Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I should've called it: "Robert Jordan" faces death

I am a Wheel of Time reader. I have no shame in admitting that I read this plebian, indulgent, overly-wordy and exceedingly long fantasy series. And part of why I am so comfortable admitting that I read the books is because I started reading them when I was 14, back when I was a socially crippled high school geek with no greater sense. I can't be blamed for having started to read the books then. And anyone who's read the books can attest to the fact that they're like crack - once you start, you have to plow through to the end.

But there's a problem. There may be no end to the storyline, because there may soon be an end to the author, "
Robert Jordan," aka James Oliver Rigney, Jr.

When I started reading the WOT series, there were six books in the series. They all clocked in near 1000 pages in paperback edition (and those paperbacks were notorious for falling apart after one reading). I figured the series had to be near done. Any sensible person would realize that a coherent narrative couldn't stretch much longer than 6000 pages... But no. The books kept coming. I eagerly purchased and read the seventh book at the age of 15 - I had budgeted my reading of the sixth book, allowing myself only two chapters per day in order to ensure that I wouldn't have a long, WOTless wait before the release of the seventh book. Then I waited another two years for the next book. Then another two or three for the next. (I should note at this point that the release dates of the eighth and ninth WOT books synched up exactly with those of the second and third Fatboy Slim albums - creepy...) I bought these books with due dilligence, read them when my schedule and overtaxed memory allowed - re-readings of the prior books were often necessary in order to keep the immense character list and convoluted plot straight. I even, in a true geek moment, attended an author's signing once, though this was more indeference to the fact that 14-year-old Zac would never have forgiven 19-year-old Zac for missing such an opportunity.

But as I read on, things changed other than my age. The sprawling books, which had once covered time periods of approximately six months, slowed to a crawl of one week to one month per book starting with book seven. The plot grew increasingly convoluted, the cast of characters expanded exponentially, and Jordan's already indulgent wordiness grew even worse. Many accused Jordan and his publisher, Tor, of milking the fans with the slowed pace of the books - rarely was a WOT book released without it shooting to the top of the NYT bestseller list as the unwashed, MMORPG-playing masses shuffled out of their parents' basements and into the sunshine to drive their AMC Gremlins down to the local Barnes & Noble to buy the latest installment of the addictive series. In light of this, fellow Tor author Mercedes Lackey even went so far as to accuse Robert Jordan of being a construct, insisting that the books are written by a council of ghostwriters.

Yet I stayed loyal, because I was addicted. I still am. I have to find out what happens. What exactly will Tarmon Gaidon, the Last Battle, look like? Will
Rand's blood really be shed on the steps of Shayol Ghul? Will the stick ever be removed from Nynaeve's ass? Will Rand, Mat, and Perrin all finally learn that they all think they are clueless with women, yet attribute a great skill with women to the other two? Will Bela the pony ever make it to her home pasture? I know it sounds absurd if you're an Outsider, but if you've read even one of the books, you probably know what I'm talking about...

Now, as I forged ahead with the books - I'm currently in my third re-read in hopes of being able to read and comprehend the tenth and eleventh books - I maintained my faith. Yet my fellow geek friends did not. One turned away from the series indefinately, distracted by his own tumultuous life and his own writing career. Another insisted that he wouldn't touch the series until it was completed, because he was tired of the necessary re-reads. As he said this, it occured to me that the author might not even live to finish the series - he appeared to be of upper-middle age (mid-late 50s) by his press photos, and the photos, and later my own eyes, revealed him to be a rather large man. I easily imagined him encountering heart troubles or the like within a very short time-frame, and him dying with the series unfinished, and myself and the legion of fans left waiting for a fulfillment that would never come.

That doomsday scenario may now very well come true. Rigney/Jordan has been diagnosed with some uber-rare blood disorder, and will have to undergo chemotherapy and stem-cell treatment. Under this treatment, there is a 25% chance of remission, and a 10-15% chance of death. Whatever the case, he's still likely to die from it within four years.

Now, on the official Tor site, Jordan has a
statement on the situation in which he expresses his every intention to fight through this and continue on with his life and his writing. And I'm behind him 100%. I hope he makes it out of pure humanism. But hell, I'm scared that he'll die and never finish the goddamn books. And then all my effort will be for naught. We're only one book away from the conclusion of the storyline, and here he is going into treatment with a 10-15% chance of immediate death. I don't think even Mat would bet on those odds...


At 12:02 PM, Blogger brenda said...

I know this is wrong to say, but when he dies, there will only be one more re-read... right?

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Zac said...

I believe this is the last re-read. By the time the next book comes out - if it does indeed come out - I should still remember enoughfromthe current re-read to be able to just pick it up. And if the old bastard does croak before finishing, I may well stop the current re-read.


Post a Comment

<< Home