Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Crap: a new Robert Jordan book.

The Robert Jordan money train rattles onward with Book 11 (!) in the Wheel of Time series, titled The Knife of Dreams. For the uninitiated, Jordan started this series about 15 years ago and the first five installments were pretty awesome. Like most fantasy writing, the ghost of Tolkien hangs heavily over the series, orcs and swords and all that. But at least when it began, it was exciting, imaginative, well-written and deeply addictive. If only he had just wrapped it all up in a slam-bang Book 6. Instead it has all gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Perhaps it will stand as a cautionary tale for the young writer, an example of what not to do after banging out a couple of best-sellers. After Book 5, Jordan started slowing the pace down, exchanging action and suspense for tedious attention to detail, piling on minor characters and complicated subplots until the entire ship began to slip under the waves. The most likeable characters in the series either got pushed to the margins or underwent annoying personality changes. Simply keeping track of what was going on required a searchable index of names and backstory. Book 10, the Crossroads of Twilight, was an especially irritating new low in that it was an 800 page book ($24.99 in hardback) in which not a damn thing happens until the very last page.

Of course, his legions of fans kept buying his books throughout this long descent into suckitude, hoping for a return to his old form, or at least a conclusion allowing us to get on with our lives. It hasn't arrived yet. This has, naturally generated a certain amount of anger, visible in the reader comments for book 10. As of now there are 2376 reader reviews with an average rank of 1.5 stars out of 5. Reading through the reviews is a lot of fun. You can find some really funny parodies of the series and its bloated style, and a great fake interview with Jordan discussing his latest volumes (Book 17 "The Paint Dries" or Book 19 "Overtaken By A Snail").

So will I read the new book? Hell no! OK, that's a lie. I'll probably read it, but only because I'm a sucker. And because I'm weirdly fascinated by how bad its gotten. And because I'm totally addicted and need to know how it ends. But I'm not buying a copy, so there.


hbomb said...

Haha, that series was recommended to me by a friend. I was frustrated because I started a series called the Song of Fire and Ice, by George R.R. Martin. I read the first 3 books, which were completely awesome. Then the fourth book was supposed to be out last July. Then it got pushed back to last December. Now it has been changed into a two volume book, with the first book coming out this month (supposedly), nearly a year late. From now on, I'm only going to start a fantasy series when all the books have been published.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with everything you wrote, except I have no recollection of what happens at the end of book five, so I couldn't say whether I thought it could have been wrapped up in Book 6. I saw the book at the bookstore a couple days ago and kind of winced and did not go over to look at it. I haven't yet convinced myself that I never need to know what happens at the end, although it's true that I never finished Stephen King's Dark Tower series because once the whole Wizard of Oz thing happened, I couldn't imagine any sort of good end.