Monday, March 30, 2009
A Memory of Light - Thoughts on The Final Book of "The Wheel of Time"
Hey all! Some of you might have heard this already, as I know a few of you who are also huge fans of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, but It was announced by the publisher, TOR, today that the 12th and final book of The Wheel of Time will be released in three volumes, beginning with the first volume, "The Gathering Storm" this coming November. Here is the press release from TOR, posted at Dragonmount.com. I wanted to first of all, express my excitement over having a general date for the first volume, and then to comment on the method of release. There are a lot of Wheel of Time and Robert Jordan fans who are up in arms right now considering it's been 4 years since the last book came out, and the series is somewhat infamous for growing beyond its original scope and becoming a behemoth of a work. Not to mention that before Jordan passed away in 2007, he initially said he would finish this story in one book if TOR had to invent a new binding system. It would be easy for a reader who's been following the series for the better part of two decades to become somewhat impatient or angry or cynical at the announcement that the author chosen to continue and finish the story has expanded this final volume into three of them, released over the course of two years. Brandon Sanderson has posted an article over on his website explaining a great deal of what led to the three volume, two year release. It's a good long read and well worth it for the doubting fan of the series. Let me tell you why you should not be angry by telling you why I am more excited than I have been previously after this new information. 1. Short and fast would probably mean quick and dirty - There is no way I would prefer to have a single volume that is cranked out as fast as possible. Mr. Sanderson seems to be very concerned about the quality of the story. The more care that is given into the crafting of this final chapter of Wheel of Time, the more gratifying it will be, not only for the author, but for the fans, and for the memory of Robert Jordan. The fans who realize what he was creating, ought to be overjoyed that Brandon is writing so much and is continually stating that he is bound and determined to be sure that the standard of quality is there. Sure he could write a quick summary of what happens at the end and call it the final book, but by book 11, the story is anything but brief. Some people detest it, some people love it. If I may invoke the name of another venerated master of the genre, consider this: J.R.R. Tolkien wrote volumes of information about Middle Earth that were not a part of The Hobbit or Lord of The Rings. Having read those extra volumes enriches and increases the understanding you have of the world surrounding the main story. I, for one, love the richness of the story as much as the climax of the tale. Jordan wrote the same supporting depth around his world, but he included the details within the story itself. Tolkien and Jordan both have their faults as authors, and they write about different details, but that's they just way they do it. It makes them who they are, and who am I to suggest they do it another way. If I want a story written another way, then it's up to me to write it, but Jordan's detail is his way. Brandon Sanderson seems to understand this and is doing his best to see that the story gets the treatment it deserves. 2. I have a long standing personal philosophy that has served me well in keeping a good perspective concerning luxury, entertainment or anything that I do not need to actually live. Anything from video games to restaurants. There are two types of people in this world. There are the "Get what I Wants" and there are the "See What I Gets". The "Get What I Want" is the kind of person who looks at the world around them, and expects everyone to change what they do to please them. The food is not salted enough. The game is not pretty enough. The book is too long, too short, too simple, too complex. This person cannot be pleased by an artist or entertainer because they expect what they want and not what they get. The "See What I Get" is eager to hear, taste or see what the artist, musician or chef has up their sleeve and is willing to try something out to experience the particular creation as the creator intended (And in general believes that the creator was creating their best). In general I am a "See What I Get" and I find that I am able to enjoy things that some people may not, simply because I want to experience what the creative designer has prepared for me. Brandon has made it very clear that he is a fan of Wheel of Time and that he intends to do his dead level best for us. For me, even if he was a terrible author (which is most certainly is not) I would be glad to buy and read this book whenever and in however many volumes it ends up being. I am not only supporting RJ and his family by buying and reading this book. I'm supporting Brandon Sanderson and the fact that I respect his care and work on this series, and want to "See What I Get". 3. Three volumes is not about greed. It's about completion and practicality. If you read TORs press release, you can jump to a conclusion and say that TOR is just trying to get as much as possible out of this book and hang the fans. Brandon's article denies this, as do his frequent blog updates over the course of the past year. He has said from the get-go that this book was huge, and in all likelihood too big for it's "one volume" britches. We've seen it grow gradually and have been kept up to speed as it grew to accommodate all of the loose ends that need tying up. It is also practical and makes perfect sense from a business perspective. It is a less durable book if you push the spine to that thickness, and it is true that smaller books do make better sense for a book store with limited space. Some comments I have read have practically suggested that the idea of producing this book in three volumes is next to criminal. Is it too much to ask that an author who works himself so hard to create the book, and the booksellers and publishers that manage to get them to us make a little money for it? There's nothing wrong with that. If you disagree with paying for three hardbacks, then don't. Wait for the paperback, go to the library, borrow it from a friend, but there's no reason on earth to threaten to tell everyone you know not to buy that book from those tyrannical publishers and money grubbing booksellers. The bottom line is this. We've been waiting a long time, true. Robert Jordan began a story that became greater than he could have imagined. It's a fantastic story in itself. One for the epic fantasy books. The creator's creation grew in scope beyond even his own imagining. He could not finish so someone else was asked to do so. Despite trepidation and nervousness that he could complete such a task, he accepted anyway, and now it seems that not only was he up to the challenge, but he'll complete his quest as a hero while the rest of the world looks on. So I appeal to you. Whether or not you agree with how it is given to us, let's enjoy the finish of this tale to first of all, honor the people who have worked so hard to bring it to us. RJ, Harriet, Brandon, and everyone else involved. Then, to appease our curious minds concerning a group of characters we've followed a very, very long way. Let The Dragon ride again on the winds of time! -J