Support Books Under the Bridge

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan died today.

In high school, his series, The Wheel of Time, was one of the major stories I followed. I plowed through each book as I found it, whether it was at the local library, or left under the tree for me at Christmas. And I told my cousins (best friends, and fellow readers) Chad and Todd about The Wheel of Time.

Then, I caught up to Mr. Jordan's writing, and started a cycle of anticipation, waiting for each next book to be published. During the down time, I'd speculate with Chad and Todd on what future plot points would hold. Our speculations were wild and filled with laughter, and sometimes we were right ("Rand will marry all three of them!" I remember saying, to grins and rolled eyes). This continued until we finished high school, and through the first years of college.

These books were important for us as young fantasy readers, and they gave us much - a vivid world full of magic and wonder, haunted characters, and a few brave young men to identify with.

As time moved on, book after book appeared in the series, and the story began to drag out. My cousins and I joked that Robert Jordan would die before he finished the series, and we'd never get to see the conclusion. After talking to others over the years, I'm sure the sentiment was not uncommon. It turns out our jokes were right, unfortunately. Makes them not seem quite so funny, with real life poking its nose in, the ghost of unfinished business, and all that.

In recent years I was not his biggest fan. I stopped reading his books. I saw them as trite, I grew annoyed with the characters ("He can't write female characters," I remember saying), and I was tempted to skip the bulk of each new book to just read the end. I picked up some of the later books when they hit the bargain book section, but did not read them. I thought he had succumbed to milking the story for money, and I thought it was terrible that he'd wreck his story for a few more bucks. Now, I just think that the story got away from him.

I do not know if I will ever finish reading The Wheel of Time, even if the rumors I've heard of his wife writing out the last book are true. However, even if I don't, I want to give a shout out to Robert Jordan. He has affected many lives with his work. He's done what we, as writers, strive to do, even as some of us book snobs take our pot shots. As someone who once had to fight a deadly disease, and as someone who writes, I've found him to be a brave man, someone I'm happy to identify with.


Unknown said...

I've always debated on trying his series. His books are like tomes which I love, don't get me wrong, so sorry to hear about his death. So he only had the one book left?


Joel said...

Yes, there is only one book left. Its name is "A Memory of Light."

Like I said, I enjoyed some of the early books in the series. It was during later books that I'd find myself reading hundreds of pages about characters and events that were not central to the story. I found myself thinking, "Ugh. I don't care about these characters. Why is he spending so much time on this junk? Hopefully the main character will show up in the next 800 pages."

And then the main character would show up and do something interesting, but it would be in the last 25 pages of the book.

I'm not one to skip sections of a book, however, no matter how tempted I am to do so. I'm always afraid that I'll miss something important or otherwise worthwhile.