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The End of the Story
June 20, 2011 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Before Robert Jordan passed away, he dictated the ending of his Wheel of Time" series. This was just another bump in the rocky saga of the series.

Discussed previously on the Blue.
posted by reenum (83 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been riding that paper train wreck since it pulled out of the station all shiny and new. Too late to get off now.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:25 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


The link says:

Robert Jordan died before he could finish his sprawling, thirteen-book fantasy epic...

Wikipedia says:

Originally planned as a three-book series, the length was increased to six, then twelve, and it now consists of thirteen published novels, with one more still to be released.

Might it not then be more accurate for the link to say...

Robert Jordan died before he could finish milking his franchise?
posted by Trurl at 7:27 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Robert Jordan died before he could finish milking his franchise?

I had to drop that series when one of the major characters spent an entire novel in the bath. I may revisit it once Mr. Sanderson has finished it up - I understand he's doing good work - but Jordan is where I got my policy of never starting to read a series that isn't finished.
posted by mhoye at 7:30 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Interesting article. Especially right about the strangely terrible four book stretch before Jordan's death, and the terribly done female characters. I started reading in, what, high school, so, like 1adam12, I am in it to the end.

But there is only one book left, and Sanderson (the replacement) is a pretty impressive writer, so I have actually enjoyed the series more since he took over. He also has published a lot of his notes on the series, which are interesting.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:30 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jordan wasn't milking the franchise; he had projects beyond WoT on his radar, things he wanted to write very much and never will write now.

Sometimes writers just fall into the weeds. That's what happened to Jordan. Four books' worth of weeds.
posted by mightygodking at 7:31 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've just begun reading Game of Thrones and I fear that it too will takes years to finish or never be finished at all.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:32 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember that the first book of this series was free! I was in a bookshop, and I could not believe that they would give away a book.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:33 AM on June 20, 2011


I know that the modern approach to fantasy is a whole shelf full of doorstop sized novels, but I can't help but think that less is often more.

Tolkien managed to start the entire genre with three books that, taken together, have fewer words than even one book in most modern fantasy series.

Rowling planned 7 books for Potter, but as she got more famous she also got progressively less editorial restraint and the last book really should have had some editorial restraint. She desperately **NEEDED** an editor to say "Jo, go cut 200 pages, this is pathetic", but modern sensibilities and (I'm sure) her fame prevented that.

I blame the readers, they keep buying overly verbose doorstop books in 27 volume sets so the publishers keep demanding that of the writers.

There's probably a decent story buried in the torrent of words that makes up the Wheel of Time series. Perhaps some day an enterprising soul will cut out the dross and publish a slim trilogy that tells that story.

Or perhaps Jordan is different and every word is a gem and there's not one single bit that should be cut. But I doubt it.
posted by sotonohito at 7:36 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


First hit's always free.

Jordan had the same problem most dealers have though--don't get high off your own supply.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Hey, George R.R. Martin -- this guy is why there are people who refuse to start Game of Thrones until you admit to having an endpoint, writing it down, and giving it to someone in case you die. Well, this guy and the one who nearly killed Stephen King.
posted by Etrigan at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jordan is where I got my policy of never starting to read a series that isn't finished.

Yep, me too. And lots of people, I would imagine.

although I *did* start Game of Thrones a few years back, dammit.
posted by gaspode at 7:39 AM on June 20, 2011


I would really like to see one of those Believer infographics that calculated the number of spanking scenes in the WOT books.
posted by dubold at 7:40 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


although I *did* start Game of Thrones A Song of Ice and Fire a few years back, dammit.

grar.
posted by gaspode at 7:43 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember reading something about the series being intimately tied up with his personal sense of health and well-being; at some level, he was apparently afraid that if he finished it, he would die. So it just went on and on and on. And then, of course, he died anyway.

The first four books or so are really excellent, but I gave up on it around book eight or nine. I remember observing about book five that he'd lost control of the story, but I had no idea at the time about the health issues or the psychological complexity there.

I really like Brandon Sanderson's other stuff, but I just don't have the energy to wade back into that morass to get to the good bits at the end. I'm sure he's doing a good job, but I'm burnt out.
posted by Malor at 7:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had to drop that series when one of the major characters spent an entire novel in the bath.

Wait a minute, Wheel of Time doesn't take place on Golgafrincham, does it? because if it does I've been missing out.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Jordan wasn't milking the franchise; he had projects beyond WoT on his radar...

Becoming interested in other projects doesn't explain his underestimating the length of his story by a factor of four.

If anything, wanting to be done with WoT should have made him quicker to wrap it up - rather than bringing his plots to a dead halt.
posted by Trurl at 7:46 AM on June 20, 2011


Robert Jordan is not your bitch.
posted by mikelieman at 7:47 AM on June 20, 2011


I really like Brandon Sanderson's other stuff, but I just don't have the energy to wade back into that morass to get to the good bits at the end. I'm sure he's doing a good job, but I'm burnt out.

