Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills - Seven Days to Go

I had a conversation with my wife several weeks ago, and by now it is sort of a wash of a memory, but I certainly remember the context and the outcome. She was telling me about waiting for some book to be published and how hard it was with the anticipation, given the level of success and public interest in the previous installments (it might have been the Twilight books, and I hesitate to even mention that series on this blog). She had the audacity to say to me:
"You just don't know what it is like to wait for something like that."
At this point I said something along the lines of:
"EXCUSE ME?! I don't know what it is like to wait?! I've been anxiously (and more patiently than a lot of fans, I might add) awaiting the conclusion to the epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time for over a decade! If anyone in this world knows what waiting for something is like, it is Wheel of Time fans, and nobody else.
Then I started in on the nature of the fantasy genre and specifically The Wheel of Time and epic volumes of high fantasy. Of course, while not factually correct, my statement does resonate the sentiment felt by many of us fantasy nuts who have been in a torrid love affair with a 10,000 page story for the better part of our lives. In any other context, and with the publishing of A Gathering Storm only months away (at the time), I would have certainly included George R.R. Martin fans; but I was already pushing my luck with the allowed time of fanatically speaking about fantasy literature for one car ride to the grocery store.

What's the point, you may ask? Well, in seven days the next installment of one of the all time bestselling fantasy series is being published. On October 27, A Gathering Storm, book 12 of The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson will hit the shelves, just under four years after the previous volume. The light at the end of the tunnel is coming quickly, with a speculated publishing dates of November 2010 and November 2011 for the concluding two volumes of this fantasy work (tentatively titled Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, respectively).

After this conversation (or rather my outburst of total lack of respect for the fantasy readers' dedication and patience) I started thinking some more. I honestly can't even really remember life without the knowledge that there is another Wheel of Time volume on the way. What's going to happen in November 2011 once I finish the last word on the last page? The end?

If images like these don't make you wish you lived in a
different world, there is no hope for you.

I can't remember exactly when I started reading The Wheel of Time. I do know that my love for The Wheel of Time has transcended anything else that has been a constant in my life (in terms of duration); I've had three different cars, seven or eight different jobs, I've earned both a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree, overseen the planning and construction of an 18-million dollar building, been directly involved in close to a thousand college students' lives, I started dating and married the love of my life, and have celebrated four anniversaries with her (clearly the most important of those things were the last two).

Talk about young boys becoming men.
Grow out your beard, Wolfbrother.

I love reading. It is one of my favorite things to do. I love escaping into fantasy environments and reading coming of age, epic quests. For these reasons alone, I am eternally in debt to Robert Jordan, since before I picked up The Eye of the World you could not get me to read anything. I actually remember a field trip in junior high when I was sitting next to a guy from my class (who I would later become pretty good friends with) and he was reading one of the first couple of books from The Wheel of Time. I don't remember which one, but I do remember the classic Darrell K. Sweet artwork. He started telling me about the book and I simply said I wasn't interested. He asked me why not and said it is great. I responded:
"I don't like to read."
GASP! I now want to scream anytime I hear someone say that and I always think of this moment. Several years late he and I, along with several other friends, would be debating the weaving's of the Wheel and speculating on a number of pertinent issues on the roof of his house. Moments like those can never be emulated, nor would I want them to be.

As I mentioned previously, reading epic fantasy is truly a torrid love affair (or at least what I assume a love affair would be like). It has been an up and down roller coaster of excitement, disappointment, waiting, late nights, and waiting. I will not even begin to get into the quality of the last few books, as many fans have been rather disappointed. I will mention that sometime after I finished Crossroads of Twilight and after I started reviewing books at Amazon I drank a little too much and started reading reviews on Amazon, so in my passionate state of mind (read: drunken stupor) I pumped out a "review" basically calling anyone that didn't like the book a pseudo-WOT fan and saying they didn't appreciate the magnitude, and blah blah blah. It was great; I remember feeling like people were going to read my "review" and be like, "wait a second, he's on to something here..." I was going to start the revolution of bringing the viewpoints of fantasy fans back to this beloved series. For God's sake, The Wheel of Time is why I read these days! Such blasphemous things should never cross anybody's mind; but of course, it was mostly stupid ramblings and incoherent drivel. I never deleted that "review" because I have fun reading it sometimes. It is fun remembering those moments of passion. Actually, five people thought it was helpful (out of 23), which is still surprising. Some of the finer quotes from my Crossroads of Twilight "review":
Okay, here's the deal: A lot of so called WOT fans have been complaining about the last few books (mainly books seven and on) because they are boring and not as interesting as the first six. I will call these people pseudo-WOT fans because it is clear that they do not appreciate "The Wheel of Time" for it's entire worth, because they only appreciate specific scenes and incredible moments from the first six books (including all of "The Great Hunt," Domani's Wells, the battle with Rahvin, etc.).
I admit, I thought book ten was going to be "The One" book to rule them all. I was disappointed because not much really happens.
So, honestly, as a TRUE fan of "The Wheel of Time," I am telling you that if you truly appreciate the Wheel of Time world and the characters involved, you will appreciate "Crossroads of Twilight." It may not be the best book you've ever read, and you may get a little upset with it, but those are the times you need to step away and think about what is actually going on in the series. These pseudo-WOT fans obviously do not understand anything that is going on, because they are to preoccupied with looking for one good reason for this being "the last Robert Jordan book they ever read," which is exactly what they've been saying for the last three books. And yet, the pseudo-WOT fans will still pick up book eleven, and when it is "the One" book to rule them all, will say, "I LOVE ROBERT JORDAN, I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN OF HIS WORK!!!"

At that point, we will all look back at their one star reviews and say, "well actually, you wern't.... Sorry sucka!"

I cannot believe how stupid I was. The second quote is probably my favorite with regard to my fanaticism. I should also note, for the record, that this was prior to receiving both a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree, as mentioned above.

The last thing that I will mention is that The Gathering Storm is partially written by Brandon Sanderson, from Robert Jordan's notes. Sanderson is a phenomenal writer himself, but it will be different reading the story written by someone other than the visionary.

So, seven days from today I will have the next step in this decade old journey ahead of me. Like Rand al'Thor's coming of age story, I feel that in some ways my own coming of age story has been transpiring in the background (at least I hope so; but we'll see if people start trashing A Gathering Storm and I have a few too many beers one night - be on the lookout for Amazon reviews!). The next biggest decision is going to be power through the book in one sitting or try and savor it? I already know the answer, and have always known the answer since ten years ago. I just need to remember to request Tuesday off of work.

This image is where it all began. Possibly one of the
most celebrated covers in fantasy history.

If any of my fantasy friends out there are reading this, I'll be ready to grab a six pack and head up to the roof and enjoy the night in a way that Robert Jordan would have appreciated.

Ten years. Has it been worth the wait? Absolutely. So as they say, let the Dragon ride again on the Winds of Time.

Good waiting,

Plants and Books

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