Hats Off to Brandon Sanderson
Posted on March 30, 2009 Posted by John Scalzi 65 Comments
Brandon Sanderson explains how the last book of the Wheel of Time series became a 800,000(or so)-word trilogy. And all I can think is: Man, I have a hard enough time getting to 100,000 words. That man is just plain nuts. But I expect Wheel of Time fans will appreciate the extra effort in the end. Here’s the actual Tor press release about it, by the way.
Also, before anyone kvetches here about the last book being split up just for the money, do yourself a favor (and keep yourself from looking like an ass) by reading what Brandon has to say about it. Seriously.
Even though I gave up on Wheel of Time about seven books in (I may actually have thrown it against a wall in frustration), that was a fascinating read. Interesting to think about the problems of writing/publishing at epic length.
Agree with Mary Anne @1 (though I think I gave up on book 1, and I do distinctly remember throwing whichever weighty tome it was across the room). Amazing little insider slice of getting a fan favorite to press. And 800k+ words? Daaaaaaaaaamn.
(And part of me wonders if the hew and cry over GRRM’s ASoIaF delays would have been muted if GRRM had been as blunt and up front as Sanderson. I know, I know, unique situations and all that. Still, one does wonder…)
I really enjoyed what Brandon wrote from both a fan of the series, the of hearing the whistle, which may be a precursor to the light at the end of tunnel, plus just to hear the take from a business and publication point of view.
It is a pleasure to read sites like this, from authors whom I enjoy reading and get the news and updates about the worlds you all have created. Thanks!
The Wheel of Time series is the only (significant length) true-blue fantasy I read anymore. While it has definitely had its ups and downs, I’ve been drawn in enough that I want to see it to the end. While I had certainly hoped to see that end this year, I’ve tended to suspect that there was more than one book left, despite Robert Jordan’s insistence to the contrary. While I think he might have done it, I’m not sure the series as a whole would have been the better for it.
Regardless, Brandon’s “worst case” estimate of one book per year for the next three years still seems a bit optimistic to me, but given the previous lags between books, it’s plenty fast for me. Looking forward to all three books.
I have been behind Brandon 100% on this project. I don’t envy him at all regarding this. I couldn’t imagine the work, the expectations…it gives me a headache just thinking about it.
But I think he’s the perfect person for the job and all I can say is this: Good luck, Brandon, you’ll do a great job no matter how the book is published.
Carl E. Sagan on a pony…800k words? The man is nuts. I hope they gave him a tractor trailer full of cash for that amount of work.
I don’t know how I’d feel about spending that much time and work on finishing somebody else’s baby, but from what I’ve read out of Brandon so far (especially the Mistborn trilogy), I predict that the final trilogy will do the whole work more than justice.
As for the GRRM comparisons to this, well, as someone who’s enjoyed both series quite a bit, there is none. Well, none that compare favorably on the GRRM side anyways. GRRM’s was ‘damn you all for being annoyed I’m not done with something I said I was almost finished with five years ago.’
This, on the other hand, was much more interesting, and much more respectful of the audience. One senses, in reading Sanderson’s blog, that he’s still kind of amazed and in awe that he’s getting to do this. Now, on the other hand, if, come November 2014 part 2 of A Memory of Light isn’t out yet, but Mistborn 3, 2 anthologies, a plethora of short stories are, well, yeah, you’re going to see some cranky fans there as well. And you know what? I know all the authors out there disagree, but the fans would absolutely have a right to be cranky about it.
That’ll take the whole “Wheel of Forever” storyline up to, what, 15 books total?
I got to book four or five (can’t remember) and quit, as there felt like an inadequate amount of story to go along with the copious verbiage I was being buried in. I remember telling a friend that the first three or four enourmous, doorstop volumes felt like they got the hobbits about to Bree, in terms of actual story covered.
I read and enjoyed the first 11. For me, it’s not so much the story as the immersion in the world.