Although Sanderson's doing a fine job, Jordan himself got the thing back under control. The problem is, basically, books seven through ten, which are a horrible meandering slog - until about halfway through book ten, when shit starts happening again, and then book eleven really is fantastic, one of the best in the series, as shit starts happening at a breakneck pace, and Sanderson keeps that up in books twelve and thirteen.
posted by mightygodking at 7:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been riding that paper train wreck since it pulled out of the station all shiny and new.

The first book of the Wheel of Time series is what put me off 'epic fantasy' for good.

I'd already read the Belgariad when I was 13. I didn't need to read it again.
posted by empath at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sigh. I got to somewhere near book 6 before throwing in the towel. I still feel guilty for not reading any further, but the spaghetti plot had gotten completely out of control.

The guilt comes mostly from the fact that the first few books were genuinely good.

However, as the increasingly-irate-as-the-series-progresses reviews on Amazon.com indicate, the series really did start to slip away, as plots continued to be introduced more quickly than they could be resolved...
posted by schmod at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2011


Becoming interested in other projects doesn't explain his underestimating the length of his story by a factor of four.

No, but the point is that he wasn't milking the franchise. He was having genuine problems with the books. It happens, and it's childish to assert that a popular and quite rich fantasy author with more ideas that would likely have sold like hotcakes was milking his cash cow for lack of anything better to do.
posted by mightygodking at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2011


Here's the best paragraph in that article (spoiler alert lol):



"Once so focused on the end and the coming cataclysmic clash between an overarching good and a gathering, implacable evil, Jordan came to write his most stirring scenes with just one or two people in the frame. The end readers have anxiously awaited for twenty years is revealed to be a kind of MacGuffin—better a perpetual present in which Jordan, his characters, and his world live on than a speedy resolution and the subsequent loss of it all. "

For most sprawling fantasy epics (David Eddings wins this category hands-down) this is the trick that most people love to forget. We don't want it to end--we want to live with the characters endlessly and watch them storm around. We want to live inside the world. Television is the perfect medium for this feeling which is why oh god the GOT show is so fucking perfectly addictive.

WOT (odd acronym crossover) is functionally episodic. At the end of every, say, Perrin adventure/episode, things have returned to an equilibrium rather than an end point. The larger quests or whatever have ground to a halt, thank god! Do we really need to hear about troop updates in MASH? or watch relationships end and begin quickly on Hill Street Blues? Nope. Certain aspects of this are annoyingly formulaic, but having a formula doesn't make it necessarily bad IF you invented or at least refined said formula.

I unabashedly love the Wheel of Time but I will read these last books with less interest for precisely the reason that I wouldn't be that into an Arrested Development movie--something can be both perfect and unfinished, as long as it is of infinite jest and excellent fancy, I still want to dive into that pool and swim around in pure joy.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is this where we complain about mouldering franchises?

As someone who pretty much worshipped the Amber novels in his late teens, I have to say but damn that series should have stopped about halfway through.
posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a bookstore employee, I was as wary of the Robert Jordan shelf as I am of Scientologists, Morgellon's advocates, and "Make Money From Home" fliers. It seemed that if I was not very careful about avoiding them, I risked losing my time, my money, my friends, my whole life.
posted by hermitosis at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2011


I remember picking up The Eye of the World in the library when I was in... grade 8? and reading the prologue and being genuinely amazed. That entire first book is still incredibly strong. And then at some point when I was working through The Fires of Heaven I realized the last 400 pages were about a travelling carnival, and painstakingly described every campfire meal. It got worse from there... books 6 and 7 are amazing for their total lack of content. I gave up around book 8 as well.
posted by mek at 7:51 AM on June 20, 2011


I couldn't get through the first Wheel of Time book.

Maybe it's not fair, but the whole thing smacked of the author really, really loving Tolkien and wanting to capture the same sort of feeling somehow. And just utterly failing.
posted by utsutsu at 7:52 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I read the first one, shrugged, and moved on to other things.

I was especially amused, though, by the fanboy weeping and gnashing of teeth that accompanied Jordan's death: "Now there will never be any more WoT!!!" It seems to me that the top of the New York Times Bestseller List around that time was Children of Hurin, from an author thirty-five years or so in his grave. I am pretty sure that as long as you keep buying it, it will keep coming out.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:52 AM on June 20, 2011


Wow, that article has convinced me I don't want to read these books.

I worked for Borders between 93 and 99 (roughly). These books were like crack when they first came out. Tor even had a promotion where you could have the first half of the first book for free.

It got to where when a 25ish male would come up to the counter you could say, "No, we don't know when the next Wheel of Time book will be out." It was a stupid parlor trick that would work more often than not.

This series is why I created my "Dead or Done" rule of series fiction. I prefer done in all cases, but dead has worked out fine for me as well (as long as you avoid anything their estate does with the books after death). Herbert, Zelazny, etc.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:54 AM on June 20, 2011


I have every one of those books. Have read and re-read them, and despite the grindingly slow pace in the middle enjoyed them all (and quite like Sanderson's own writing, to boot). I understood the frustration but never really got mad about how long the series was taking, because I enjoyed Jordan's voice and the increasingly intricate world he was building. I actually liked the character development, how a seemingly minor person met briefly in book 3 became a major player three or four novels later. How he kept the entire world straight in his head, I never could fathom.

