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Wheel of Time

So, thanks to this nice little pandemic, I have a little more free than usual, and I thought it would be a good time to take in a long series. So I chose Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. Big mistake.

It actually wasn't bad as far as quarantine fodder goes. Quarantine books don't really need to be good so much as they need to pass time well. Wheel of Time was absorbing, read easily, and wasn't mind-bending or too disturbing. But the characters, my God the characters.

I hated just about every character in the book. My favorite characters are the ones I only disliked.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, is abjectly stupid. Almost always when someone did something smart is when some kind of magic overwhelmed their intentions and they ended up doing the right thing reluctantly and often now knowing how they did it. Furthermore, few of the characters were credible; their personalities were malleable to the needs of the story. The one thing you could trust about the characters is that if their personality changed it was only to make them stupider. It's like Jordan had no idea how to create drama other than for people to fall into ridiculous traps or refuse to believe people who were trying to help.

I pushed through to about a fifth of the way into the fourth book, giving it a chance to get better, but finally I read a chapter so awful I had to stop. Though in truth it had been coming for awhile.

Since I didn't finish, I do wonder about the future books in the series. I lost all interested in finishing (especially given the reputation of the books to drag on as the series progresses) but it's possible, especially once Sanderson took over.

  • Do any of the main characters make a single good decision on their own in the entire series?
  • Does any character ever, even one time in the whole series, give a straight answer to a question? (I've heard that this is the main difference with the Sanderson books.)
  • Does it ever happen, even one time in the whole series, that a main character staying at an inn just checks out the next morning and moves on? (On screen, I mean; I know it happened a few times off screen.)

I'm exaggerating a little, but not much. The problem with these books isn't that characters make stupid decisions, it's that they make nothing but stupid decisions. It's the sheer relentlessness of these simpleminded drama devices used over and over again.

It's regrettable, too, because apart from the characters there was a lot of good stuff in these novels. The worldbuilding was fantastic. The different countries and their cultures were interesting. The backstory was very interesting, and the way details of history were revealed, and how it affected the present-day plot, was great. The mythology was terrific; if they hadn't been terrible characters for the most part, the Forsaken would have been great villains just due to their circumstances. I didn't even mind when Jordan went off on long descriptions (they weren't that long).

Even the characters had their moments. I was amused how often Nynaeve (who I disliked and therefore was one of my favorite characters) resolved problems just by punching people, for instance. But all in all, the characters were just so awful I couldn't read on.

Tags: fantasy, hate, literature, wheel_of_time
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Last Edited: 7 May 2020, 3:15 PM
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