Jordan’s statements that it would be finished no matter what struck me as impossible. Far too many threads to even begin to tie it all together.
Three more volumes seems about right.
I think this is smart. I didn’t see any way to wrap up any sort of satisfying ending in one book.
I lost patience with WoT around book 7 or 8 (I can’t remember), when I realized entirely new characters and plots that would take whole books to play out were still being introduced. I remember thinking, “This will never end, will it?” and giving up. (That, and some of Jordan’s writing tics were just working my last nerve, so whole books more of those tics didn’t sound very inviting.)
I think I will try out the Sanderson-authored books, though, just to see how he handles things. The question is, do I try to start from the beginning again and read everything to catch myself up? Or do I just go online and read some plot summaries to save time? I guess I have until the end of the year to decide …
I gave up on the series after book 3.
I feel slightly flummoxed that people got to book four or even seven and then couldn’t continue. I can perhaps be more lenient towards those who had to call it quits after the last two or three. The first books though… They’re masterpieces. I don’t have words to express how perplexed i am that people can feel anything but the utmost pleasure and fullfillment when reading this epic series.
I realize I’m not bringing much to the discussion here, but I just couldn’t bring myself to keep quiet.
After all the buildup in this series, who of you readers weren’t absolutely torn to shreds when Rand got one of his bodyparts violently blown off? I was so shocked i had to put the book down. Do you even realize how much change the character Rand has gone through? Mr Jordan has managed some unbelievably IMMENSE character changes . I have seldom experienced the like in my years as a connoisseur of epic fantasies.
Only GRRM is even remotely in the ballpark when it comes to quality fantasy. And with all due respect to that outdated epic LOTR; it’s time people stopped drawing parallells. There’s been tons of fantasy since that blows it completely out of the water.
He mentioned the possibility of an omnibus edition of the ones he’s writing. For some reason the image of an omnibus edition of the entire series popped into my head. That would be an awesomely huge book.
Lisa, you reread all the books and you give yourself a paper cut on each page as penance for stopping the first time. ;-)
Just kidding. It is a daunting task to decide to reread the series. My attempts to get my wife to start the series have failed recently so I am considering whether I have the stamina to start over or if I should just pick up the last book.
I am like Nick, whereas this is the only fantasy series I read, so I am happy to have it continue as long as needed. I am probably the minority in that.
Dishman@9, for me, what I’ve always enjoyed about the books is that each and every one of them, including all fo the weaker later ones, have individual scenes that just make me go ‘yeah!’. The early books had 4-5 each, that put a huge smile on my face, and every book had at least one. I have reread the books, just to get to those scenes in context, and I’ve reread those scenes independently.
The payoffs from those scenes are why I kept with the series, despite its many flaws. That, and the fact that the books really do hold together well in terms of story. It’s obvious that Jordan knew where he was going from the very first bit – stuff is foreshadowed in the first book that didn’t happen for 10 more books, and there’s stuff foreshadowed that early that hasn’t happened yet. That’s an amazing thing to happen for a series that large and complex. It never really got off the rails like, say, Dune did, or Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. Sure, the later books didn’t move the plot along as much as I’d hoped, but it still felt like there was a destination in mind.
@Jan-Erik–I absolutely agree there were some great books in the beginning of the series–I think book 1 has some weaknesses (I think partially just because it was the first book), but book 4 in particular I thought was absolutely brilliant. But for me, things started to go downhill after that.
I think it’s at least partially because Jordan does have some writing tics that are just guaranteed to annoy me personally. Probably they’re all things that wouldn’t bother a lot of other people, but they happen to bother me; which means that his books are great for some people but not (after the 7th or 8th book) for me. I’m know there are books I love that annoy other people–I chalk it up to personal taste. It also doesn’t help that my taste for epic fantasy as a genre has waxed and waned over time.
