Picking up a new (old) book series

When I first picked up Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World,” it was at an airport: I was getting ready to fly, but had neglected to find myself a suitable book to take along with; and I was looking for something to occupy myself with at the last minute in the airport kiosk. I picked up the book, intrigued by the title and the (at that point) unfamiliar author; then put it back down because the cover art was substandard in my opinion. Back then, I had zero difficulty with judging books by their covers, especially in the Sword & Sorcery genre that had me spoiled from cover art by artists like Frazetta, Whelan and Vallejo. I looked around for something else to read, mindful of the fact that I was running short on time; then – when I could find nothing else that interested me – I decided to pick the Robert Jordan book back up. I figured it was bound to be better than nothing ….

By the time the plane landed, I was disappointed that the flight was over, and that the next few days would have me so busy that I couldn’t read further in that book! By the end of the first chapter, I knew Robert Jordan was going to be one of my favorite authors in the Fantasy genre. I finished that book as soon as I could, and joined the ranks of fans awaiting future installments in the series. As time progressed, and the series progressed, I found myself getting very impatient with the delays in book releases. Eventually, in the late 1990’s, my life started to get particularly interesting during one of the (what I then called) dry spells between Wheel of Time releases.

That should already suggest how much I enjoyed reading Robert Jordan’s work, when I referred to such periods as dry spells despite all the other interesting books being released during those times from other authors. After the eighth book, “The Path of Daggers,” my life simply changed in a way that I couldn’t spend as much time reading fantasy books. I also wound up, in preparation for a major change of location in my life, selling almost the entirety of my book collection (at that time, somewhere near the neighborhood of 200 books) – this included the eight books I had already collected in the Wheel of Time series. I was still interested in reading the rest of the series; but I didn’t want to re-start my collection in the middle of a series, so I put it off until a time when I might be able to afford to buy the first eight books, along with the ninth.

That quickly turned into not buying anything at all from Robert Jordan. My reading interests are myriad, after all, and there is only so much time I can dedicate to pleasure reading. After a while, I forgot the series. Recently, however, I’ve decided to use my failed memories of the Wheel of Time books that I’ve read in my favor: I had a very good reason, after all, to start re-buying the series from the first book – 15 years of not reading anything from the series is a long time, and I needed to refresh my memory! Last year, I received the prequel book in the series as a gift, and the door to these memories was re-opened.

I’m happy to report that I’m back into the world Jordan created. I have the first trilogy and, when I took “The Eye of the World” with me to the park to read the first time, I literally had goose bumps when I read the first words of the Prologue! People must have thought me strange – running my fingers over some of the words from a paperback book with a plain, brown paper cover (I like to turn the packing paper from Amazon into book covers), with what must have seemed to passersby a rather absurd grin on my face – but for those first moments, the outside world was really the least of my concerns. Reading just the reviews for the book was an exercise in nostalgia for me, as I saw the one-sentence review from L. Sprage de Camp – an author whom, with Lin Carter, made the primordial world of Conan take real life – and remembered care-free moments spent in allowing my fantasies to roam freely in my mind.

For those readers who are familiar with Robert Jordan’s work, none of this will seem surprising. For those who have never had the pleasure, and who enjoy the Fantasy genre, I can only recommend reading this series. There is a prequel that has been released (as I mentioned); but I would not start reading the series with the prequel: I would instead suggest reading from “The Eye of the World,” then wait at least a few books into the series before picking up the prequel. Robert Jordan is sadly no longer living in our world, having died before being able to see his Wheel of Time series published in its completion (the last of the books were written by an author / fan, based on the copious notes left behind by Jordan for that very purpose). Robert Jordan was obviously a very intelligent and world-wise person – this comes across in his writing quite easily – with interests in history, religion, politics and simple human nature. His insights into human nature are what first hooked me on his writing … the interactions between his characters seemed to me at the time to be written by someone with an almost grandfatherly insight into how people get along, reminiscent of Mark Twain. Similarities between Tolkien’s famous works cannot be avoided (as with many works from this genre); but where I find Tolkien to be at times awkward in his writing (keeping in mind that I do consider myself a fan of Tolkien, as well), Jordan’s writing is fluid. This is why I’m inclined to say that while Tolkien blazed the path to this genre, Jordan expanded it greatly – paving the way as he went. I will take this one step further and say that, had Jordan lived and created his Wheel of Time series first, Tolkien may not have been nearly as popular as he now is. That is what my memories of an incomplete series tell me: I cannot describe how forward I am looking to actually finishing this series. It remains to this day the only series of books I have ever started and taken great interest in, that I have not finished.

I have read recently that there are talks of making television shows and movies based on the Wheel of Time series. I hope this doesn’t happen: we saw with Tolkien’s works that, even with the passionate genius of Peter Jackson, film adaptation could not do the complexity of Tolkien’s world justice. The world Robert Jordan created is massive in comparison, and I don’t see how film adaptations could do it justice. I’m fond of saying that a picture is only worth a thousand words if the wrong words are chosen; and in this series, Jordan personally wrote over 3 million of its words, and didn’t get any of them wrong. There is no film adaptation that could hope to approach this.

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3 responses to “Picking up a new (old) book series

  1. It’s always interesting to re-visit an author who has fallen off the radar for a few years and read their words with fresh eyes. I was a huge Stephen King fan in high school, but stopped reading his work at around age 20. I got bored with it, even back then. Last year (26 years later) my sister gave me one of his books (Dr Sleep, I think it was called), so I decided to read it. It irritated me so much I wanted to hurl it out the window. Tolkein, however, stlll mesmerizes no matter how many times I read it. I will keep my eyes open for Jordan’s work. I like well-written fantasy.

    p.s. Did you change your blog design? I like it.

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    • Stephen King is one I have also not read for a long time; but then I never really dove into the horror genre, vampire and werewolf novels at best (from which, I will happily say I liked Christopher Golden’s take on vampire origin better than anyone else’s). Although it may not have been emphasized enough in my post, Tolkien is actually one of my favorite authors … my comparison between him and Jordan was meant to show just how thoroughly I enjoy Jordan’s writing. As someone who has spent an enormous amount of time delving into the religious beliefs of the ancient Germans and Norse, there is already a very ready appreciation present for good epic fantasy :-) Something along those lines that you might enjoy, if you haven’t already read it, is Michael Crichton’s “Eaters of the Dead.” It is the book that the movie, “The 13th Warrior” was based on.

      And thank you for noticing the changes I made to my blog’s cosmetics! Another co-blogger (Loki’s Little Hippie Witch) changed her blog design around, and I found myself overwhelmingly inspired to do the same. I’m glad you like it – I had thought about using this template before, but shied away from the light text on dark background. In the end, what sold me on it was that the text isn’t so widely spaced as with the template I was using before.

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