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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How a Fantasy Ends

Posted by on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 8:07 AM

A Memory of Light, the final book of The Wheel of Time series, is finally on sale today (in print only; the e-book won't be released until April). Robert Jordan published the first volume in his fantasy series back in January of 1990, and it survived Jordan's death in 2007—Brandon Sanderson has "co-authored" the last three volumes.

To mark the occasion, Tor Books published a neat photoessay yesterday, showing the publication process for Memory of Light, from the foil stamping on the cover through the printing of the pages to the assembly of all the signatures. If you love books, you owe it to yourself to go take a look.

 

Comments (34) RSS

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Lew Siffer 1
Couldn't make it past book six.
Posted by Lew Siffer on January 8, 2013 at 8:12 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 2
I've been waiting for this since 1992. Twenty years, I've been reading this series, and the book is coming from Amazon today. When Jordan died, I actually cried, because one of my favorite authors and an all-around wonderfully nice man had died, and because I was positively convinced that no one would possibly be able to end the series.

Sanderson was the perfect collaborator to bring it home based on Jordan's notes and written sections, as their writing styles are just different enough in a simple and single fundamental way.

Jordan is often laconic to a fault. He'll cheerfully spend pages (and pages, and pages, and pages, and pages) on side diversions, and culture, and fashion, and food, to the point that he makes George R.R. Martin look like Ernest Hemingway. But, at times, and with a lot of slick grace, Jordan had the ability to ratchet up the tension and aggression of his writing very smoothly, like an eight cylinder muscle car prowling along at 20 miles per hour--that suddenly opens in a smooth series of gear shifts to 100 miles per hour, and then right back down again.

Sanderson, on the other hand, always feels like he's cruising along at forty to fifty miles per hour, and shifts up and down more freely, and writes with a sense of urgency that Jordan only brought out at dramatic moments. Considering the point in the story that Sanderson takes over, it's a damn near perfect transition.

Without boring spoilers, the entirety of the entire Wheel of Time is driving toward a Biblical scale Last Battle, the final battle of good and evil. Stereotypical, yes, for fantasy, but no fantasy story save for the Bible itself has ever had the balls to pull one off of this scale and magnitude as Jordan has. Sanderson basically took over at the point where someone, in the Bible, picks up the Seven Seals and starts breaking the fuckers open.

Absolutely pitch perfect place for him to take it over from Jordan. Or, and the Wheel nerds will appreciate it, it's like Jordan was meant to end his turn on the Wheel when he did. The wheel weaves as the wheel wills...
More...
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on January 8, 2013 at 8:21 AM · Report this
3
@1: same, though now that the series is finished I may start over and this time try to slog through those middle books
Posted by Tawnos on January 8, 2013 at 8:27 AM · Report this
wisepunk 4
I gave up around book 8-9. One can only take 6 page descriptions of objects for so long. I get it, its a sword.
Posted by wisepunk on January 8, 2013 at 8:30 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 5
@4 most people burned out on #8, but it goes bat shit paced by Jordan standards from #9 onward. Everything was just setup till then. The #9 finale is the biggest thing in the story world since, well, the event that setup the entire series in ancient history. Up there with the Ring getting cut from Sauron's finger big.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on January 8, 2013 at 8:35 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 6
Which isn't to say, for non-readers, that a lot doesn't happen in this massive series of books for eight volumes. A huge amount does. The curious could honestly get away with reading just the first volume.

If you like it, read the first four, and stop if you're satisfied: the first four volumes would be like reading the first two volumes of Frank Herbert's Dune. You can walk away 100% satisfied on a damned fantastic fantasy right there.

However, if you stick it out past that, and reach the lunacy of the ending of Lord of Chaos, the sixth book, there are 50/50 odds you'll be hooked like most of us and will ride out the series to all fourteen volumes.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on January 8, 2013 at 8:41 AM · Report this
sloegin 7
Dumped it at book 3 for failing to advance the plot in the slightest after a thousand pages of text.
Posted by sloegin on January 8, 2013 at 8:53 AM · Report this
evilvolus 8
...the book was not the ending. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was an ending.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 8:54 AM · Report this
evilvolus 9
The ebook may not be out yet, but the audiobook was released today as well. Michael Kramer and Kate Reading have done a wonderful job with the series.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 8:55 AM · Report this
Volo 10
Love this series, especially since it picked up speed in the last few books. I don't really want to read a giant hardcover again, but April? I guess I'll be lugging that monstrosity onto a plane.
Posted by Volo on January 8, 2013 at 8:57 AM · Report this
sikandro 11
Haven't read any of the Sanderson ones yet, since I wanted to be able to get through them all at once. I guess now I have my chance.