@Greg: OW. That would be LOT of paper cuts. Do I also have to douse them in lemon juice, or is that optional? =)
@Skip: I wouldn’t assumed that just because something was foreshadowed in an earlier book it necessarily means Jordan had it all planned out 10 books in advance. To use an insanely geeky reference, back when I was a GM, there were times when players picked up on something I didn’t intend as foreshadowing, or even as a plot point. But they fastened on to it and wouldn’t let it go, bless their obsessive little hearts. So I ran with it–why not? And they thought I meant it that way all along. I wonder if Jordan did some of the same thing as he developed his plots over the course of the books.
in regards to question, Sanderson has done recaps of the books, as he reread them for his undertaking of this project, this might be a great place to start before diving into the online encyclopedias of the world of Jordan.
This is very disappointing to me. I could never get into the Wheel of Time series but I really liked the Mistborn series.
This means that I’m going to have to wait at least 4 years before I can read a new Brandon Sanderson novel. (unless I want to give the 10,000 page prequel to what he’s writing now another shot).
The Wheel of Time series is in excellent hands.
There’s also a recap over on Tor.com that is a chapter-by-chapter summary and discussion of the series.
As a Brandon Sanderson fan who gave up on Wheel of Time many years ago, I’m annoyed: this means less non-WOT work from him for several years.
On the other hand, if it means the WoT books he produces are better, then I’m in favor of it; it’s just frustrating as it means less of what I want to read and more of what I don’t. :)
I read the first two WoT books when I was pregnant with my eldest.
He’ll be 17 in June.
I’ve waited this long (and actually, stopped reading when the series became “Elayne Takes A Bitchin’ Long Bath and Rand STILL Doesn’t Know How To Make A Decision”), so it’s not going to kill me to wait a little longer.
Maybe I’ll even have time to manage a re-read.
Reading his explanation, I feel kinda bad for Mr. Sanderson- it seems like he’s basically having to beg forebearance of the fan base he inherited for making choices that only he- as the author- has the insight and right to make.
Dude- write the best book you can, and it takes how long it takes. Don’t apologize. Anyone who flames you for taking too long to complete such a monumental task as this one can go pound sand.
I guess that lodges me firmly in the GRRM camp. :)
I bought the first Wheel of Time book on word-of-mouth suggestions in a Japanese bookstore before a flight back to the US. I figured, hey, a long-ass plane ride = plenty of time to read a big ol’ book.
Unfortunately, fifty pages in I set the book down, fell asleep, and never tried to read it again. I feel a little guilty (It’s popular for a reason, right? Unlike most US pop stars?) but I just didn’t get into it. I don’t even remember what the first fifty pages were about, except I was tired of exposition and didn’t want to wade through it for the plot to commence.
Is this unfair? Should I try it again? I have Wheel of Time #1 in a big stack of books I’m going to try and trade in for other books at the local shop (more Alan Dean Foster, probably).
I never thought that AMOL would be or could be one book. Nor did I think that we would ever see it outside of the imaginings of Robert Jordan once I found out he had a terminal diagnosis. I was resigned to wondering about how the cycle finished into the new age as the wheel turned.
I never lost interest or got frustrated with the series and in fact have reread the series twice, once before “Crossroads of Twilight” and again before “Knife of Dreams”. Yep, love it that much.
That being said, I’m sitting here in awe of Barry Sanderson right now. Taking on a universe of the size and complexity of WOT and seeing it through… I’m speechless.
Take the time it deserves Barry, no worries.
Random note to begin, can something “burgeon larger”? I don’t think so. It may be technically correct, but something is not right there and I am not sure what.
I never did see how you could finish from where the series left off in book 12. While 12 was somewhat of a return to form, nothing really moved. A “well, we’re done now” for book 13 would have been a series of this, then this, then this happened and oh this host of other things happened while you weren’t watching. And that would have sucked and not been anything at all like the rest of the series. While the dress straightening and the braid tugging can get way too repetitive, some of it needs to be there.
