In December of 1991 I was home from college with not much to do. This was before the internet, cell phones, iPods, etc. During the never ending college break's we would see every movie in the theatre, play endless amounts of cards, and invent new and potentially dangerous things to do. If none of those things were entertaining we would watch cable television. There were far less channels than there are today. That's how I discovered the worst movie of all time Troll 2. But that's another story, to be told in a future post.
One other way I passed the time in those pre-advanced technology days was to read. I had become a reader because of fantasy novels I'd read starting in elementary school and continuing through junior high. Specifically the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the Belgariad by David Eddings, The Hobbit and eventually The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein. After reading all of these in junior high, I didn't delve into new authors during high school, instead choosing to read Eddings further adventures in the worlds he had created.
However, I was bored with that by 1991. The fact that I read these books was a relative secret amongst my friends, because as far as I knew I was the only person who enjoyed reading, and I was pretty sure I was the only person who enjoyed reading fantasy literature about wizards, dragons, swords, etc.. But late in high school I met my friend Steve, and somewhere along the line we discovered that we both liked to read in this extremely nerdy genre. So sometime during that break he told me he had read a new book and he thought I would like it, so he let me borrow his copy of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. The cover looked cool, as you can see, and I was looking for something to pass the time, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
I had no idea, that when I read this book and loved it, it would start a journey that would last the next 22 years of my life! You see, last month the last book in this series has been #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I read the first book, there was already a second one available. So it
was exciting to get to read the next book right away. They were both
fantastic (to a 19 year old) and I could barely put them down. As
Christmas break 1991, turned into January 1992, I found that the series
had become successful and the third installment was already released in
hardback (fancy!). I devoured that while studying to place out of a
required government class (I got an A, I test well). I had heard through
my friend Steve, that this series was going to be five books, so I was
looking forward to reading the final 2 installments in the next couple
of years. What I, and many others, were not prepared for was that a 5
book series would morph into something much, much more.
The fourth book came out while I was in college, so did the fifth, and at this point it became evident that this series wouldn't be done in 5 books. So 1994 turned into 1996, which became 1999, then gradually 2003. By 2003, the series had expanded to tenbooks!!!! Somewhere around that time the author, Robert Jordan (real name James Rigney) promised there was an end in sight, but he couldn't say when that end was coming. In 2005 the twelfth book was published and the author promised that there was just one more book to come, and in that tomb the series would be finished.
However, something else happened in 2006. Mr. Jordan
was diagnosed with a rare blood disease that had a median life
expectancy of four years. Something that many fans of these books had
feared would happen looked like it might be possible. Namely, that the
author would die before finishing the series. He underwent treatment and
began writing and taking notes planning for the end of the series while
he was simultaneously trying to avoid the end of his life. Sadly, Mr.
Jordan passed away in 2007, long before the book was completed. The
rabid fans of the series were sad for his loss, and despondent over the
fate of the story. It's a difficult thing to read thousands and
thousands of pages involving hundreds of characters and not have the
satisfactory ending that a story promises. Even a bad ending is better
than no ending at all.
His widow and publisher worked together
to figure out a way to finish the series, and they landed on hiring a
relatively new author named Brandon Sanderson to finish the book. He
began work on the story, and realized that there was far too much to
wrap up in this huge story to fit into one book, so the announcement was
made that the final book would be split into 3 books. Over the next 6
years Mr. Sanderson and the publishing team worked to produce the final 3
novels (bringing the total to 15) of what was originally meant to be a
This is my 7 year old daughter standing next to the entire series.
When it was finally all said and done the Wheel of Time series grew to 15 novels, encompassing nearly 12,000 pages, holding over 4 million words! There were in excess of 2500 characters in this story! It's mind-numbing, totally engrossing, and more than a little confusing at times. It's also like reading a single book for your entire life and wondering how it's going to end.
When I bought the final book I
read it like a mad man. I forsook sleep, my family, food, and work in my
quest to complete something that I had started when I was a teenager
and had been traversing for more than 2 decades. When I finally
finished the book there was a great satisfaction in seeing nearly all of
the bazillion plot points wrapped up, character arcs completed, and
finding out who, and who would not, survive the battle to end all
I was also a sad when I finished. Something I had been anticipating for so long was finally over. There was nothing much else to discover. No more checking the web for when the new book be released, and with the author dead, there is no chance of another adventure in the world he created. In many ways it was like experiencing a friend passing away. It was something so final, that my mind didn't quite understand how to feel about it.
One question remains. Was it worth all the time, money and energy over 22 years to read this series?
I'm not sure how to answer that. The first 6 books are so good, that I can see myself rereading them. However, books 7 - 12 are pretty brutal as far as pacing goes. The plot just comes to a screeching halt and you get lost in all the machinations of various secondary characters. How was that allowed to happen? Aren't there editors at the publisher who exist to hep tighten things up and move them along? I think the answer to that is that once a series becomes so popular that it sells hundreds of thousands of lucrative hardcovers the publisher just lets the author drag things out as long as he wants, because more books equals more money. When everyone is along for the ride and getting rich on that ride, it's hard to say "no" to excess. (For more examples of this please google George Lucas, or George RR Martin). With all that said, the last 3 books move along quite nicely (because the new guy got properly edited) and the resolutions of the book were quite satisfying. Ultimately I'm glad that the Wheel of Time was part of my life, it is a great story, and now that it is finished I'd recommend it for others to read.