So yes, I'm a fan. But I have to admit - the Jordan books sit on a shelf in the office, while the Tolkien lives on a shelf in the living room. (And yes, Children of Hurin is there, next to the others...)
posted by caution live frogs at 7:56 AM on June 20, 2011


I think I got part way through Book 3 before I set this series down.

It had potential early on even though it was fairly bog standard Heroes Journey stuff. While I never cared for the ridiculously overpowered Rand Al'Thor some of the supporting characters were pretty decent and it was fairly well written.

Sometime during the second and third book I realized he wasn't going to show me anything new or particularly interesting. It really didn't even offer any great insight into the characters. It was simply middle-of-the-road bog stand high fantasy epic. Just like every other Tolkien inspired pastiche since the 70s.

When I found out that later books were even more lazily plotted and slow moving I took the better part of valor and dropped out of the series.

I still read doorstop fiction (Erikson) but I'm getting less and less willing to commit to massive undertakings that simply aren't breathing new life into the genre. Furthermore if an author looks particularly in the weeds (GRRM I'm looking at you) I'm reluctant to continue investing a lot in a series for fear that it will not be finished prior to the author's death or even worse be rushed to completion ala The Dark Tower because of the author's sense of mortality.

Even worse is when a story becomes a diseased zombie feeding on the good work of the original author after death like the Dune series...
posted by vuron at 7:57 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


He was having genuine problems with the books. It happens, and it's childish to assert that a popular and quite rich fantasy author with more ideas that would likely have sold like hotcakes was milking his cash cow for lack of anything better to do.

Guess there's a lot of that going around. From the link:

Together, the four books are a study in inertia, and they prompted many to suggest that Jordan was intentionally drawing out the series for cash...

In my experience, people who get rich doing Thing X and then continue doing it long after they've lost their talent for it are motivated by Money.
posted by Trurl at 8:10 AM on June 20, 2011


I read a lot of doorstop fiction. I love the genre. But yeah, I tapped out of WoT after book 6, because I just couldn't do it any more. My brother-in-law has been faithfully keeping up with the series, and when I agreed to let him catch me up with what I missed, he started with "Well, it's later that same day. . . " and then we laughed so hard we almost cried.

I always knew I'd go back and buy them all after the series was finished, though. Once a sucker always a sucker. Hopefully they'll have some omnibus Kindle edition available for eighty dollars or something; I don't have the shelf space.
posted by KathrynT at 8:16 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's probably a decent story buried in the torrent of words that makes up the Wheel of Time series.

SPOILER: There isn't. I gave up around six books in, when he might as well have titled most of the books things like:

Braids: The Tuggening
Wool-Headed Men and the Skirt-Smoothing Women Who Love Them
Rand Goes Crazy For Another Couple of Hundred Pages
Character Clothing Descriptions, Volume 1 of 57
Damn, Robert Jordan Rand al'Thor is a Pimp
The Source and its Taint (LOL)

posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:28 AM on June 20, 2011 [21 favorites]


From TVTropes' Loads and Loads of Characters page (Productivity Black Hole and possible spoilers warning):
Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is the absolute king of this trope. Wheel of Time encyclopaedia has a list of 1880 characters. The original main group introduced in the first book has not been in one location since the fourth book, out of eleven so far with three to go. Only the main character Rand manages to appear in every book, and he is nearly absent from a couple. From there the biggest male characters Rand, Mat, and Perrin have each acquired love interests (three at once in Rand's case), personal armies, and their own Cast Herds of supporting characters. In Rand's case this includes dozens of characters from numerous factions. The two biggest female characters (Egwene and Elayne) have done the same thing. The Big Bad has a dozen mini-boss characters with the Forsaken, as well as numerous Darkfriends. And almost every faction adds dozens of identifiable characters to the mix, sometimes with distinct subfactions within that which might as well be separate groups. And all these characters intermingle in an absolutely dizzying array of interactions.
That right there, along with the braid-tugging and sniffing and completely AWFUL gender politics, are why I stopped reading WoT. I'm sorry, but I don't want to have to look up a character's name in a list just so I can remember who we're talking about now (especially after waiting years to get the next book). And no, I'll admit it, I can't get through Tolkien's books for much the same reason. You can write epic stories without having a bazillion minor characters, seriously.

Crazily enough, I actually enjoyed the WoT world; I roleplayed on a WoT mud for a long time (and met my husband there, for that matter). I just think someone needed to go through the books with a machete and hack out at least 50% of the inconsequential filler (and 100% of the braid tugging, arg).
posted by ashirys at 8:28 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Big Bad has a dozen mini-boss characters with the Forsaken, as well as numerous Darkfriends.