I am interested to see how it turns out.
I remember thinking pretty highly of the first few books. I think first time around I made it through book three of four before putting them down for no reason beside just wanting to read something different for a while.
When I started reading again, planning to read through to the current volume (nine or ten books at that point, I think), I made it to volume seven or eight and I just couldn’t make it any further. I think, like lisa said at #11, it might’ve been at a point where he was introducing new characters and plots and locations and it really seemed like the book was almost part of another series entirely, though admittedly I didn’t finish that particular book, so maybe it came back around, I don’t know.
Not that that means they’re bad books, mind you. I stopped reading Old Man’s War at the end of the first chapter twice (only because it was a convenient place to stop at the moment) and just didn’t get around to picking it back up right away. When I did pick it up the third time, I think I blew through it and The Ghost Brigades in a week or so. And I might start on the Wheel of Time again, just at some point I told myself I’d wait until there was an end in sight to do so. Sounds like there is now.
As for Brandon Sanderson’s post, I think good for him. He feels it’s going to take more words (and books) than originally figured to give the story a proper send-off, I applaud him for trying to do what he believes is right by the series. Hopefully the fans will support him in that.
I quit partway through book five, and threw it at the wall. And was mad that I’d wasted the time reading the first four.
But a whole lot of people love the books, and if 800,000 words is what it takes to wrap up all the storylines in a satisfying way, then that’s the way it should be. How many planned trilogies wind up going further and further? How many just stick to a trilogy? (Not counting the authors that do one trilogy and then the next trilogy and so on, which isn’t quite the same thing.) I’d rather have the quality than the speed. This isn’t a series I like, but the same goes for books I do like.
Am I an awful person if I say I’m looking forward to the series being completed so someone can update the wikipedia page with a synopsis, thus saving me the effort of rereading the series?
I mean, I’m an an awful person either way, but that’s pretty much what I do anymore if there’s a series I have a passing fascination with, but know I’ll never have time for.
Yay Wikipedia! Cliffnotes for lazy slobs like me!
I stopped after Book 6. Book 5 was ok but WoT got exceedingly tedious on Book 6 and I didn’t look back. For the people who could continue more power to them.
I really hope Mr. Sanderson renegotiated his contract. Essentially, at 800,000 (maybe +more) words, he is writing 3-4 books for the contractual price of one. Tor will get at least 3x the profit from Sanderson as it will now be a trilogy.
Much like many of the other people here, I gave up somewhere around book 7 – whichever one it was that when I finished, I realized absolutely nothing of consequence had changed or advanced from the beginning of the book.
That said, I certainly don’t regret reading them and if Sanderson can put together a quality ending, I’ll probably go back and reread them.
Plus, I have to give big props for anyone willing to take on someone else’s world and fanbase and write 800,000 words in it. Woo-boy.
I’m thrilled by this decision. That means we get a WoT book in November, instead of waiting longer. I’m happy to have a long series.
I’m afraid I disagree with people who stopped reading because the series wasn’t moving; particularly in book 6. Book 7 wasn’t great, but I saw it as what it was: moving the chesspieces to set up future books. Book 10 was fantastic (thought he might end it then and there). I don’t remember much of Book 11; that’s the only one I don’t own.
I’ll be rereading the entire series before November so that I’m nice ‘n’ caught up. I generally reread the previous book in the series before reading the new one, but it’s been so long I think I need a full refresher.
I think the most important thing that impatient fans should keep in mind while waiting for books is this: There is other stuff out there to read. Not a real difficult concept.
And I’ll pick up all three volumes for the sake of completionism, and the hopes that Sanderson can put new life into the story.
In the meantime, I look forward to Wise Man’s Fear and Dust of Dreams, the latter of which should be out by the end of summer (Erikson’s been incredibly consistent).
Out of all the comments, Jardine’s idea of a WoT omnibus is the most entertaining.
