Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Enough already, Universe.
Now listen, Universe. I've had quite enough. This needs to stop.
Robert Jordan died before finishing his Wheel of Time series.
From my childhood through my early 20s I was a voracious reader. Those who know me now might not believe it, but as a child I was incredibly shy and introverted. I spent far more time with my nose in a book than I ever did speaking with people, even my family. I was especially drawn to fantasy and sci-fi novels, though really any fiction would do. Books were my escape from the real world to a place where I was confident and happy.
Late in my high school career I worked at Claire's Boutique in the Mission Center Mall. (Yes, it's nearly the gayest job in the world, and yes, I looked the part.) On the opposite end of the mall was a Brentano's book store (remember those?) where I would spend the bulk of my paycheck.
One day on my break I was buying a book or two instead of the stack of a dozen I would have liked to have bought. I knew the couple books I could afford would never last until my next paycheck, so in despair I asked the cashier whether they had anything I could have for free. To my shock he handed me Robert Jordan's Eye of the World, a small paperback. Of course nothing is really free. When I reached the end of the book I discovered that they had only printed the first dozen or so chapters of the entire novel. Naturally, I bought the full book with my next paycheck.
Yeah, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. But for once I didn't mind--Jordan's Wheel of Time series is really, really good. It's not so much the writing, which is average at best. What draws you in to the story are Jordan's characters and the detail with which he paints his fantasy world. There aren't just two, three, or four factions vying for control of the world--there are dozens. The main characters are complex yet bold. It is fascinating to watch them grow and change over the course of the story. Secondary characters range the gamut from peons to demi-gods, and none of them are "stock." The antagonist role shifts constantly, and though there is a clear "evil" persona who ultimately must be defeated, during any given book the conflict might come from any of a dozen different factions, most of which fall squarely in the gray area between right and wrong. The protagonists themselves often make choices which result in death and loss, and they ally themselves with people and groups who are completely unsavory, yet necessary. The system of magic is distinct from any other fantasy world and broad enough to be used in tens of thousands of ways.
The story is epic and compelling. With 11 books ranging in length from 700 to 1200 pages each, I've made a big investment in this world, perhaps more than any other author I've read. The thought that I'll never get to know how it all ends in Jordan's own words really saddens me.
So what's up, Universe? Is this one last blow at the end of my long, painful Summer? Or do I have more months of disappointment, sadness, confusion, and anger on the horizon? Because honestly, it's getting harder to deal with these losses while remaining sane and not self-destructive.
I need a break.