When I was nine years old, way back in 1990, Robert Jordan published a fairly large and interesting fantasy novel called The Eye of the World. It was one of a new breed of fantasy story, the mega-giganto-epic, tales that are planned from the outset to exceed the typical trilogy set-up by volumes and volumes. Terry Goodkind and George R. R. Martin join Robert Jordan as the top three super-enormo-epic writers [and probably J.K. Rowling now that I think of it…]. Terry and Robert have another thing in common, they both betrayed their stories in favor of a larger bank account. They’ve both turned their worlds into serial killers, into Stories From The Black Lagoon, things that never seem to end. Each book is around 700 pages. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was initially slated as an 8 volume tale, but after volume 4 popped out, it was obvious he was getting serious pressure to drag out the tale as long as possible. Now it is set for a twelve volume series. After reading volume 11, I think number 12 is going to be unabridged OED in size, unless, of course, he extends it again.
Jordan’s writing style [and now that I’m quite grown up, I realize he couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. Tell a good story, yes. Write, hell no. He’s a physicist.] is very detail oriented and descriptive. It got way overblown when volume five came out and instead of skimming over descriptions and travel sequences we started getting details about what each and every character, no matter how minor, looked like, wore, you name it. The plot basically dragged to a standstill and sprouted subplots like a sow dropping piglets. And now he’s stuck like Peter Jackson and the third LotR movie, with tons of ground to cover and not much time to do it. Knife of Dreams starts to get back to the action, but it is obvious that turning to the tale back on course is taking a lot of torque. Ponderous is still the word. I think the end might be in sight though. I’ll be glad, that is for sure. I’m tired of being on this road for 15 years. I’ve really turned away from fantasy novels because of the tendency to bloviate, people imitating Goodkind and Jordan. There isn’t much good fantasy that gets the recognitition that it deserves. Instead the focus is on creating a franchise. Thankfully John Crowley and Patricia McKillip stick to one book stories and write robustly.