The strange thing for me is that I've been playing a WoT computer game (wotmud.org) for 10 years, and so I've been familiar with the world on a regular basis, but not through the books.
Posted by sikandro on January 8, 2013 at 8:59 AM · Report this
evilvolus 12
@11 - The Sanderson books are simply amazing. I'm one of the biggest Jordan fans you'll ever meet, but he was clearly struggling to keep everything in order by the end of his run. Sanderson hit the ground running and never stopped.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 9:15 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 13
@12 it really was amazing how the timing of the transition worked out.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on January 8, 2013 at 9:16 AM · Report this
evilvolus 14
Plus, it drove me to read Sanderson's other works, and he's managed to edge out Brent Weeks for the title of My Favorite Living Fantasy Author.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 9:21 AM · Report this
r.chops 15
Apparently, a fantasy book or something!

How will it end? I don't know! I never read much sci-fi or fantasy. I know it involves "time" and "elves" and "wormholes" and "boobs." But it's fundamentally a mystery to me. Someone tell me what happens in the end, please; I'm going to go watch football and drink a nice pint of beer.
Posted by r.chops on January 8, 2013 at 9:29 AM · Report this
evilvolus 16
I see what you did there.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 9:33 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 17
@14 how is the Mistborn series?
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on January 8, 2013 at 9:35 AM · Report this
18
Number seven killed the series for me. My experiences with this series informed how I judge each new series to decide if it's worth the investment. There's a pervasive stink that fumes from stories that promise a grand ending that will tie everything together but have no idea what it will be (anything from JJ Abrams, BG, RR Martin's spunk).

There was no way Jordan was ever going to wrap things up in a satisfying way. Probably a blessing for the story that he died. Apparently Sanderson didn't have to prove that he knew how it was supposed to end from the beginning, so he could start to end it rather than just dick around and play for time.
Posted by dirge on January 8, 2013 at 9:40 AM · Report this
evilvolus 19
@17 - Those are my favorite of his books. Very unique magic system, and he pulled something off in the second book that I've never seen before in hundreds of fantasy novels.

I've heard that The Way of Kings (first in the Stormlight Archive) is even better than Mistborn, but I'm not willing to touch it with a 10-foot pole. It's got "won't be done for 30 years" written ALL over it.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 9:49 AM · Report this
Karla Canadian 20
@17 - I loved the Misborn series. Great magic and interesting story and a resolution I REALLY had no clue was coming. Not that I'm great at figureing out endings, but you expect the good guys to "win" usually and the "chosen one" to fulfil her destiny. I loved it.
Posted by Karla Canadian on January 8, 2013 at 9:53 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 21
#1 yeah me too, just too much stuff. It was a grind to book 5.

#18 well said. Some writers add so many threads to the tapestry that there is no way they can finish the project.

Please enjoy book number 150999 or what ever. I'm sure the magic sword slays the evil Lesbo-Black-Trans-Queen and the Wheelbarrow of power works yet again or what ever something like that.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 8, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
22
Finally. Shame it's not out on Kindle yet though.

Mistborn is great! Different feel than most fantasy, but one of my favorite trilogies ever. Stormlight is good, but it takes FOREVER to get really interesting.
Posted by rummy42 on January 8, 2013 at 10:01 AM · Report this
23
I was severely disappointed with book 7, slogged through 8, and gave up with 9. I love fantasy, but these days I won't touch anything new. Most of it strikes me as a scam - the best fantasy series (Lord of the Rings, Earthsea, etc.) are short, and their worlds feel far richer and more memorable than anything created by modern fantasy writers who go on for 10+ books, only advancing one plot point per book. The authors set up these apocalyptic storylines, but don't know how to end it all, so instead of actually figuring out what they want to say before putting pen to paper (like good writers), they string you on and on and on and on...and keep getting more royalties.

