When I hear people whine and complain about how long they have to wait for a new season of Game of Thrones the hairs on my neck start to stand on end as a sense of rage and anger boils through me with such a voluminous force that I contort into a being of pure malevolence and rage. One eye bulges out while the other retracts deep into its socket, my back hunches over and one hand stretches out long as the other curls against my chest as if caught in some kind of palsy and my voice becomes raspy and frail like that of an old gatekeeper. Then a simple conversation ensues.
Me: Oh… you are upset you have to wait a few months huh?
Other person: Oh I get it! You read the books huh?
And then my voice releases its strangled cry.
Me: Not just you fool! For I was a reader of THE WHEEL OF TIME!
The image for the series should have been Sisyphus pushing a stone.
The final volume of the Wheel of Time was released on January 8th 2013. Titled A Memory of Light it closes a series that has spanned 4,056,130 words taking 22 years, 11 months and twenty-four days to see full publication and took the combined writing of Robert Jordan, a penname for James Oliver Rigney Jr., and Brandon Sanderson to complete.
Robert Jordan published the first volume on January 15, 1990. Over time his work began to extend in length from an initial projection of three books to what would become this fourteen volume literary work. The ongoing lengthening of this series has become something of a cautionary tale among more foolhardy circles.
Regretfully Robert Jordan would contract amyloidosis, a rare disease that (based on Jordan’s explanation) is contracted by eight out of a million people yearly. It is known to have twenty two distinct forms each requiring their own unique treatment. Jordan’s caused extensive heart complications which gave him a projected four years left to live.
Upon diagnosis Jordan vowed to complete the story within one final volume before his passing or at least leave as a complete a body of notes for it to be completed in his absence. Afterward it was believed that the series would be left in its existing state; for who would dare complete a series that was considered cursed?
Then along came a knight of the written word, true of heart and pure of skill, Sir Brandon of Sanderson who took up the quest at the bidding of the Queen (Jordan’s Wife). He proclaimed to the land that he would complete the quest that, thus far, was deemed an impossibility.
And the people replied, “BULLSHIT!”
But Sir Brandon rose to the quest and proclaimed upon seeing the breadth of the quest that it would take three tomes to complete. And lo the people made the motion of jerking with their hands for they had become bitter and tired and no longer believed in heroes.
But Sir Brandon did indeed complete the three tomes and thus became a knight and protector true of the kingdom, vanguard of the fans and savior of the Wheel of Time.
While my tone is an exaggeration I`ve compromised none of the facts of this particular story. The entire history of this publication reads like the rise of Galahad completing the quest for the Holy Grail which King Arthur could not. And I’m sure there’s an Arthur author pun in there but I refuse to make it.
Because we are all better than it.
Normally I`d go into a synopsis, even a light one, of the story behind Wheel of Time but fourteen tomes is a devil to summarize and even summarizing the first novel feels like an injustice. The effort required to summarize it is akin to one summarizing Game of Thrones, the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire but for different reasons. With Game of Thrones it is difficult to summarize that story as powerful revelations occur within the first hundred pages and fans are forced to simply label it as gritty fantasy and saying “Don’t get attached to characters.” With Wheel of Time it is the very definition of a sweeping epic of destiny with modern writing aesthetics. If you can imagine the story of a young hero going on a quest and facing adversity then that is effectively what happens. There are specifics of the cosmology, magic, and the fact that the title of the series is an actual reference to the innate nature of how history flows within this universe but I rob potential readers of the opportunity to explore these plot devices as they are presented in theme and in this case, I don’t want to do that.
The crippling blow to Wheel of Time came to the fact that the author decided to continue to develop his world and the characters within down to the smallest minutia with each ensuing novel. While it allowed for a much larger epic with incredible detail, it also gained a reputation for being tedious and slow paced as minor characters were given the attention normally reserved for main characters while main characters were given such grand descriptions of their thought process that it could merit a doctoral thesis.
There exists a set of unwritten recommendations on how to read the series ought be read for those who wish to dip into it casually, this includes skipping entire novels and reading the Wikipedia entries. To read the entire series is something of a dedication that mocks those who find The Lord of The Rings ponderous.
And yet, I still want to read the entire series.
You have to understand, in the 90s Wheel of Time was the quintessential fantasy book series, a position that (very arguably) hadn’t been usurped since Lord of the Rings. It sparked a new wave of fantasy readers to discover a crop of titles during that period such as Another Fine Myth, The Elvenbane, The Last Dragonlord, and I’m just talking about the books I found. Now, that doesn’t compare to the explosion of Game of Thrones but keep in mind this was during the dark internet times of the 90s long before the geek revolution. It had to make mileage in a time when geeks could only hide and box up their passions in hidden alcoves as book and TV show recommendations passed between trusted friends for fear of persecution.
And yet the saga promptly earned its place on bookstore shelves around the world as each store was always sure to carry a tome.
I may think that some of the characters act like complete and total prats at times and I may find some of the mental expositions boring… but maybe that’s my quest. To do what I’ve always believed cannot be done and sit in one of the best crafted fantasy worlds in history.
So too does this work exist.