Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Club - A Memory of Light

After 14 books (plus a prequel), some 12,000 pages of text, over 4 million words, and 23 years this grand fantasy saga is finally over. I'm relieved but mostly satisfied with the conclusion.

Brian Jordan started writing this series, called "The Wheel of Time" in 1984, publishing the first volume The Eye of the World in 1990. I avoided reading it for a few year because I don't generally like fantasy. One of my favorite books of all time is Lord of the Rings which I read for the first time in grade school and have reread 3 or 4 times. Any fantasy book I pick up almost always sounds too much like a retread of LOTR.  I finally gave in and read the first book of WOT in 1994 and got hooked. If I thought I'd be finishing the series in 2013, I might have just put it down.

I'm not going to recap the story, if you're interested in this sort of thing, you already know WOT.  Or you can read the Wikipedia article. Many of the books were great. The world building was fascinating. The characters mostly interesting. The dialog between characters was always a weak part and there was a lot of dialog.

Somewhere around book 6 or 7, Jordan seemed to lose his way. He had two tendencies which made the books longer and longer and prolonged the series.  He seemed unable to stop making new characters. My rough guess is that there are 3,000 named characters in the series. Many of them appear once. Jordan may spend several paragraphs describing a character's appearance, what they had for breakfast, where they were going and what they were going to do when they got there. And this is for a person that one of the main characters (of which there are hundreds) saw walking down the street from the window of the inn where they were spending the night.

His other problem was that he seemed to think he had to advance the story of every main character in every book. There is one book, I don't remember which one, in which, a single day passes, and nothing that advances the story happens.

Unfortunately for Jordan's family and his fans, he passed away after the 11th book. He really did seem to be starting to move the story forward and apparently, the next book was going to finish it. I read recently that only about 2 years pass from the time that Rand (the guy with the sword on the cover) is found in a small village and recognized as "The Dragon Reborn" until the Last Battle with the Dark Lord in Book 14.

Brandon Sanderson, another fantasy writer of some note,  picked up the reins from Jordan and, working from massive story notes left by Jordan, said he'd finish the story, but it was going to take 3 books. 

This book, in which the Last Battle takes place, is mostly a, well, a battle. The forces of Light, led by 5-6 close companions of Rand's pits the various peoples of the World, against the chief luteniants of the Dark Lord (called the Chosen among themselves and the Forsaken by everyone else) and their armies of monsters and men and enchanted beings. Meanwhile, Rand is in personal battle with the Dark Lord himself, in the Pit of Doom. While the main battle is all swords clashing, cannons roaring, and rivers of blood, Rand's battle is stationary and is mainly a battle of minds.

All of the major characters are involved in the finale. Some do surprising heroic things, many, unexpectedly, die. The legendary heroes of old come back to fight for the Light. The Forsaken, who hate each other and the Dark Lord as much as they hate humankind, continue to sabotage each other and the Dark Lord's plans as they maneuver for positions of power.  As you might expect, it was a little too long with some actions going on like there was going to be a 15th book. But Sanderson wrapped it all up. 

There are about 2,500 reviews on Amazon. The great majority of them are a 5 rating with lots of 4s and 3s as well. Only a few hundred people gave it a 1. And those people really hated it.

I'd recommend it if you've read the rest. I'm not sure I'd recommend reading all of them unless you really love this sort of fantasy.

I've been shying away from the Game of Thrones series mainly because I don't want to read another long series. I started reading the first book got the message that winter is coming but couldn't finish it. I understand that in the 5th book, recently released, that winter still hasn't come. The HBO series is excellent so I'll stick with that.

Sorry this went on a little long.


Richard Nebe Jr. said...

James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (October 17, 1948 – September 16, 2007) wrote this series under the pen name Robert Jordan, not Brian. I've read and re-read every one of the fourteen plus the prequel, and am currently collecting the graphic comic series from Dynamite Entertainment. I found it interesting that some of the main characters and even some of the minor ones, played pivotal roles throughout the series (thinking Jain Farstrider). I've followed along since learning of Mr. Rigney's illness. He gathered his closest confidants and Mr. Sanderson during the final months of his life, outlining the entire story and how things were to be finalized. I feel Mr. Sanderson did an admiral job of taking on Jordan's herculean tragedy and bring it to fruition.

From somewhere in the middle of book 3 or 4, I wanted to know how it ends but really never wanted it to end. And never thought that it could take some 23 years for that final battle to play out! I highly recommend this series to any sci-fi/fantasy reader, especially now that it is complete.

I've heard rumors of movie rights having been acquired and sold a few times overs the years and feel that this epic could give Tolkien's a run for the ages, for "The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again."
I'm just glad I'm living in the age where this series reached it's conclusion.

On a curious side-note, I've also learned the whimsical little habit Brandon Sanderson has of sneaking into airport bookstores during his travels and signing his books on the shelves!!

Who was your favorite character? Mine was Hopper.

Jason said...

I got bogged down in book 8 two years ago and keep meaning to pick the series back up. Glad to hear Sanderson moves the story along well. Capewood, you hit the nail on the head in your criticism of Jordan's dialog. It was driving me nuts. Hand in hand with that was the constant, underlying 'battle of the sexes', for lack of a better term. The women were hard-headed and always thought they knew what was best for the men, and the men were hard headed and tended to rush right into things and think the women were out to get them. There was always an inability of the two sides to find any sort of compromise until some sort of consequences were suffered. Having said at, Jordan built a fascinating world full of interesting characters and history, and I do look forward to someday seeing how it ends.
Richard, that's a great story about Sanderson signing his books in airports. Wish I'd know that a month ago when I was traveling! Oh, and my favorite characters, so far, are Thom and Mat.