I am posting these Lonesome Dove-style ‘trekking through the wilderness dragging behind me the corpse of my interest’ posts on Jordan’s Wheel weekly, every Friday. But thanks to Blogger’s pre-posting facility I’m not reading them as regularly as this regimen perhaps suggests. I can be more specific: I read the first three Wheel-vols pretty much one after the other; and then it was only a short interlude before I tackled four and five. But after that I didn’t read another Jordan novel for quite a long time. Somehow I couldn’t quite summon the energy to pick up the effectively cuboid, thousand-page (‘megapage’?) Lord of Chaos. At the back of my mind was the thought: but even when I finish this one I won’t yet have reached the halfway point! And at the front of my mind was ‘No! No! No!’
That Lonesome Dove reference, up there, dates me rather, doesn’t it though?
Still, eventually I screwed my courage to the sticking point, or to be precise, stuck my courage to the screwing point, or screwpoint-and-sticked, and I read the thing. And the result was: dear merciful God. That pretty much sums it up. ‘Oh God!’ is an interesting utterance, isn’t it? It can be spoken by someone at the very point of orgasm, as a signifier of extreme pleasure; or it can be groaned out by someone facing horrors, terrors, pains and an eternity of dullness. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which usage applies in this case.
To be a little more specific: this seems to me a novel written by a man who has only too effectively painted himself into a corner. The overarching narrative is the battle of Good versus Evil. Evil has a seemingly neverending supply of bestial trollocs, various high-placed traitors and wizards, and all the cool black clothing. But by volume six Good has acquired not only the draconic magical leader destined by prophesy to overthrow evil; but also an enormous army of impossibly gifted warriors of a naturally martial race; a general who can channel all previous genius-generals; an invincible magical sword that can destroy whole cities; and a horn that can summon the greatest dead warriors of all time to help you out. The implication, it seems to me, is that ‘Ayn’ Rand, Jordan’s hero, could wipe the floor with Evil's Minions any time he liked. But Jordan has many more fat volumes to fill. I suppose he could balance each of these laboriously acquired magical positives with magical kryptonite-equivalents to cancel them out, until the final showdown. But he chooses a different textual strategy: he dillies, and dallies. He dallies and dillies, misses the cart and, furthermore, he cannot find his way home.
Volume six is a lengthy exercise in treading water. Nothing at all happens for hundreds and hundreds of pages. And when the reader has got on top of that, nothing at all happens for hundred of pages more. Finally there’s a big battle, but by this point the reader’s brainwaves will long since have assumed a perfectly sine regularity. For almost the whole of its length this is a novel that absolutely point-blank refuses to get off its arse and do something, anything. Anything at all. Reading it is the equivalent of spending ten hours staring at a portly man slouched in a bean-bag.
What happens? Some more magical artefacts are discovered to add to the characters' lumber room: here a crystal bowl that affects the weather. Egwene, Rand's former girlfriend, hooks up with a fellow called Gawain. The Aes Sedai split into two factions, and Egwene is elected Grand Panjandrum, or Grande Panjandra, of one of these. There are various assassination attempts upon Rand's life (think how much more interesting the sequence could have been had one of these succeeded!) Then Rand is kidnapped, put in a small box, no, really, and carried away; and Perrin leads an enormous army on a rescue mission. There's another big dust-up, during which Rand gets free on his own without anybody's help, and then, after E-e-evil has been knocked on the head, that's your lot.
Also: I appreciate that Jordan wasn't responsible for the cover design, up there. But still. Hard to look at it and not think; 'Gold! (Gold!) Always believe in your so-houl!'
And finally Esther (and finally Cyril), this week’s Robert Jordan’s Proverbial Wisdom:
“Never prod at a woman unless you must.” Good advice.
“Cheer the bull, or cheer the bear; cheer both, and you will be trampled and eaten.” Since bulls eat grass rather than people, I would say that implicit in this proverb is ‘… eaten by the bear.’ Or to paraphrase: the bear doesn’t mind if you cheer him, or if you cheer the bull; but for some reason he gets very cross if you cheer them both. I daresay the bear has his reasons.
“The only man completely at peace is a man without a navel.” Only with plastic surgery will you attain peace.
“If the world is ending, a woman will want time to fix her hair.” There’s a word for proverbs like this. The word is ‘sexist’.
“Caution once forgotten could be forgotten once too often.” Um …
“If wishes were wings, pigs would fly.” Because what pigs truly wish for is wings. Little curly wings.
“The best way to apologize to a man is to trip him in a secluded part of the garden.” The second best way is to say ‘sorry’. But, really, you should go with Plan A in the first instance.
“You put your cat in your hat and stuff it down your breeches.” This one is attributed to that ill-starred Dr Seuss porno project you've probably read about.