If George R.R. Martin does nothing else for the fantasy genre than move it past the childish idea - as bad in Tolkien as in Jordan - that the forces of evil go around advertising and exulting in their Pure Evilness, he will have done it an immeasurable service.
posted by Trurl at 8:36 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I picked up the first book when I was in High School, in the late 1990s. I was browsing Fantasty/Sci-Fi in a local bookshop, and some older guy recommended the series to me, out of the blue. I was a fanboy through college, and some of my college friends also had read the series, so we geeked out on it for a while. We'd re-read the series when the new books came out, and it was still enjoyable. But the pace of releasing new books, paired with those last few book that Jordan wrote, ended our group fascination with the series.

I'm glad Sanderson got the role of writing the last two volumes (three, if you count the fact that the final volume was split in two). If nothing else, that I got into his writing, which I've really enjoyed. And reviews of his continuation of WoT sound very positive.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2011


I'm sorry, but I don't want to have to look up a character's name in a list just so I can remember who we're talking about now.

In this case, I guess you should never even attempt reading old historical novels like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which reads like a Who's Who of Han dynasty China.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for the abridged version.
posted by shivohum at 8:44 AM on June 20, 2011


I read up through book 7 or 8 of The Wheel of Time before I finally got sick of the series... not primary because of its length, but more because the cast of characters just kept expanding. New characters were added all the time, and old characters would not die... and when they did, they just would not stay dead.

(Seriously. When I quit reading the series, six of the antagonistic Forsaken had perished... but four had since been resurrected under other names.)

Martin's A Game of Thrones, which ended less a Targaryen, a Stark, and many other of its most prominent characters, was nearly as exhilarating as it was harrowing by comparison.
posted by The Confessor at 9:07 AM on June 20, 2011


As someone who pretty much worshipped the Amber novels in his late teens, I have to say but damn that series should have stopped about halfway through.

I'm what they call in the Amber community a Snooty First Series Purist. I'm happy with the first five books, don't reread the Merlin stuff, and pretend the posthumous prequels don't exist.

Wheel of Time held me for a few books but then I picked up one and realized I couldn't remember who the characters were any more and didn't care, so I was done. I think the gender politics had gotten hinky by then, but I may have dropped out before the serious braid-tugging. My husband jokes that he put it down after 300 pages when they were still in their home village. This is a large part of why I'm not interested in getting into the GRRM stuff (that and it was billed to me as the Wars of the Roses in fantasyland, and I'd rather just read the history or historical fiction of that).

I know some folks who became friends on the WOT usenet group. Occasionally I hear them mention the new books, but it doesn't seem to be a Thing the way it used to be. Even they seem to be slogging through to the end, like there's no real excitement left in seeing how it all turns out, even though they do want to know.
posted by immlass at 9:09 AM on June 20, 2011


The thing that I never understood with the Wheel of Time series: Where's God, or the good deity? Evil has the Dark One, who specifically instructs his followers. The higher-ups are brought before him, and through them various Darkfriends are given their marching orders - it's a top-down organizational model.

There's no equivalent for the good guys. "No organized religion" seems like a strange omission in a series that includes such details as the problems of getting grain and supplies to various regions of the continent.

The closest thing to a religious order in that world is the Children of the Light, i guess - sort of a paladin army that's presented for most of the series as either misguided or actually corrupt - and they're the ones that have the inquisition-esque "Questioners", who happily torture and kill to achieve their goals. There's a sense that a lot of people mistrust the Children of the Light, but not because COL behaviour contradicts a code of conduct that's ever explicitly stated.

Indeed, Children of the Light use the same terminology as everyone who's not of their order - "As the Light wills" or similar phrases. There's no personification for The Light, and no sense that people who see themselves as serving The Light have anything close to the same goals or objectives. In fact, sometimes they're diametrically opposed to the heroes, which means that the heroes then have to kill them.

So, ultimately, the characters rationalize whatever they want as "serving the light" - they can hack and slash their way back and forth across the continent like a bunch of psychopath Unitarians, with no sort of systematic theology to decide what's Light, other than "Not directly ordered by The Dark One".

It's a strange thing, really - a world where good is defined as the opposition to evil, which puts all the weight on motive rather than deed.
posted by dubold at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


immlass and others: As a (comparatively) older epic fantasy fan - what is the Thing now? Is there anyone besides George R R Martin that has the kind of crazy community that used to surround WoT?
posted by blahblahblah at 9:17 AM on June 20, 2011


Jordan is where I got my policy of never starting to read a series that isn't finished

Yep, me too. I read up to maybe 6 or 7 back in the late 90s; I had a friend who was just nuts about them, which I think is why I tried them. I got caught up to the at-the-time-newest book, realized it was going to be a while until the story was done, and decided I'd come back then. It's been over a decade.... (So long, even, that I've completely lost touch with the friend who introduced them to me, and the bookstore where I bought them has burnt down!)

Maybe I'll just read the first few again and then jump to #11...again, when it's actually done.

And the hair-tugging became a joke in our circle of friends for a while. Damn, I hadn't thought of that in forever.

