Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Gathering Storm


Once again, it’s book review time.   And again, its a continuation of a series  from an author who has died.

James Oliver Rigney Jr. (oct 1948 – Sep 2007) wrote under the pen name of Robert Jordan for a good deal of his writing career.   He was an engineering student, and a naval officer in his earlier life, but most of us only knew him through the characters on the page. A great many pages!  I never met him myself, but I, like many others feel that I know something of who he is because of his stories.  To learn about the Man, type his name into Google, or Wikipedia, and you will get a sea of information and tributes.  Mostly you will see the hordes of loyal fans of his “Wheel of Time” series.  As epic fantasy goes, it is the best.  People tend to compare any fantasy type story to Tolkien, as did I.  This is an error.  Tolkien established the genre of fantasy, and even made it sort of respectable.  Jordan took it to another level entirely.  Attention to detail.  Deep characterization.  Introducing us to characters that were real people,  complete with quirks, imperfections, and all the varied facets of real life.  This is where Jordan surpasses Tolkien, in the characters.  Of all the characters in Tolkien, only Frodo Baggins seems to me to be painted as clearly, and as completely, as the whole horde marching through Jordan’s world.     Every Wheel of Time fan you ask will have a favorite character, (mine is Mat Cuathon) and also a most hated character (Perrin Aybara).  And if you ask us why, each of us will launch into a detailed and possibly high volume rant about these people, just as if they were our neighbors.  When I stopped to think about this, I realized that this is how I will always define the quality of a novel.  Love them, or hate them, are the characters my neighbors?  Robert Jordan took us to visit those neighbors 11 times.  We know them well…..


           Until late 2007, I had never head of Brandon Sanderson.  Neither, I think, had any of Robert Jordan’s family or assistants.  Brandon wrote a nice eulogy for Jordan, and when the widow read it, she wanted to speak with the writer.  Make a long story short(er), Brandon Sanderson was entrusted with the task of finishing the story, taking us on our last visit to this place.  One book turned into three books, and finally we got the first one!  Or, the 12th one!  Or, the first part of the last one!  Whatever!

     Simply put, its GOOD.

    I was not able to tell for sure what parts were written by Brandon, and what parts were written by Jordan.  We know from statements that Brandon made that Jordan had successfully written whole passages, and that he had a massive amount of notes and back story to work with.  Brandon’s job was to fill in the gaps and make those notes a complete story.   In one place I was stuck with the thought “Brandon must have written this bit”.  When Aviendha, thinking of the spears (and the warrior lifestyle she has left behind), thinks of her “self forged into those spear heads as surely as the carbon that strengthened them”.  Not to say that Jordan lacked the knowledge of Chemistry or Metallurgy to understand carbon steel forging.   But, the phraseology seemed to have a different feel to it.

   As you might expect from the final parts of a story, there is more action in this novel.  Storylines wrapping up.  Questions answered.  (No, we don’t know who killed Asmodean, and Bela may actually be a darkfriend)     Rand hits a new low in his internal struggles, but it seems that he has hit bottom and things are looking up.  The White Tower is no longer divided.   And, Gawyn Trakand is a simpering idiot, who finally makes up his mind.

    I don’t know how long the wait will be until we get “The Towers of Midnight”, but it is too long! 

   One thing I would like to say to Brandon, and to Harriet……..    I think Jim would be proud.   Good Job.

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