Monday, September 17, 2007

Thoughts on Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time

By the time I discovered The Wheel of Time I had been reading fantasy for several years. I had run through most of the major fantasy authors of the day: Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Raymond Feist, and Anne McCaffrey and I wanted something new. This was before the internet and online recommendations so I grabbed a book that looked interesting: The Eye of the World. I was hooked from the prologue where Lews Therin Telamon was at the end of his life after having destroyed everything that he loved and much of the world. The Eye of the World then turned into a story of a simple farmer joining his friends for a holiday celebration turned terror when Trollocs attacked and a mysterious woman in blue helped to save the day. From that point it was a fantasy love affair of nearly twenty years with this world and story that Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney, Jr) created and first began in 1990.

When I began reading The Wheel of Time Jordan was only 5 volumes into his long running (and uncompleted) saga and I was treated yearly for a time with new entries. A new Robert Jordan novel was an Event and a chance to marvel and wonder at what was going to happen next and when Moiraine would return to fight at Rand Al’Thor’s side once again. We knew she would. She’s a Gandalf type character. Even when I, as a reader and fan, grew frustrated with the overall lack of plot advancement, I would rather be reading a new Wheel of Time entry than not. These characters were old friends and the setting now as familiar as my childhood neighborhood. Emond’s Field was that place we all long to go back to even though we’ve changed enough that it’ll never be home again.

Jordan’s creation was never perfect and an argument could be made that with a good editor with a big red pen we could have had a truly remarkable series of 7-9 volumes rather than the series we have which features 4-5 truly special novels followed by merely good or decent novels with moments that make us gasp. The conclusion to Winter’s Heart? I had to read it three or four times it was that outstanding. I could FEEL those chapters and I needed to read them again to really live that moment again.

As I mentioned earlier, though, I would rather read what I would consider a “sub par” effort than no effort at all because all of it builds this world which loomed so large in my fantasy landscape.

It may not be possible to overstate the importance of Robert Jordan in my fantasy reading history. He looms large over everybody else. I had been previously hooked on Eddings and Feist, but not like I was on Robert Jordan’s work. Robert Jordan cast a large shadow over fantasy in my high school and college years and though I have since discovered author fantasists like George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Steven Erikson, Melanie Rawn, Robin Hobb, Brandon is still Robert Jordan that looms the largest and that I would come back to time and time again to rediscover his story and to read the newest entry in The Wheel of Time. Part of me wishes that we really would get Wheel of Time: Volume 38 – Nyneave Tugs Her Braid. The other part wants to see how Jordan would end it. Tarmon Gaidon.

Reportedly Jordan was working on what was intended to be the final volume of The Wheel of Time before he died. A Memory of Light. Somehow that title seems even more apt now than it did when that working title was first announced a year or two ago. Also reportedly, Robert Jordan had revealed the salient plot points of the novel to his wife and family.

Whether A Memory of Light is finished by a friend or family member, or if another author will finish the novel based on RJ’s doesn’t really matter. The Creator has passed. A simple listing of those salient plot points and ending would more than suffice, but knowing what happens next seems like such a small thing knowing that Robert Jordan has died from complications from his disease. For the last couple of years Jordan and his cousin Wilson had been posting updates on Dragonmount about the status of RJ’s health. Recently the prognosis seemed promising, that Jordan might actually beat this thing. Forget the books, I wanted Jordan to beat it for himself and for his family. I only hope that nothing was left unsaid and that there will be peace within his family after this passing.

I never met Robert Jordan or had any sort of interaction with the man, but from everything I had heard RJ was a kind and generous man and willing to take time for his fans.

Number me with Robert Jordan’s fans.


Amanda said...

Hey friend...See snotty comment on my blog directed towards you. heh.

Seriously though, this is one of your best posts ever. Okay, yes, I am slightly biased. Even so, it says everything I don't have the words to say. Everything. Except I am selfish and I did (and do) care about the books. Yeah, of course I wanted him to beat his disease, but I cannot say it was without a great degree of selfishness.

Isn't it funny...I know that we, and Steffi, are friends because of JK, and not RJ, but somehow it doesn't feel that way. Somehow it feels like he is the reason.
Somehow it feels like his death should reconnect us all, as if we were there at his funeral, crying side by side for a lost friend.

When I stop to think about it, I am truly heartbroken. I am truly overwhelmed to think that I will never again in my lifetime (which may yet be long) enjoy the pleasure of reading an original Jordan masterpiece.

When A Memory of Light is finished, as I know it will be by someone, I may just let it linger on my shelf for a few years. Just to know it's there. Always RJ to look forward to.
Love ya friend. Glad we have been on this journey together, so to speak. Be blessed.

Joe said...

Thanks. I debated e-mailing you, but figured you'd run across this (or had seen the posting on Dragonmount...before it crashed under the weight of visitors).

I would love George Martin to take over and finish it using Jordan's complete notes and Harriet's input. (wife and editor)

Never happen, but can you imagine Martin finishing Jordan? It would be the next best thing to Jordan finishing Jordan.

I saw the snotty comment. :)

Amanda said...

lol! I don't like Martin as much as you do. I am not saying that he's not a great writer, but it drives me crazy how everyone dies. You can never get emotionally connected to the characters. Of course, I haven't read any of his stuff lately.
Even so, I suspect this is why it is mostly the men I know who like his books, and not as many women. :p
Someone is going to have to write it though. And it has to be someone good.
His publisher (Jordan's) was pushing him to release the prequel around now. He didn't want to because he often rewrites the beginning before he gets to the end. This applies that at least some portion of the book was written, if not revised.

Whenever it comes out maybe I will just let it sit on my shelf for awhile, like a little comforting reminder that I still have some RJ to look forward to. Maybe I will save it for a really really bad day.