At last – ? Or not – WoT: The Never-Ending Franchise

New (to me) information has turned up about the Wheel of Time series.  As usual, I’m a little late to the party.  I’m not sure how long this news has been out there – not too long, because I know I updated by “books to come” list not too many months back.  Oh, but I’m … disheartened…

So, the facts are these: In January 1990, I was still working at the local pharmacy, and stopped by the book section.  There I discovered a big fat novel with a Darrell K. Sweet cover (therefore fantasy): Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World.  I loved it.  But I thought it was a one-off, a stand-alone novel.  Silly me – such things are rarer than rocs’ eggs in fantasy.  By the end of the year The Great Hunt had come out, and by the time that book was over it was clear there were more to come.  I think I first heard it was going to be a five-book series.  So then Dragon Reborn came along in November of ’91.  A little shorter than GH, as GH was a bit shorter than EotW; I didn’t notice a trend at the time.  Things chugged along, one book a year, through 1994 and Lord of Chaos, and by then I believe it was being said the series would be 8 books.  I think it was somewhere in there I noticed that though the books were still verging on two inches thick, suddenly the margins on the pages were getting bigger, and the font size was also growing.  Then for the first time two years passed before the next book, Crown of Swords came out.  Two more years to The Path of Daggers … two more years to Winter’s Heart in 2000 … somewhere in *there* I started hearing the rumors that Robert Jordan was sick and wasn’t going to be able to finish the series.  I also started wandering the internet looking for information on my writers, including Jordan (wonder what ever happened to StoneDog; loved his site), and found that while there were boatloads of people who were rabidly devoted to WoT come what may, there were plenty of others who were beginning to lose patience: too many years passing with too little progress in the story.  Entire books where, to some people’s view, “nothing happened”.  I didn’t entirely believe the rumors about Jordan’s illness, as I couldn’t find confirmation, not that I necessarily looked so very hard.  But three years passed until Crossroads of Twilight finally came out in 2003.  This was Book 10 – and no end in sight.  Okay, it’ll be 12 books, they said.  *sigh*  Knife of Dreams went back to the later pattern and arrived two years later … and … then … nothing. 

Until I read that Robert Jordan died September 17, 2007. 

Well, damn.  He *had* been very ill for a long time; sadly, he didn’t make it to the end of the series.  It was a blow, and not just because I want to know the rest of the story; a death is a death, and his passing left a hole.  In my less self-centered moments I feel for his wife and close circle of friends.

Happily for the fandom, RJ pretty much knew he would not last out the series.  He prepared detailed outlines and notes on how the story would end, mapping out the tenth and final book.  His wife chose his successor, Brandon Sanderson – an interesting choice, but even though I never did finish the book I started by him (Elantris) I liked the style.  I’ll get back to it one of these days.  He worries me a little because Sanderson is a prolific writer in his own right, and is embarking on a ten-book series of his own (I’m tempted to open betting now on whether “ten books” really means “ten books”).  Obviously he’s a full-time writer – but that much work in a relatively short amount of time is iffy.  Anyway, news has been dribbling out over the last couple of years on the progress of WoT’s last book.

Sorry, did I say “book”?  My bad.  Because, yes, in what I suppose is a natural turn of events, the tenth and final book has morphed into … oh, no, you optimist, not two.  Three. 

I read this last night.  Doing a routine update websearch brought me to an official fan site; while I was pretty sure that Book 12 was coming out this year I wanted to make sure.  Okay: October 27, 2009 – good.  But … I quickly realized that they weren’t referencing the same book each time they mentioned the continuation/end of the series … Gathering Storm, A Memory of Light, Shifting Winds, there were a few names mentioned or abbreviated, which I thought was odd given that this close to publication they would HAVE to have a solid title.  Yeah, well. 

Fine, I thought (having passed through the profanities portion of our program, and slept on it); it was too big for one book.  Fine.  It would need to be released with an accessory magnifying glass if it was published as one book, they said.  Fine.  Don’t worry, I read: it won’t be one book broken into three pieces, it will be three independent books with beginnings, middles, and ends.  Fi – what?  Wait a bloody minute!  At least one book broken into three pieces would probably be released in fairly quick succession.  Three books probably means … Oh, dear lord, it is: at least two and a half years: 

12. The Gathering Storm – 27 October 2009: Completed by Brandon Sanderson
13. Shifting Winds (working title) – Due late 2010: To be completed by Brandon Sanderson
14. Tarmon Gai’don (working title) – Due late 2011:  To be completed by Brandon Sanderson

*pause for further profane interlude*

I wouldn’t bet on those estimated publication dates.  This is like a frigging marathon where someone keeps moving the finish line.  I’ve been reading this series for just under half my life.  I’ve enjoyed the series.  I like the characters (some more than others – if Nynaeve had tugged on her “wrist-thick braid” ONE MORE TIME I would have flung the book across the room, and followed with the rest of them.  And with the size of them there would have been damage done).  I’m interested in the story.  I want to know what happens.  But I am deathly tired of waiting; I’m deathly tired of buying the books in hardcover as they come out because I want to know what happens, only to be left hanging yet again.  I’m feeling manipulated and yanked around (and if that’s redundant I don’t care, because the feeling’s strong enough to be double expressed), and while they claim it was all purely for practical purposes that there are three instead of one, NOT financial, my first reaction is “what do you take me for?”  I mean, in 2002, instead of producing a new novel we were given a rehash of Eye of the World, split in two and “aimed at a young adult literature market”.  Uh huh.  ‘Cause young adults can’t read an 832 page book?  Bollocks.  The type of young adult who’s going to read this stuff to begin with isn’t going to be put off by 832 pages – when I fit into that category I gravitated toward fat books (hence the picking up of EotW).  I doubt I was so very different in that from the normal run of geek.  And now this: with two years to work on what Jordan planned as one book, suddenly it won’t be for more than two MORE years that this whole damn thing is wrapped up?  If we’re lucky, that is, and someone doesn’t suddenly say “Oh, did we tell you three books?  Four!  Four, and not a page more!  Really!  Maybe five if prevailing winds are against us!  But no more than six, we promise!” 

Actually, I think they really might stick to three.  My reasoning ties into a factoid from Wikipedia, so it may be complete hot air, but: “There is a film adaptation tentatively scheduled for release in 2011.”  What a coincidence.  *fumes*

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I’ll buy the bloody books.  I’ve been surprised at how well EotW has held up under critical rereads; the others aren’t as 100% solid, but still, mostly good.  I’ve invested twenty years in this nonsense, and I want a resolution.  But right away, new, in hardcover?  I don’t think so.  I lasted through the years understanding the complaints I read about the series but sticking with it.  I’m done now.  These tend to take an unconscionably long time to get to paperback, so I’ll look for the books in a couple of years in used bookstores or on eBay or paperbackswap or Bookmooch. 

On the bright side, I don’t have to rush into a reread of the whole thing.

Further on the You Have Got To Be Kidding side is the idea of three of what they’re calling “Outrigger” books, “within WoT continuity, taking place after the end of the series. They were to deal with some certain characters from the main storyline, expanding on their lives.”  In addition to which RJ planned prequels.  You know what, that’s fine – go for it.  It’s a big world he built, and there’s plenty of room for further exploration.  After the main series is complete.  If one single “outrigger” or “prequel” sees the light of day before WoT is finished, I will be holding a ritual bonfire in the back yard.

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