There is, curiously, a adaptation of the WOT world for roleplaying with the d20 rules, which I think is the only WOT book I have around. We never did play it, but I think it could be a good roleplaying world. :)
posted by epersonae at 9:18 AM on June 20, 2011


dead has worked out fine for me as well (as long as you avoid anything their estate does with the books after death)

Like the third Gormenghast book, which wasn't even finished when Peake passed away and was envisioned as part three of seventeen. But that hasn't stopped his estate from calling it the finale of the "Gormenghast trilogy" despite the fact that there never was a "trilogy" in mind and the first two books tell a perfect and complete story whereas the third book betrays the readers of the series in a way that makes the Matrix sequels seem satisfying...
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that there is a current fantasy fanbase that isn't YA driven (like Harry Potter) anywhere near that level of fandom besides GRRM.

Mieville and Erikson seem to have loyalists and detractors about their works and Abercrombie seems to be below the radar for the most part. I'm not sure who will be the next big thing in Fantasy fiction but the success of GoT might inspire some companies to start purchasing properties.
posted by vuron at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2011


It's been so long since I read any of the Wheel of Time books that I can't even really remember what books I've actually read, but I do remember realizing at some point that I hated all of the characters and was only reading because of vague promises that Rand might end up slaughtering all of them during the series's endgame. That expectation was enough to keep me going through another couple of books, but even that bloodlust couldn't power through book after book of aimlessly moving the pieces around the board. A part of me still hopes for a second Kinslaying, though, so if that does happen, I might read just that part, and 7th and 8th grade would retroactively be worth it.
posted by Copronymus at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2011


Somehow I got the idea into my head that Wheel of Time was a trilogy. So you can imagine my disappointment and flat disbelief when the end of the third book didn't reach any kind of resolution. Then I got excited, because how cool is it to have more books from a series you were just starting to get into? And then, like a lot of folks, I gave up around book 6 or so.

Reading fiction should not feel like a job you have to get through, unless you're in charge of the slush pile at a major publisher.
posted by librarylis at 10:08 AM on June 20, 2011


For anyone that gave up halfway into the series, or has enough curiosity without wanting to actually read the things, I'd recommend Adam Roberts' sharp-yet-endearingly-befuddled reviews of the first eleven from last year.
posted by rollick at 10:10 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I started reading these books in high school, and loved the series through book 6. The series was my first foray into internet fandom, as the F.A.Q maintained by rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan was practically essential for keeping the characters and plotlines straight. This was one of the first series I completely geeked out on.

Like many others though, I found the later books to be an unrelenting, boring slog. The breaking point for me was the conclusion of the book 9, where Rand Al'Thor finally cleanses the taint from One Power. I realized that the conclusion, less than a 100 pages from a 1000+ page book, was the only part where anything significant had actually happened at all. I never picked up Wheel of Time book again after that.

Did we ever find out who killed Asmodean?
posted by tracknode at 10:56 AM on June 20, 2011


Vuron:

"I'm not sure that there is a current fantasy fanbase that isn't YA driven (like Harry Potter) anywhere near that level of fandom besides GRRM."

Patrick Rothfuss. Second book in his series hit number one on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction list. His fans are a little nuts, and I say that with love, as I am a fan of his work myself.

CJorgenson, re: "Dead or Done": If everyone adopted this viewpoint, series would never get done, as publishers track sales to decide whether to continue a series (which is why there are more than a few incomplete series out there. This is not necessarily your problem but its a data point for consideration.
posted by jscalzi at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Did we ever find out who killed Asmodean?

In the glossary of the most recently released book.

Yeah, I know.
posted by greenland at 11:33 AM on June 20, 2011


Patrick Rothfuss.

Oh god, please don't compare Rothfuss to Jordan. Please, please, don't jinx it ...

(I'm a big fan of Rothfuss, having picked up his first book on a whim years back. The delays in getting Book 2 out concerned me greatly, as I too tend to have a "dead or done" rule largely inspired by Jordan. I broke that rule for Rothfuss. And then Book 2 came out, and I really enjoyed it, but at the end my immediate reaction was "wait, this is supposed to be book 2 of 3, and I can't imagine how he could possibly finish in one more book ...")
posted by tocts at 11:33 AM on June 20, 2011


Hey, George R.R. Martin -- this guy is why there are people who refuse to start Game of Thrones until you admit to having an endpoint, writing it down, and giving it to someone in case you die.

Martin has made it clear that he intends for all of his notes to be burned upon his death. So if he dies before he finishes the series, we won't get his intended ending.

I've read the first four books several times. I'm not reading the fifth until the seventh is in the hands of his editor.

I wish that I'd learned my lesson. Zelazny died before even starting the final Amber series. Gerrold still lives but there's no believable sign that Chtorr will end. Joel Rosenberg has apparently lost all interest in tying up Guardians of the Flame, the first book of which I read nearly 30 years ago (it doesn't stand up to an adult reading, but I'd still like to know what Rosenberg planned).

Don't even get me started on serialized TV shows. "Carnivale" and "Deadwood" spoiled me from watching series like "The Wire" while they were on. I just plain don't have the time to invest in a story that may not finish, but this also means that I lose out on the sense of community surrounding a contemporary series.

Fuck 'em all. Sure, George RR Martin isn't my bitch. Yeah, yeah, whatever. He's been happy to take our money so far.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2011


The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass...

