Friday, March 23, 2012

Revisiting The Wheel of Time

When I was 14, some upperclassmen handed me a copy of the first book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series: The Eye of the World.  It wasn't a life-changing moment or anything.  The heavens didn't open up and a chorus of angels didn't sing.  It was a book with a funny cover that didn't look much like anything I'd enjoy.  But I read it anyway.  And I liked it enough.  Then I picked up the next volume: The Great HuntBy the time I finished that gargantuan book, I was hooked and ready for The Dragon Reborn, volume 3.  

But Waldenbooks--the only bookstore in the whole of the Shenango Valley--didn't stock it.  So I ordered it.  Thus began an agonizing three week wait.  I wasn't old enough to drive yet, so I walked to the mall on at least three separate occasions to see if my book had arrived.  It was a two mile walk both ways.  I could have called, but I enjoyed the long walks on hot summer mornings.  Maybe, just maybe, it would be there.  The  empty-handed walks back?  Well, I didn't enjoy those so much.

By the time The Dragon Reborn was in my hands, conditioning had started for football season.  I kept that book in my locker and read it during the break between sessions when two-a-days started.  I endured the funny looks I got from coaches and teammates.  I even managed to make a few of them converts to the series.

At summer's end, I had caught up.  The sixth volume--Lord of Chaos--was hot off the presses and I'd scraped up enough money to buy the thing in hardcover.

I'm not sure why these books captured me like they did.  Jordan's writing isn't great, and he shamelessly borrows from Tolkien, the Bible, and just about everything else you can imagine.  It didn't matter to me in the summer of 1995, and I've been curious if it would matter to me now.  Was this just a case of right time, right place?  I spent so much of that summer in the company of Rand al'Thor, Mat Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara that I find it hard to believe that I wouldn't at least enjoy revisiting their world.

But then there's my post-Lord of Chaos experience with The Wheel of Time.  Trudging through volumes of characters I didn't recognize and situations that seemed of little import.  And the pages and pages of  meaningless description.

The seventh volume--A Crown of Swords--wasn't published until my senior year.  I read it, but that magic of the summer of 1995 was gone.  I was in college when volumes 8 and 9 hit.  I read them more out of a sense of obligation than anything else.  I didn't bother with volume 10 when it was published.  I was in law school and didn't have the time to spare.

Volume 11 hit, and I was midway through my first year as an associate in a law firm.  It was barely a blip on my radar.

And then Robert Jordan died in 2007, his magnum opus incomplete.  

I'd always joked about that.  Wouldn't it be terrible if Jordan bit it before he could finish this thing?  

Well, he did.  And then Brandon Sanderson--some guy I never heard of--took over.  Two more books were published, and I started hearing some rumblings that they weren't bad.  My interest was piqued, but not enough for me to pick any of them up.  By that time, I could barely remember anything about the series.

But now the final volume--A Memory of Light--is going to be published in January of 2013.

We all have things that we fondly look back on, but when we revisit them years later we wonder what in the hell we were thinking.  Is that what The Wheel of Time is?  I'm not sure that question can be answered until I look at it again.  And until the darn thing--all 12,000 or so pages--is complete.   

So I've decided to revisit the ol' Wheel of Time starting way back at volume 1. I've got the rest of 2012 to make my way through 13 books that average about 800 pages each.  

I'm not devoting my time solely to The Wheel of Time--there's plenty in my to-be-read stack.  But as I finish each volume, I'll post a short reaction piece, culminating with a review of A Memory of Light at its publication.  Also, I should note that I'm revisiting them in a slightly different format: audiobook.  At least for the volumes I've read before.  This way, I don't interfere with my other reading and that to-be-read stack won't be neglected entirely.

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