last book is out and read and I'll hate the way it looms from my shelf with its thirteen brothers.

Oh, that said, I love those Aelfinn and Eelfinn. Those guys are the best, right? Why didn't that bit take up as much time as the four hundred chapters about Perrin being unsure of himself and the provisioning of an army. Yikes!

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