Around book 3 I realized this introductory clause was actually a warning to unsuspecting readers.
posted by Aquaman at 11:58 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm what they call in the Amber community a Snooty First Series Purist. I'm happy with the first five books, don't reread the Merlin stuff, and pretend the posthumous prequels don't exist.

This. There are only five (5) Amber novels. Nine Princes is the first and Courts of Chaos the last. The rest never ever happened shut up I can't hear you la la la la la.

I tried reading WOT, but (and I'll probably catch hell for this) I got halfway through the second or third one and thought, "this is even worse than that abomination, The Sword of Shannara, why am I reading this?" I don't get the love people have for the series. It's not a particularly inventive world, I didn't give a damn about the characters, and the prose seemed serviceable at best and laughable at worst. WOT soured me on doorstop fantasy for at least a decade.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:25 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I'm a big fan of Rothfuss, having picked up his first book on a whim years back. The delays in getting Book 2 out concerned me greatly, as I too tend to have a "dead or done" rule largely inspired by Jordan. I broke that rule for Rothfuss. And then Book 2 came out, and I really enjoyed it, but at the end my immediate reaction was "wait, this is supposed to be book 2 of 3, and I can't imagine how he could possibly finish in one more book ...")

I had the same reaction but I read an interview with Rothfuss where he claimed that all three books are written but that the publisher is delaying their release so they can have one come out each year.
posted by VTX at 12:33 PM on June 20, 2011


Joel Rosenberg recently died I believe. I am on a phone or else I would look it up. I long ago dropped the Guardians of the Flame, but I enjoyed the Keepers of the Hidden Ways.
posted by X-Himy at 12:47 PM on June 20, 2011


I read 9 or 10 of the WoT books before giving up. I figure I will just read about the ending on Wikipedia when it's all wrapped up.
posted by emeiji at 1:09 PM on June 20, 2011


As a (comparatively) older epic fantasy fan - what is the Thing now? Is there anyone besides George R R Martin that has the kind of crazy community that used to surround WoT?

Steven Erikson's got the community, certainly - and there's the added advantage that he's wrapped up the main series, with the final volume having come out this year. Although between his spin-off books and those written by his co-author, Ian Esslemont, there will be more stuff coming out for the fans.

I don't think Rothfuss or Abercrombie have the same level of fandom yet, but they're certainly headed in that direction. I was underwhelmed by The Name of the Wind - the protagonist seemed to be the typical extra-special-awesome-snowflake protagonist with tragedy in his past and a dark antagonist to defeat. I hear book two has sex ninjas, though, so I might check that out.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joel Rosenberg recently died I believe. I am on a phone or else I would look it up. I long ago dropped the Guardians of the Flame, but I enjoyed the Keepers of the Hidden Ways.

So he did, June 2nd.

I hope it hurt.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 1:54 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I started reading WoT when I worked in a parking garage. That's a great way to become a captive audience.
I became a WoT evangelist, and got my Dad to read the first few. 
I stalled out sometime after Path of Daggers (is that book 9?), after re-reading Lord of the Rings, and realizing how much Jordan had lifted from it, and after Dad said, "Wow, that Robert Jordan sure hates women, doesn't he?" which sort of made me aware of my own poor understanding of gender politics at the time, and which I'm still working on fixing, lo these 12 or so years later.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:24 PM on June 20, 2011


after re-reading Lord of the Rings, and realizing how much Jordan had lifted from it

Looking back years later, it really is quite shocking how obviously he cribbed from Tolkein.

I first read WoT in 1995 based on a recommendation from a friend. I was all of 15 years old, and I loved the first book to death. From there, though, I went through what I would later learn was a pretty typical bumpy ride with Robert Jordan. I didn't like the 2nd book that much, then the third was fun, and then things kind of go into a haze until at some point, I just gave up. The books just stopped mattering to me entirely -- Jordan's writing devolved with each book, and it soon became clear he couldn't be bothered to advance open plot points because he was too busy writing about scenery or opening up new, to-be-resolved-god-knows-when sideplots.

Still, for a long time afterwards, in my mind I shelved The Eye of the World as a pretty good book.

Later, in college, I remember getting into a discussion about fantasy books with a good friend, and I was kind of surprised at his reaction to WoT. He absolutely hated the series, and specifically pointed out how badly it ripped off Tolkein as one of the big reasons. I remember him saying something to the effect of "come on, the book opens with a farm boy finding out he's being sought by black riders who serve the ultimate evil of the world, and has to flee with his two friends with the help of a member of a magical order on a quest to save the world!" Still, I thought he was reaching in his criticism.

But over time, when I actually decided to think back to the books ... god, how could I have missed it?

It's a strange thing. Many of the first fantasy books I read were by masters of the genre, but I was too young to really appreciate that fact. I think the first two fantasy authors I ever read were Lloyd Alexander and Tolkein, in that order. But from there, I went through a long period of reading whatever I could get my hands on, and lord almighty was most of it crap. Just complete and utter crap. And yet, I didn't know it. This is where I have to file Jordan away, these days. Utter crap that I can understand my teenaged self being willing to slog through, but I couldn't even begin to muster the will to read today.