I would love to see that produced once, just as a novelty to sit in the Tor office or whatever.
Imagine the scene you could fit on the spine of that behemoth.
You could write books on the spine of that book.
I asked Brandon once on his message board about his contract and he did say that while he was getting paid a fee that he would receive some money from additional sales of the book. So it seems like that splitting it into three would at least benefit him financially that way.
Brandon is insane. That’s the only thing i can think at the moment. Insane in a good way though. How the heck anyone can think they can write that much that fast and then ask people to blame him because it’s too slow is beyond me. But i do have to say that after reading Elantris and the Mistborn series, Brandon is the right writer to handle this task… if he doesn’t fry his own brain in the process of trying to pound out 800,000 words in 2-3 years time.
Wow, and I thought Our Host was open and detailed about his writing process! Best of luck to him, but as one of the legion who got off the bus at Stop #7 or 8 I don’t think I have the energy to pick the whole thing back up again. And I’ve loved Elantris and the Mistborn series.
Skip@7 – “Mistborn 3” a.k.a. The Hero of Ages has been out for some time already. Given Sanderson’s track record and general openness about his process, I’d say you can save yourself the trouble of justifying hypothetical future crankiness … it seems very unlikely that it will be necessary.
Kelly Norton@19 – If you read the whole post, it’s pretty clear that Sanderson has at least one book of his own in the editing phase right now, and mentions a commitment to write at least one other during the 3-year period of WoT production he charted. They might be YA, I’m not sure, but at least they will be “original” Sanderson product. As aprhael@22 indicates, we’ll be getting “less” Sanderson, but not none.
@29 Am I an awful person if I say I’m looking forward to the series being completed so someone can update the wikipedia page with a synopsis, thus saving me the effort of rereading the series?
I don’t think so. For example, I find I enjoy reading the Tolkien Legendarium entries on Wiki far more than I did “The Return of the King,” which I never finished. (Please do not harm me, all and sundry! But seriously, that stuff is GRIPPING. Link after link after link *spaces out* More so than TVTropes, and this is saying a lot.)
I really loved Sanderson’s “Elantris.” The first page was one of the best hooks I’ve ever read, the system of magic was not cookie-cutter, and it ended in one volume. I’m interested to see what he does with WoT. Unfortunately, I think it may mean I have to reread the Wheel of Time, which I quit over ten years ago after book 5 (not because it was terrible. I just thought I’d wait until it was all done so I wouldn’t have a year between each book. I, uh, think — sadly — that I left it way too long and am suffering from a lack of…caring, right now.)
“Just” for the money? Hell no. But let’s not pretend the money isn’t going to be a nice bonus for everyone involved, because *it is* going to make more money in 3 books than it will in 1.
Now, when Kevin J. Anderson starts writing prequels, that’ll be just for the money.
A) We fans of WoT should count ourselves damn lucky we’re getting any kind of closure after the original author has died. Very few worlds have survived the loss of their creator, and we should be grateful that this one has.
B) Given the choice between a crappy book now and a kickass book… whenever, I’ll take the latter. In the long run, we would all be much more disappointed with a poorly done ending than with a longer wait.
C) This was a good look into Advanced Book Writing – the practical considerations of how to write a story. Though I doubt there are many other authors out there struggling with how to publish an 800,000 word manuscript, the logistics of publishing is still something that new authors need to think about when they write.
I didn’t make it through the third book. My wife, on the other hand is a devotee. Every time a new one comes out, she starts again at the beginning. That means, to date, she has read the first book 11 times. I prefer to just stick my tongue in electrical sockets for my torture.
Maggie @ 22–Your comment made me laugh out loud.
