26 September 2009

Wheel of Time

So, on a whim, I decided to reread the Wheel of Time series. For those unfamiliar with this series (which is probably, actually, most of the readers of this blog...), this is an epic fantasy series that's been nearly 20 years in the making. Think Lord of the Rings, but big. Huge, in fact, and quite literally; the series is currently projected to complete at over 4 million words, with 3.4 million already published in twelve novels. Most non-Wheel-of-Time novels, mind you, are around 100,000-150,000 words, so these novels are absolutely gigantic. According to Wikipedia, the paperback editions of the series total up to 9600 pages. These paperbacks are so large, in fact, that they tend to fall apart while reading.

So why have I decided to abandon all hope of reading anything else for the next couple months? Not a clue, honestly, and hence the "whim" mentioned above. I'm not normally a fan of epic fantasy, although my tastes in reading material tend to oscillate. However, I read the first five or six (I forget) novels in this series when I was in high school, so they have a sort of nostalgia factor to them. I vaguely remember the plot, but not well enough to reconstruct even a fifth of the story. This project was also somewhat inspired by Tor.com's Wheel of Time Reread, where they're providing a chapter-by-chapter review of the series in the lead-up to the release of the final novel. The first part of the final novel (which has been split into three more mammoth sized books) will be released at the end of October.

This series has an interesting history; it's impossible to write such a huge, bookshelf crushing series over 20 years without picking up some baggage, at least. The Wheel of Time series infamous throughout the fantasy literature for being, well, bloated. Despite the 3.4 million words of fiction here, not a lot seems to happen. In fact, I've been told that there's an entire novel near the end of the series where nothing at all happens -- after some 200,000 words of reading, you're rewarded with everyone in exactly the same dilemmas they were at the beginning. I guess I'll know when I get there. That being said, the books have a lot more action than I remember there being. I remember the dull chapters between the action, it seems, but almost none of the action -- and there's actually quite a bit of it. Mind you, I'm only on the third book in the series, so maybe it'll slow down soon. However, for now, still going strong.

I'd like to write about this series some more once I've read more of it, but that's a quite daunting prospect. Tor.com's reread project is progressing at the rate of 2 or 3 posts per week, each covering a chapter or two, and I doubt it'll get anywhere near done before The Gathering Storm is released. For that matter, I doubt I can catch up with the series before the final novel is released. Condensing 3.4 million words into a single blog post would be ridiculous. I guess we'll see what happens.

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