As a sort of side note, I have a real problem with getting rid of books, because I read and re-read them over and over. So, over the course of my life, if I bought a book, it didn't matter that I didn't like it that much -- it was staying on my bookshelf. I've moved books 3, 4, 5 times between new apartments, a condo, etc, and never thought twice.

But you know what? When I really thought back to Robert Jordan's work, I couldn't wait to toss every book of his I owned into the trash and never look back.
posted by tocts at 3:12 PM on June 20, 2011


Joel Rosenberg recently died I believe. I am on a phone or else I would look it up. I long ago dropped the Guardians of the Flame, but I enjoyed the Keepers of the Hidden Ways.

So he did, June 2nd.

I hope it hurt.


WTF? That's needlessly cruel.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:18 PM on June 20, 2011


He's dead, so it can't be cruel. Pitiless, harsh, hateful, spiteful, sure. Needlessly so? Sure. There's never any need for it.

I waited 30 years for him to finish a story, the first nine parts of which I paid him to tell me. I don't care how 'needless' the sentiment is -- I hope he died in pain and fear. That's an ending I can be satisfied with.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:29 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those wanting an excellent fantasy series that holds up to a higher literary standard (i.e. good prose and believable characters of both genders), try Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet. As a bonus, it is not set in a pastiche of medieval Europe.
posted by Ber at 3:45 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Martin has made it clear that he intends for all of his notes to be burned upon his death. So if he dies before he finishes the series, we won't get his intended ending.

Or, as we say in the real world - he hasn't got a fucking CLUE how it's going to end, and he's covered in case he drops before he figures it out...

Both Martin and Jordan are "guilty" of the same crime, in my book (so to speak): they let the books write themselves (at the behest of their publishers, no doubt...). Neither one of them is even a quarter the writer they'd need to be to get away with that sort of tactic. Jordan has been wandering in the wilderness since his fourth or fifth volume. The last (and, presumably, upcoming) volumes from Martin are painfully dull, clumsily plotted padding that he himself says he never planned for.

I respect that people make not like or enjoy Tolkein, but no one could ever accuse the professor of not knowing precisely how the story ended.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 3:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


No-one has mentioned Robert Jordan's greatest crime against humanity; the cover illustrations for his books were done by Darrell K. Sweet.
posted by Justinian at 4:06 PM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I respect that people make not like or enjoy Tolkein, but no one could ever accuse the professor of not knowing precisely how the story ended.

I believe Martin clearly lost control of his story after A Storm of Swords, so we're not in total disagreement. But Martin absolutely knows how the story ends. He just can't seem to get there from here.

I have a pretty good guess at how the story ends myself. But I won't say even behind tags or the spoiler nazis might get me.
posted by Justinian at 4:07 PM on June 20, 2011


Maybe I never got far enough into it, but I put down the first one after about 100 pages, making it the second book I'd ever just said "WTF, why am I reading this?" about. I'd recently re-read Tolkien, and I didn't want to read another rip-off. From all of the "I quit after book six" testimonial, I'm kind of glad I didn't finish the first one.

*The first was Sword of Shannara, which I lasted all of seven pages into. I've heard claims that the series gets better, but lord, the first pages were painful.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:34 PM on June 20, 2011


I waited 30 years for [Joel Rosenberg] to finish a story, the first nine parts of which I paid him to tell me. I don't care how 'needless' the sentiment is -- I hope he died in pain and fear.

First off, the Guardians of the Flame wasn't a story. The Not Exactly books made it pretty clear that Rosenberg wasn't looking for a single endpoint wrap-up, where everyone gets together and says, "Yay, we're done!" They were fighting society, not the Slavers' Guild. Rosenberg was clearly exploring in two barely-related directions -- "Is there really ever a Big Quest?" and "What happens after you've won the war?"

Second, there's a huge difference between Robert Jordan, who could get the next book in the WOT onto the Amazon bestseller list just by announcing a release date, and Joel Rosenberg, who had to give up on his biggest series because the publishers didn't want to pay him to do any more, because not enough people were buying them. Lawrence Watt-Evans talked about this a lot between the point when the publishers gave up on the Ethshar books and the point where self-publishing became a viable economic model for a full-time author.

Third, but most important -- good god, man. Have the tiniest fucking shred of humanity. The man died, and you're looking for a way to piss on his grave?
posted by Etrigan at 4:48 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've just begun reading Game of Thrones and I fear that it too will takes years to finish or never be finished at all.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:32 AM


Reading this comment is, for me, equivalent to an addict, laying in the gutter and contemplating the next horrendous thing his must do to get a fix, overhearing a nice, smartly dressed young man say to his companion "I tried this stuff called crack the other day, it seems like pretty great stuff!". I stir and raise my ghastly hand and try to shout, but only a hoarse groan comes out...
posted by 445supermag at 8:18 PM on June 20, 2011


(Seriously. When I quit reading the series, six of the antagonistic Forsaken had perished... but four had since been resurrected under other names.)