JT @ 27–I’ve had the same experience, where I picked up a book one time and couldn’t get into it, and then picked it up again later and enjoyed it. The Steerswoman series comes to mind; the first time I just couldn’t get past page 100 or so, but people whose opinions I respect kept raving about it, so I tried it again and LOVED it. I was actually kind of mad at Past Me for not reading it all the way through the first time. But for some reason Present Me had better taste in reading material. =)
@42 lisa Sometimes it matters what your experiences are and where your “head is at” when you pick up a book. I wouldn’t get mad at your past self. You just weren’t ready for the book at that time.
It bewilders me that people think authors have a “magic faucet” of words that they can just turn on at will. If you’ve ever tried to create anything, you know that sometimes you can do it fairly easily and other times you are staring at your materials until you think of something to do with them or it’s time to do something else and you’ve gotten nothing accomplished. For a few people, the latter doesn’t happen very often. I’m in awe at Brandon Sanderson for being willing and able to write 400,000 words in someone else’s world and contemplating another 400K in that world just to do the right thing by it. That is sheer dedication, high respect for Jordan and his work, and devotion to the fans and I think he needs to be heartily appreciated for it.
I remember exactly where I abandoned this neverending story. It was during the second long trip through The Ways, which I believe is in book 3. I didn’t throw anything, but only because I was reading it in the company break room whilst eating my lunch. The first book was really quite good. If the author had had the discipline to write just one story at a time, I am sure they would all have been excellent.
Actually his comments near the end about publishers frustrated over the length of books confused me, because while I understand that, what I don’t understand is why more aren’t putting out electronic versions for the Kindle or Sony devices. I mean a few do, and mostly some sci fi is there, but so much of what I want to read is not available on Kindle at all. That’s the main reason I haven’t buoght one, though I would love to since I have so much reading to do while riding the train.
You’d think it would be a no brainer : the amount of money in publishing costs they’d save should more than outweigh any piracy concerns you’d think.
Book 5 was where I reached my limit. It wasn’t that I was angry or frustrated, I just finally came to the realization that there was other worthwhile fantasy fiction out there. Stuff with endings, even. My intention has always been to come back to it once the last book is finally on the shelves.
Mac @ 38: I second your thoughts on Elantris.
@45 There are still a lot of people — a majority, it seems — who are far more willing to buy a $7 paperback then to shell out for a $300 to $400 device with planned obsolescence in the mix.
With Sanderson writing this final book/trilogy to Wheel of Time, I might actually read it. As most people have noted, the series started great, but then faltered as Jordan fell in the love with his world and seemed to forget he needed to tell a story.
I read the first Mistborn book a couple weeks so, so I hope his conclusion to Wheel of Time is decent. If it is, I just might pick it up again.
There’s one whole series of books that I have read, that I like intermittently. One day I’ll read one and can’t get into it at all, I try again a few months later and read the whole thing and love it. This is the “Company” series by Kage Baker.
As for Wheel of Time, I haven’t read any of it, but I’m a bit tempted to pick up and just read the Sanderson part.
For those of you considering reading only Brandon’s contributions to the WoT series, I think that would be very difficult. Now, it is possible that this conclusion can be followed without all of the 11 books worth of build-up. You might even be OK with a summary (esp. books 8-10); however, I would recommend reading from the beginning. Brandon has mentioned that these books are supposed to actually finish story arcs. You can’t appreciate that properly without reading the rest of the sub-plot line.
For myself, I have re-read from the beginning each time a new book is published from about book 8 on. I think that this is the reason I don’t have the same complaints about books 8-10 that many readers say don’t start or finish story arcs.
I think Brandon is doing an wonderful job. I feel that he is being honest with fans about what to expect. This is more than can be said for GRRM. (Note: I pre-ordered A Feast of Crows but still haven’t read it because I want to read both at the same time) Regardless of when he finishes his last book, I wouldn’t have cared, if he would have given us (fans) honest expectations.
I totally understand where Brandon is coming from. (Also, I have sympathy for GRRM, because, um, I’ve been working on the same damn novel since two boyfriends ago, and it turned into a trilogy and had to be rewritten.)
