"It all started with wondering what it was really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told that you are the savior of mankind. Ten years of thinking about that, and I began writing.
" He was James Oliver Rigney, Jr.
, a Vietnam vet who went on to get a degree in physics from The Citadel, and was then a nuclear engineer for the US Navy. He put all that behind him and started writing a variety of fantasy novels under various aliases. As Reagan O'Neal, he wrote the Fallon trilogy
of historical fantasy in the early 1980s, which he followed up with a quick series of Conan novels
as Robert Jordan. Under this pen name, he spent a decade planning and four years writing The Eye of the World
, the first book in The Wheel of Time
, an epic storyline in a fantasy world. Jordan had planned out the broad story arc from the beginning to the "final scene in the final book
," but he died before his epic tale could be completed
. A young author, Brandon Sanderson, was chosen by Rigney's wife and editor, Harriet McDougal
, to complete the portions of the tale left as a loose collection of notes. One last book became three, and just last month, the release date of the final book was set: January 8, 2013, in the final month of the Year of the Dragon
. Now that the end is in sight, you might feel the pull of nostalgia to finish the series, or maybe you're interested to see what all this fuss is about. With around 11,000 pages, 635 chapters, and more than four million words, it's a complex, daunting world to (re)enter. Fear not, the internet is here to help.
Rigney is almost universally referred to as Robert Jordan, based on the success of the Wheel of Time. Rigney's plan was to have a new pen name for every genre
, to avoid his Louis L'Amour
experience. Rigney was a fan of L'Amour's western novels and was disappointed to pick up a new novel by the author, only to find a mystery instead of a western. Because of that, Rigney made lists of names using his real initials
, using a different pen name for each distinct style of writing. The first was Reagan O'Neal, then Robert Jordan for his Conan novels. In 1982, he wrote Cheyenne Raiders as Jackson O' Reilly
, and later wrote science fiction reviews as Chang Lung
. But Oliver Rigney has become Robert Jordan, to a degree, all due to the success of The Wheel of Time series. The series started out as a single book
"But it's hard to find space for an 18-inch thick book on your shelf. I took the outline to the publisher, saying what I had here was more like four or five or six books. What can I tell you? I signed a six-book contract."
That was Robert Jordan, in 1991. Two years later and five books into the series, the number stretched to "7 or 8"
. In 2002, the plan was for two more books
beyond the 10 already published. That number got a bit fuzzy, as in 2004, Jordan was talking about 3 prequels
, after New Spring was published as an expanded version of the first prequel novella
. And it got fuzzier still, after Jordan got sick and died, leaving his fandom with notes and dictations taken by his family.
The notes range in how detailed they are. In some places, he finished complete scenes, which is great. He finished several complete scenes, which will be scattered through the three books, including the ending itself.
In a number of places he gave dictations. Over his last few months, he spent a lot of time dictating to the family things that should happen. These are very interesting scenes in that they read kind of like a screenplay, because they transcribe the dictations. It's a lot of the dialogue, but it's him saying what should happen instead of actually writing it out. "And then, Egwene says this, and then he says this, and then this happens." And so the description isn't there, but the dialogue and the blocking all are. As I said, like a screenplay.
That was Brandon Sanderson, talking about his work on the final three books
. Yes, the details to be contained in the final book of The Wheel of Time were too vast to be contained in a single volume. Sanderson was selected in part for his Eulogy to Robert Jordan
, and for his own fantasy novels, which were darker than WOT to date
While there are brief descriptions
on the last two prequel novellas
, there is, as of yet, no official word on these being completed by Sanderson.
But this is all side-stepping the content of books themselves. The problem with a broad series-wide review
for the uninitiated is that there are ton of spoilers. If you stick to the promotional language, it'll be skewed to favor the series. Many book jackets and promoters, and fans proclaim Jordan as the next best thing to Tolkien, but as Edward Rothstein says in his New York Times write-up on the series
It may be unfair to Mr. Jordan to push the Tolkien comparison too far. Tolkien loved the sound and texture of language and invented one for his epic; he wanted the books to read like a translation from a lost Nordic tongue. His characters' bardic poems sound as if they had been passed on through generations, coding lost memories in song. And when he hits his truest notes, as he does when marking the passing of a glorious past, Tolkien can be heartbreaking. Mr. Jordan, though, is all dispatch; the narrative drive stops only to engage in minute description of a street, a battle, the feel of wielding the Power. There is a practical quality to these books -- their job is to tell a story -- and if sometimes the wheels of destiny turn a bit too noisily, and pasteboard romances become too overbearing, the pages still keep turning.
, a reviewer and fan wrote an article titled Robert Jordan: Genius or Hack?
that discusses some of the minute descriptions involved with Jordan's world creation:
The Wheel of Time series is more than escapist brain candy. It is a fractal; an infinitely complex structure so tight that it seems to teeter on the ledge which separates fantasy from reality. That world as intricately detailed as our own. Its creator is either a genius or a madman; possibly both. When I picture Robert Jordan’s house, I can only imagine room after room full of papers, push-pinned to every wall, outlining a million details, keeping track of the shifting population of an entire world.
And she's not too far off. Jordan kept a file for each character
, and some of his collection of notes went into The World of Robert Jordan's the Wheel of Time
(Google books preview), commonly referred to as The Guide
. This should be a good indication of how detailed reviews or summaries for the books can get. If you'd like a glimpse of the series, or a refresher on what you might have read a decade ago, there are plenty of sources. In increasing levels of detail:
- WOT Summary is an interactive overview of the series to date, limited to a few sentences per chapter, plus the option to only display certain characters at a time.
- Thonky's Wheel of Time Chapter Summaries features "spoiler settings," which allows you to set how far in the series you've read, and only display information from the books that won't spoil your future reading.
- Brandon Sanderson's re-read of the series, which will provide some spoilers. The brief summaries of the books include Sanderson's own thoughts and memories of reading the books, with discussions on how his views of the books have chanced from reading them as a teen-ager to an author in his early 30s.
- The Wikipedia entry on The Wheel of Time is fairly detailed, including good summaries of each book, but these are full of spoilers.
- Tar Valon Library is a moderately detailed wiki for the world of WOT, as well as detail the social fansite, TarValon.net.
- A Wheel of Time Wiki is a wiki site, with a decent amount of detail on the world of Randland, the fan-given name for the world of The Wheel of Time.
- Encyclopaedia WOT is a nearly exhaustive source for the novels.
Perhaps these sources still aren't enough for you. You can read through Robert Jordan's old blogs
, one of the biggest social WOT fansites. If you want to really read between the lines, jump into Theoryland
, home to the fantastic WoT interview archive search
, where you can dig through summaries and verbatim transcripts from Robert Jordan's comments at book signings, discussions at question and answer sessions, interviews of all forms, and even see what Brandon Sanderson has said and written in similar situations. And if this is all gibberish, check out the Dragmonount WOTFAQ
, including the very necessary list of acronyms and abbreviations used in the FAQ
, and by fansites at large.
If this still
hasn't quenched your fever WOT, Geekology has a brief article on a possible movie
, and other tie-ins, like stand-alone video games and an MMO.