Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Wheel Pauses - Robert Jordan RIP

It was with great sadness that I read yesterday of the death of Robert Jordan author of the Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels.

I have been reading Wheel of time for about 12 years and it has been a rollercoaster ride of excitement, immersion, creativity and at times immense frustration. You see Wheel of Time is not really twelve novels each with its own beginning middle and end. The individual books are just chapters of one immense story. And what a story it is is. And what a world it is set in - perhaps the most enthralling, most detailed, most populated, most engrossing world in all of fantasy.

If Robert had one fault it is that he never seemed to be able to pull all the threads of his story together to finish it. When I started reading "The Eye of World" 12 years ago I was quickly hooked and immediately looked for the follow on novels. At first each episode was more enthralling than the last with staggering twists and exquisite detail of description and storyline. Round about book 5 or 6 I came to realise that there was no sign of this great saga ever coming to a close. Each book introduced new characters and new story lines without making any attempt to close any of the already numerous plot threads. Since then Robert has published a new book about once every two years. I and countless others have avidly bought each one hoping to find out how the great tale is finally resolved. There are so many characters at this stage and so many plot lines that I have to resort to fansites and online FAQs to remind me of who is who. I have been following Wheel of Time since 1995. Others got hooked as far back as 1990 when "The Eye of the World" was originally published. Its is no surprise that many fans lost heart at such a long span of time. Even some of the fansites seemed to lose enthusiasm.

About a year ago Robert Jordan announced that he was suffering from a rare terminal illness. The joke that many of his readers had quipped about Robert dying before the series was finished suddenly became a stark possiblity. Robert himself promised to do all he could to finish "A Memory of Light" the 12th and last episode of his great oeuvre before his departure.

Robert has now left us and "A Memory of Light" is unpublished. This post from Robert's brother/cousin reminds us that not finding out how a story ends pales into insignificance beside the loss of a person. Nevertheless it would be a shame for this great epic to remain unfinished.

The good news is that the interweb is abuzz with rumours that the novel may be finished but as yet unpublished or that RJ's family members may endeavor to finish it for him from his notes.

If you have not read Wheel of Time then I urge you to do so. Read it and enjoy but read it in the full knowledge that this epic saga may wrap you up for days, weeks , months. It may require you to immerse yourself in online faqs and and help sites to keep track of what is happening and after all that you may still be left wondering how it all ends.

By the way there was an excellent First Person Shooter game released for the PC set in the Wheel of Time universe. I played it as recently as last year and while the graphics are very out of date the use of magic is quite innovative and the gameplay is still fresh. I don't know where you might buy a legal copy these days but it has probably turned up on the (cough, cough) abandonware sites by now.

The wheel pauses but just as in the novels it never really stops. I am sure that readers will continue to lose themselves in the Wheel of Time many years from now. Given the breadth, depth and truly epic nature of this great saga I think that Wheel of Time out of all the various fantasy series is the one most likely to find a spot beside Tolkien's Middle Earth in the canon of English Literature.

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