Monday, October 21, 2013

Rereads: Foiled, Failed, Defeated

When I was a youth, 99% of what I read was fantasy and science fiction. We didn't have the most money, so any such book that came into the house, I'd read over and over for years. In this occasional series, I take up some of those old and treasured titles and give them a read after fifteen or twenty years to see how I feel about them now.

It may be that I'm worn out on epic fantasy. It may be that I'm just confronted with things of greater interest, and it's just too long. Or it may be that I had little taste when I was younger (already established, I know). Whatever the reason, I just could not finish The Eye of the World.

I tried. Mightily I strove against the monster. Clocking in at 685 pages, it's the biggest of the rereads I've done so far, though it's the smallest in the series that it's part of, The Wheel of Time.

I first read the book in late 1990; I was in college, at the University of Washington, and there was a little bookstore (a branch of the University Bookstore) on campus in the student union building. Nick DiMartino was and still is the bookbuyer for that branch, and he had at the time a very broad selection of fantasy, which included the first two books of Robert Jordan's epic. The second one had just come out, and I bought and read both of them in short order.

How amazing they were. Grand scale, epic scope, magic and monsters and dark powers and secret organizations all places in a huge and seemingly well developed world. And really, all of that was true. Was true, though. The fantasy genre has moved on, building on what Jordan made, and now he seems a little quaint, a little out of touch. There's too much bloat in even the first book (let alone books eight or nine or ten, which drive crazy even devoted fans, and caused me to give up on them a decade ago). There's too many characters. A good thing, you would think: making the world real. But in my real world, I don't know the name of my barrista most often, or my bank teller. If I see their nametag, I don't remember it. Most people just aren't that important to our lives, and certainly not to our narratives (such as they might be). Jordan made a point of giving names to a great many people, including some who got only a line or two (out of 685 pages!) and who would never turn up again. Names, names, names, a parade of them. As to that world, it's actually weird and silly and doesn't make much sense, but even I can admit, there's a lot of it, and it's developed as all hell. Just: stupidly, mostly.

from, which is awesome, really it is.

I won't even get into his gender politics, which are ridiculous; or the fact that the series was supposed to be much shorter than it was (that latter doesn't impact the first book, which reads very much like the first book of a trilogy); or the fact that he tossed everything into a blender to come up with the craziest melange of stuff in the fiction of his time.

I'll just say it was too much. Too slow, too burdensome, too many characters, too many story lines, too much of everything. And yet, in my head, this book was the best of the lot, and suffered from those problems the least; I cannot imagine what I'd think of book nine at this point. My mind won't wrap around it.

With the publication of the last book-as-three-books, I thought I'd finally get around to reading the series again and finishing it, but sadly, I'm certain now that's never going to happen. I have fond memories of it, and I ran the roleplaying game version for a year and change with great delight, but I can't picture any circumstance when I would dive back into these again. They're not for me any longer.

No comments:

Post a Comment