Tuesday, September 18, 2007

RIP Robert Jordan

My favorite author, Robert Jordan (real name James Oliver Rigney Jr), passed away on Sunday at the age of 58. I learned of his death late last night and I've had this cloud of sadness hanging over me throughout the day.

To say I enjoyed his Wheel of Time series is a vast understatement. I discovered Jordan's books while in the 7th grade on a recommendation from the school librarian and I was done for. There was no going back; the breadth, the depth, the detail, the writing... just wow.

The plot? If I even started to try to explain the plot, I believe I'd go insane. Complex doesn't even begin it... but at the same time, it's deceptively simple. Here's how the AP describes it:
The books follow Rand al'Thor on his journey to battle ultimate evil.
There ya go. That's how he filled up 11 books (and counting).

I've probably read the first book, Eye of the World, at least seven or eight times (but I could very well be in double figures by now) and each time I get that same sense of wonderment when I open its pages. The series just sucks you in and doesn't let you out.

I almost feel bad (or maybe it's a sick pleasure) when I recommend these books to friends and family. By simply handing them Eye of the World, I know I've completely destroyed any and all free time they may have in the next month or so.

And that's not just me. I remember being at Bonnaroo a few years ago and seeing my buddy's girlfriend reading Shadows Rising (book 4) and we had the following conversation:

"dude, is she reading Robert Jordan?"
"Ya, I gave the books to her, she's addicted"
"You know you're a bastard, right?"
"Oh I'm, aware"

You don't put his books down- you make time to read. I've read his books on trips, in school (even while walking home from school- yes, that's how engrossed I'd get), work breaks, I'd wake up in the middle of the night just to read a few chapters. I devoured these books.

Ever since then, consciously or subconsciously, I've held every other book I've read up against Jordan's standard. Will this book suck me in like Jordan? Will the world the characters inhabit ('real' or fantasy) be as fully realized as WoT? Will I gladly devote the countless hours reading (and rereading) the exploits? Sadly, very few books have stacked up.

Even the later books in the series, which some (including me) have criticized for a slow plot, have a special magic about them. Upon rereading the series I've found myself immensely enjoying the 'slow' books more than I thought I would; maybe the first time through I was disappointed because they weren't what I was expecting, but there is still that special something that keeps you reading 'til 2AM.

Part of me is sad for selfish reasons as well. I'm not going to be able to read the ending as he intended it. At the time of his death, Jordan was writing the final chapter of his 12 part series. I guess he has been dictating plot threads and endings to multiple authors and tape recorders, but it won't be the same. Don't get me wrong, I'll be happy just to get some closure and resolution to this story I've been following almost half of my lifetime (when I started reading WoT, I was younger than the main characters and I've since surpassed them). But no matter how the series ends, I won't be able to get over the fact that it won't be exactly as Jordan envisioned.

What can you do? I, for one, may just go open up Eye of the World another time. I was going to wait until book 12 came out to reread the series, but now is a good of time as ever.


MC said...

Very Sad....I am a fan of the genre, yet somehow have never read WoT, I'll defiantly make it a point. Along those lines have you read the Ice and Fire Series by Martin?

Ben said...

Ya, I really enjoy that series as well. (and it's being made into a show HBO... I'm cautiously optimistic)

Actually, the reason I picked up 'Game of Thrones' was because of Jordan's blurb praising the book on front the cover.