30 October, 2009

How the Wheel of Time Wheels Us In [PUN!]

picture of a drug addictIn my review of The Gathering Storm I told you that I felt like an addict finally getting a fix, but without all the negative connotations… reading is good for you, right? Anyway, seeing as how this is Wheel of Time week, I thought I would take a look of how Robert Jordan’s, and now Brandon Sanderson’s, epic series sinks its hooks into us and then refuses to let go. This is my answer, there are many like it, but this one is mine.

The principal, and I might add unique reason the Wheel of Time draws me in so expertly is because of what it omits. Strange you say!? Indeed, Robert Jordan was known for his almost blindingly detailed descriptions, often taking pages to portray the silvered edge of a broom handle. But hidden among, and contrasted with, this amazing profusion of detail is a surprising lack of subjective interpretation. In other words, the precursor to action, generally subjective thought, is almost entirely absent. An obstacle presents itself and the character acts, often leaving the reader to fill the subjective vacuum between obstacle and action. Now, there’s some pop-psychology for you! In short, one cannot help but become attached to Robert Jordan’s characters, for they are us – our motivations, hopes, and dreams become theirs. While this is often the case with good epic fantasy, Robert Jordan’s deliberate and specific literary mechanics push subjective appropriation to the extreme, and thus turn enchanted readers into frenzied word-gobbling addicts. To make my point, did it take any of you more than 12 hours to finish the 700 plus pages that make up The Gathering Storm [US][UK]? I didn’t think so…

There is a second, and more generic aspect of the Wheel of Time that remorselessly sucks us in. I call it the reading shivers. The shivers come over a reader at moments of epic epicness. Not a word, I know, but it captures the feeling adequately. The shivers mark the point where the brain is unable to process the excitement generated by the scene you are reading – it is just that good – and forces your body to react physically. Think Dumai’s Wells or the Fall of Manetheren, probably my two favorite moments of the whole series. Regardless, I have been chasing the dragon since Moiraine first told that fateful story of a doomed people, and have yet to recapture that same high… did I mention I am an addict?

Theses are by no means the only aspects of the Wheel of Time and Robert Jordan’s skill that make the series so compelling, but they are those that jumped out at me when contrasted with The Gathering Storm, for they are elements the latest installment lacked. So, my fellow addict, why do you keep turning the pages?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

the wheelof time takes me to another world another time a time and place where thecruelty of this world can be forgotten for as long as i am reading. i lost my 23 year old son to leukeamia and since then wish i lived in an alternative universe where he still lived. the wheel of time has providedmy only escape from reality. if they make a film of the books hayden christianson should be cast as rand al thor. what do you think?

Alec said...

Hey Anon,

I am sorry for you loss. I too sometimes wish I found myself in the WoT... although preferably not in a Trolloc cookpot. I hear those are rather unpleasant.

I can definitely see Christianson as al' Thor, and am a definite advocate of a series of movies as opposed to a mini-series al la Sword of Truth / Legend of the Seeker.

Dawne said...

Honestly I hope they never make a movie from this series. No one could play Rand that I know of. Hayden could be Mat, but not Rand.
But I say NO MOVIE. Dont ruin the whole reason we love to read! Reading takes you away, gives life to your imagination, and we all see it so differently! If you movie-ize it you kill it.
I loved the LOR, but the books were so much better. NO NO NO, dont ever think you could even duplicate what this series is in a movie, or series of them. It would be like "lost" but for the big screen? Eww no. This 20 year journey for me has been wonderful and to think someone might think you could do it in a film? NO way. That would be another "The Stand" nightmare...if anyone has read the Stand and then seen the flicks...tsk
WOT is thick and luxuious, its part Jedi, part LOR, part death gate cycle". I love all those series from Dragon riders of Pern to the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but WOT is "IT". There is no other, and I dont think there ever will be. Bless Jordan for that! Maybe we will get lucky and someone like Tracy Hickman can do some side books for us on the other characters? Eh? LOL