This is exactly the point I gave up on those books. Hey, Main Character has to take over the world -- I appreciated that he wasn't going to pull that off in a book or two. As long as he was making some kind of progress, I stuck with it, and the dwindling number of Forsaken was a good way to keep track of it. Then a bunch of them come back from the dead? When he still had seven or so out of thirteen to kill off for the first time? Fuck that. Put 'em down and never went back.

This. There are only five (5) Amber novels. Nine Princes is the first and Courts of Chaos the last.

Let me just point out, for the sake of appropriate appreciation, that each Amber book is approximately 200 ~ 250 pages. The whole first Amber cycle is the size of Martin's A Storm of Swords.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:23 PM on June 20, 2011


I think I bowed out of the series after book 6. I had just moved to my first "grown up" apartment and remember lugging that box of WOT hardbacks (I bought 'The Eye of the World' as a bookclub hardback, then first edition hardback for the rest) into the new place.

Housewarming; talk turned to WOT and I pointed to a box still sitting in the corner, "If anyone wants hardcovers of the series, they're in that box there."

It went. Quickly.

While googling who killed Asmodean, ran into this RJ quote when interviewed about it, "The reason I won't tell people though is that I am enjoying watching them squirm entirely too much.

He isn't a writer or a novelist, what he did was parasitic interactive performance art.
posted by porpoise at 8:53 PM on June 20, 2011


The whole first Amber cycle is the size of Martin's A Storm of Swords.

Indeed it is. Because Zelazny could pack more world-building, plotting, characterization, and action into 100 words than Martin can pack into 5000.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:58 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, chalk me up as another who quit after 5 or so. I can remember thinking towards the end of his books, the action and pace were starting to pick up, to get to a mini-finale. But then I'd wonder why I spent all that time drudging through 700 pages of inaction to get to that. I tend to read so slowly that it really became more about the size of the books than it did the quality, though.

I've also just picked up Martin, which does seem the logical next step. But I'm not worried about him biting it yet - I see this more as background reading for a tv mini-series than a closed series of books. Perhaps that's what Jordan lacked - additional pressure and excitement from a newly formed television audience.
posted by Metro Gnome at 11:24 PM on June 20, 2011


I believe the last book of the WoT series is titled "Castle of Aaargh"
posted by tigrrrlily at 11:50 PM on June 20, 2011


Stylistic comparisons between Robert Jordan and George RR Martin make HULK ANGRY!!!

It's like saying Costner and Kubrick both make overblown films.
posted by Aquaman at 9:55 AM on June 21, 2011


I knew it was time to stop reading after looking at his pic i the about the author section. Crocodile dundee hat, check. sunglasses, check. Gandalfian - walking stick, check. Clunky signetesque rings, check.
posted by prodigalsun at 11:47 AM on June 21, 2011


Justinian: "No-one has mentioned Robert Jordan's greatest crime against humanity; the cover illustrations for his books were done by Darrell K. Sweet."

Well, yes. The covers are mostly embarrassing, when they don't outright stink. The cover on the first one is probably the best of the bunch. They seem to get progressively worse. The latest one... man, dude wasn't even trying was he?
posted by caution live frogs at 12:06 PM on June 21, 2011


I have some friends that are big Jordan fans and finally I bowed to pressure to read "at least the first few" in the series. After reading GRRM and his dark children (Abercrombie, Morgan, etc.), WOT was occasionally entertaining but often excruciating. Characters take far too long to get from point A to B, the action scenes (which are well done) are too few and far between, the female characters are enough to make me want to hurl the books against the wall, the three boys are not much better, and there is absolutely no grit. No sex, no swearing, violence is bloodless and everyone makes it out OK each and every time. It's like a 1950-60s sensibility. I just abandoned book 4 halfway through because I could not bear another chapter of the women sitting around talking and not moving a single bit forward. Give me my whore-loving dwarf and Jon Snow, give me Abercrombie's amoral band of cutthroats, Lynch's clever con men, Cook's mercenaries, give me anything that's fantasy and a LITTLE BIT REAL!
posted by Ber at 12:15 PM on June 21, 2011


The latest one... man, dude wasn't even trying was he?

Darrel Sweet wasn't a young man when he did the EotW cover 20 years ago. Just saying.
posted by sparkletone at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2011


I liked how the article reminded me of how much terrain the books covered. I liked Dune because of the sprawling, new culture and WOT has the same attraction for me.

The ebook covers look nicer to me. I stopped buying the books when they come out, but I still check them out from the library. The last few books resolved a few loooong running plots, for which I'm grateful.

If you're wondering about the final book, Brandon Sanderson has a writing progress bar, now at 12%.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:47 PM on June 21, 2011


The ebook covers look nicer to me

That is because you have functioning eyes hooked up to a working brain.

A friend of mine once described the cover of Gathering Storm (the first Sanderson one) as "Rand jerking off an invisible Ogier." Once that interpretation of the cover art has been placed in your brain it is hard to dislodge.
posted by sparkletone at 6:54 PM on June 21, 2011


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