Writing, actually trying to get out a story, has sharpened my sympathy for most authors, even the ones whose stories I read and think, “Really, somebody wanted to publish this?” Because if it comes down to putting out a book that is less than your best or being two/three/four years late….I don’t know, it’s a tough choice between eating and professional pride. And if you can afford to eat via other means, then the book will be late. If GRRM had put out the book he’d claimed to have five years back, maybe we all would have declared him a hack and sworn to never read him again.
Also, having read EVERY SINGLE WoT book that has come out to this date, and multiple times….I think I can safely say there was NO WAY Brandon was going to get all the threads wrapped in a normal 250K novel.
Also, for those suggesting they’d read only Brandon’s contribution, folks have already noticed the storyline issue. It would be mighty difficult to track the characters without an idea of what they’ve been through already. (Although, frankly, I picked up WoT at book 4, read book 3, read book 2, read book 1, then read book 5, because that was the order I could get ’em in at my library.)
I do suppose it would be REALLY REALLY in media res though.
Another thing to consider is….Brandon will be augmenting bits that were written by RJ, and fairly copious notes. Obviously not 800K worth of notes, mind you, or I think the initial announcement from Harriet, Tom, and Brandon would have been very different, but key scenes were written or sketched in already. And Brandon is doing his best to integrate with Jordan’s style. So it’s not a Sanderson book–it’s a Jordan-Sanderson book.
I’ll venture the criticism of that being a sign of far too many story threads, many of them of no real use to the main plot. To the extent that GRRM is similar, he at least has the good grace to kill off a sufficient number of plot points in interesting ways. A large number of Jordan’s plot points just meandered on to nowhere, or were plot coupons that could have been discarded for actual interesting events.
Wow, reading through that really makes me want to go and reread and then finish WoT (I read through 9 and bought through 10. When it got to be that I’d owned 10 for 2 years without doing more than skimming through and reading bits about my favourite characters I’d accepted that I was over WoT) more likely I’ll just go and read Sanderson’s other works, but who knows, maybe I’ll get the urge to have a blast back to my early teen years.
@46 And the ending! It was … I want to use a word like “effervescent” or “upbeat” or something like “just like the ending of a ‘here I come to save the day!’ type movie except less trite” but I can’t think of one. :-D. “Delightful” comes close (I don’t use that word lightly), but doesn’t capture the very real darkness and the overcoming thereof. Plus room for sequels!
@49 Dana, you might very well have just prodded me over the line to try The Company series again.
I haven’t read all of WoT published to date. It started off strong but the story just went on too long for my tastes. I have been following along to a degree because I am interested, just not sufficiently so to wade through the entire series to get to the resolution.
However, even the books I have read have made it clear to me that it was very unlikely that it would have been wrapped up in just one more book whoever wrote it.
I read a lot of fantasy but I have always put off reading Jordan just because the series seemed to be going on forever. I had started “Eye of the World” but the glacial pace made Tolkien seem like he was standing on the accelerator. I decided to wait until the series finished. And I’m still waiting.
Sanderson though is good. I read Elantris and was quite impressed. Plus Brandon has shown up on the Song of Ice and Fire forum to throw down, which always wins points with me.
Right now I am reading Richard K Morgan’s “The Steel Remains” which is a totally different animal for fantasy and that’s not even taking into account the buttsecks. Not for those seeking Tom Bombadil clones waltzing through the flowers.
Josh: I’m not arguing that that’s possibly too many threads. In fact, both GRRM and RJ had the same problem to my mind. I once read somewhere that writing is kind of like a sculpture of an elephant–you quarry a stone and then you chip away everything that isn’t an elephant–or in this case, story. RJ and GRRM both kept quarrying though, when perhaps they could have been chipping. (Could have. Not should have. Not my story, although I would have handled them differently. And as you note, GRRM does occasionally hack off major plotlines/characters and resolve them that way.)