No offense to anyone who's a fan, but I thought the fact that Robert Jordan died before finishing the series was hilarious - he strung the series out for such a ridiculously long time (seriously, the first book came out 23 years ago) that his death seemed like a punishment from the literary gods for dicking around and not getting anywhere, even though he had plenty of time.
Posted by redemma on January 8, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Arsenic7 24
Read about 8000 pages of this series when I was a young teenager. Now I'm happy to read the plot summary on wikipedia.
Posted by Arsenic7 on January 8, 2013 at 10:14 AM · Report this
evilvolus 25
I humbly disagree. Jordan knew exactly how he wanted the series to end. It was getting all the chess pieces from A to Z that he struggled with.

And don't exaggerate--it's been one week LESS than 23 years ;)
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 26
That's the same issue that Martin had with the Game of Thrones. He knocked out books 1, 2, and 3 in a crazy fast amount of time, and then got stuck for TEN YEARS on books 4 and 5 to bridge the first and second halves of the story. Apparently it's sorted out right in the beginning of book six, already written, and then it'll be off to the races for the last two books to close out the series.

In Jordan's defense, no one has tried a story of this in-story scale before. Not Tolkien, not Herbert. My Biblical comparison was apt. It's like we're reading the Bible as a work of fiction, from the point where Jesus goes off to the East, learn kung fu, come back to Israel, become the Messiah, and then go through all of the Tribulation and Book of Revalation in his lifetime, for how much crap has gone on already. But now add in that we get full on sub-plots and fully fleshed out five act stories of about 600-800 pages each for EACH disciple.

You're not just reading a 14 volume story of about 800-1000 pages each in Wheel of Time. You're basically reading a full-on series of book trilogies for each of about 7-9 characters. That's why so many people get so invested in this, and the pace sometimes feels glacial. It's when you hit those unifying moments, where the myriad threads come together, the payoffs are unlike any in any other series or single books I've ever read.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on January 8, 2013 at 10:36 AM · Report this
Karla Canadian 27
@25 - Yup, aparantly the final scene was written by Robert Jordan. Lining up the ducks is what took so long!

I definitely think Brandon Sanderson came around at the right time; he's a definite plus to that series.
Posted by Karla Canadian on January 8, 2013 at 10:38 AM · Report this
Knat 28
I only got as far as the second book. Even then it was clear to me - a teenager - that he was dragging out the story, and I was disgusted by such cynical manipulation of the readers. The villain who stole the horn and the search for him seemed very much an allegory for the author and the readers, respectively, with the readers being mocked at every opportunity for our attempts at pursuing a story.
Posted by Knat on January 8, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
evilvolus 29
@28 - How very deep of you. And I see you brought enough disdain to share with the whole class. Thank you so much.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 2:04 PM · Report this
DeaconBlues 30
7 through 11 are the nadir of the series

sanderson made it not just readable but amazing again
Posted by DeaconBlues http://radzillas.blogspot.com/ on January 8, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Knat 31
@29: Sorry, I didn't realize you were trying to start a circle jerk in here. Could you point me towards the comments section?
Posted by Knat on January 8, 2013 at 7:41 PM · Report this
evilvolus 32
There's a wide gulf between "handjobs for everybody" and "even as a teenager I was smarter than all the people who foolishly love this series that mocks them at every turn." In that gulf does reasonable discussion lie. You were not in that gulf.
Posted by evilvolus on January 8, 2013 at 10:12 PM · Report this
Knat 33
@32: How dare I express an opinion on your Holy Scripture that differs from your own! The temerity! I'll stay out of any future discussions of the series for fear of offending your delicate sensibilities, evilvolus, but read that comment again and you might note that I wasn't mocking you or any other fan of the series, nor insulting anyone's intelligence.

If it makes you feel any better, my own favorite fantasy author was directly insulted a couple times in this thread, but because I'm an adult, and not overly sensitive or entirely solipsistic, I didn't get into a huff about it and insult the commenter in turn. I know when to bail out of a discussion with a zealot, and that time is already past. Continue your jihad against someone else.
Posted by Knat on January 8, 2013 at 11:03 PM · Report this
evilvolus 34
Your restraint and reading comprehension both astound. I stand in awe.
Posted by evilvolus on January 9, 2013 at 8:51 AM · Report this

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