The Price of Success

The Eye of the WorldDo you like Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series? I do…to a point…and it highlights a common problem I find in fantasy fiction.

I loved the first three books of the series – they were great, and Jordan pulled out all the stops for the genre. It was like he’d taken a little bit of every element – mythology, gaming, popular fantasy culture, cinema – and piled them into a truly intriguing storyline.

The first book was great, although I was disappointed that by the end we only killed the boss from level one. But hey, there were thirteen more to go – bosses not books! Book two was good and held my attention firmly in place. On book three I started to lag and asked myself, ‘Will this never end?’ The answer was ‘No’. Book four really irritated me and it was apparent that the editors adopted a ‘hands off’ attitude because the writing had become repetitive. Every time a character was mentioned, they would perform the same two-dimensional series of mannerisms and express their previously scripted emotional outbursts. The books at this point could have been cut by a third, trimming the fat of extraneous prose, but Jordan had become too successful.

It’s a shame, because art is subjective. I’ve found several best-sellers to be boring as all get-out, and many pulp novels to be amazing. Creatives often do their best work when being pushed – it gives them something to react to or rebel against. Art created in a vacuum is nothing more than a big creative wank.

After the root canal of book four I stopped reading the series. A few years passed and I thought I’d give it another go – maybe I’m in another place and it’s not as bad as I remembered. Book five annoyed me immediately. All of my previous frustrations as a reader instantly surfaced, but I read on, hoping that book six would prove different. There was enough in the books to pique my interest, but I should have known better. After book three, I dubbed the series the ‘Neverending Story’, and it was then that I should have stopped reading. Instead, it took me until book six. Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me – fool me six times, what the hell is the matter with me?

I know that there are a lot of die-hard Robert Jordan fans out there, so what do you think? Am I way off base here, or do you feel the same way? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Go ahead. give me a bell.

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~ by oblivionrising on September 2, 2009.

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