The thing is….there are stories contained in all those seemingly extraneous bits. Maybe not the story you care about though. I think it’s a stylistic choice to figure out how you want to tell the story, and obviously there are going to be problems inherent if you choose the big sprawling epic style. You might lose readers, you might lose the main thread, various storylines may be tougher to resolve because you’ve got things running parallel.
Pixelfish: I’m not saying Jordan is totally without merit, as he’s clearly not. But I think “big sprawling epic” can be done in a cleaner way, and works better. And that’s my criticism, it’s not like I’m the final arbiter of good or bad fiction.
Except when I am, which is not now :-)
@24 – I recommend people give it 100 pages before they give up. A friend had given me a copy, I picked it up, read the first couple chapters, put it down, and didn’t think about it for a couple years. Then one day when I had nothing to read I powered through the first 100 and found myself ravenously hooked. You may still not like it after that, but I did have a similar experience to yours.
I agree that the series has its low points, but it’s definitely worth the read to me. I’m reading it out loud to my husband in the car and when we camp. It’s been a year and some odd months and we are almost done with book 4.
I think I’ve figured out why I like the series while others ’round these parts don’t: I love world building. Other people may prefer straight ahead plots (or even twisty plots) and character building. I like the world building, and that’s what Robert Jordan did. He took the time to fill out details of the world, as well as giving tantalizing hints about other parts of it.
Yes, I’ll admit that the bits in the Ways and the Aiel Waste do drag, but…
I think I’ll get over the disappointment of having to wait a few more years for the end. Because, really, I want it to be done right more than I want it to be done. It would be awful to have a book 12 that basically read like a Twitter version of the News From Randland to cram in the info needed. Or worse still to leave out half the threads and just leave us all hanging.
Plus, the more there is the more time I get to spend immersed in one of the better pieces of world building I’ve read lately.
(I don’t actually recommend it to people, mostly because I don’t like to recommend works in progress like this, and moreover because you really have to be the sort of person who wants to read 14 800 page fantasy bricks full of world-building and a plot that moves at the speed of a sloth. It’s a niche market. And I love it. And love to grouse about how it isn’t gorram finished and how it’s slow and heavy and stuff, but that’s just grousing)
I, like many others, got up to book ‘n+2’, where ‘n’ was the last book that I really enjoyed (I knew I was in trouble when I read one of the books, couldn’t remember it, and then read the plot synopsis and still couldn’t remember it. That, combined with the fact that I was going to mark for death the next character who “crossed her hands under her breasts” and/or “tugged her braid”, prompted me to give up). I guess I’m still surprised that it’s going to take that long to wrap it up because, IMHO, the problems with the later books was that not enough stuff actually happened (book 10 anyone? Did anything at all happen in that book?). My feeling is that the series could have been improved by some world class editing because no book that is part of a series needs to be 800 pages long. Ever. There just isn’t that much stuff to talk about and if there is you can cover it in the next book. Maybe Jordan was edit proof or maybe there wasn’t time or maybe we fantasy fans just lurve our phonebook sized books and so no-one cared.
I sort of feel the same way about the last GRRM book (please Scalzi, don’t hurt me!). He says that it was supposed to be one book and he split it into two. Okay. He’s the writer. So why did I get the feeling after reading it that there was a half book’s worth of material in it? That not enough actually happened to merit a full SoIaF book?
Scalzi, thanks for writing reasonable length fiction. OMW didn’t need to be 800 pages long and I’m glad it wasn’t. As it is, I’m going to be able to go back and read it whenever I like and not have to block out a week’s worth of time to do so.
Like several previous commenters, I’m completely unsurprised. Even when I heard the original announcement, my first reaction was disbelief that anyone could wrap up that sprawling plot in a single volume.
More power to Brian Sanderson!
Alan: Book 10 had an extraordinarily significant event, right near the end. I’m not going to mention what it was, just for those who haven’t gotten that far, but yes, stuff happened in that one.