Monday, January 28, 2013

Amazing Stories: Star Wars for a New Generation

In case you haven't heard, the classic magazine Amazing Stories is being rebooted, by long-time SFF personality Steve Davidson. He has enlisted a whole bunch of familiar names (bloggers, fans, authors, etc.) to provide great content daily. I've agreed to periodically contribute (monthly) and my first post went live the other day: A New Generation of Star Wars.
Yes, it's another post about Star Wars and the forthcoming new movies. I don't discuss potential directors, writers, or plots. I take a step back and look at what Star Wars was to me in my youth, and then I look to what the new Star Wars could be for my young children. Basically, it doesn't matter to me (much) whether or not the new Star Wars works for me, but I can't wait to see how it works for my kids.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

I love that brief time that happens when I’m between books (I tend to only read one at a time) – when I search my mood, search my bookcase and Nook and try to figure out just what I want to read. I’m never without good options and the decision is often challenging. After the exhaustion of reading the last book of a 14-book series that I have invested nearly 20 years in, I wasn’t sure what I looking for. Then I came by The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon). It’s fantasy but not epic. It’s historical, but not really. It’s set in an out of the way town bordering a desert in Nevada where the local silver mine has gone bust. I live in the West, spend a lot of time in the desert, and occasionally work at mines in Nevada – so, it just seemed to fit.
Golgotha is town where odd things happen – and usually people die as a result. The sheriff is rumored to be immortal, bears the scars of multiple hangings, and keeps a supply of silver bullets handy. His deputy is the son of a coyote trickster, the local tinkerer reads Mary Shelley way too literally, the local land baron has been around a long time, mysterious things happen over in Chinatown and a new kid stumbles into town, hiding from a wanted poster and carrying the eye of his dead father.
In The Six-Gun Tarot, Belcher seemingly throws everything he can think of into the mix, and it somehow works. On one hand this is standard western with a mysterious kid coming to an even more mysterious town. One another hand it’s tale of religious fervor and the end of the world with a bit of Lilith mythos thrown in for good measure. On yet another tentacle, it’s the horror of zombies and a Cthulhu-like mythos that includes Mormons, the Chinese and even a Fallen angel or two. It’s the battleground between creation and the void. It’s been likened to steampunk, weird westerns and ‘Buffy meets Deadwood’ – and as cringing as the last one sounds, it sort of fits in a good way.
Of course, throwing so much into the book is also one its biggest flaws. Belcher has a lot of points of view in this book, and especially in the beginning, and this can lead to confusion. Some points of view seem to reveal info they shouldn’t know, and the info dumps are often a bit to clumsy. In combination with the pacing issues common in debuts, the story can abruptly grind to a halt and jarringly pick up again.
As I often see in first-time writers, their enthusiasm can get ahead of them. Belcher has a tendency to over-write in some areas, seemingly showing off. Occasionally it’s eye-rolling bad. But, overall, the prose is good. There is subtlety that is played well. The town of Golgotha, a character in its own right, has a history. A history that is often mentioned off-handedly, yet the in a few lines deep meaning is portrayed. Those are stories I’d like to hear about, but appropriately, those stories aren’t told in this book.
Belcher also creates some endearing characters. If there’s a main character, it’s probably Jim – a young kid on the run. He’s one you can cheer for, even if he’s probably the weakest of the lot. His back story, told in flashbacks, is one tragedy after another – literal punches in the gut. However, it’s Sheriff Highfather that is probably my favorite – his complicated past is only hinted at – a man with a just and open mind, a man who does what needs doing. Whether that’s keeping up the supply of silver bullets or salting an unmarked grave. The others are well done too – Maude and her history, Mutt, Augie and the Widow Gillian, and the mayor – who’s battle with his sexuality and religion, is well done side-plot.
By the end of The Six-Gun Tarot, the pacing issues and point of view confusion were forgotten. I was completely immersed in the story and I couldn’t not put the book aside. I loved the crazy, anything can happen in this town vibe. I love the way people banded together, often in spite of very real differences. I love the history of the town that we only see hints of. The fact that I stayed up late to finish is one of the biggest complements I can give a book – I’m nearly always sleep deprived and when I put a book before needed sleep it’s saying something. Belcher’s debut surprised me in just how much I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next out of Golgotha – but I’ll be honest, I hope it’s not too wrapped up in the Frankenstein hints that populate the novel.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Few Odds and Ends

This post is going to be all over the place. An update of what I'm up to, a few links of potential interest, and the usual photo of books I've received. So, let's get to it.
  •  And I'm behind on reviews again, which is a surpise to know one who actually reads this blog. I owe my review for Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) soon, though he's getting so much press from pretty much every other blogger that I may make it pretty brief. I also need to write a review for The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) , which I liked a lot.
  • I just finished up The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) which was honestly a rather pleasant surprise. This may be the next review I write just so that it gets some press it deserves - it was released on Tuesday the 22nd. But until then, I'll throw out a couple of links - a guest post by Belcher and a interview with Belcher.
  • Today Brandon Sanderson did a Tor Chat over on Twitter, mostly about A Memory of Light and The Wheel of Time (the transcript is here). Of course I asked a few questions and he answered a couple, but the most interesting to me was that he revealed the identity of the point of view for the deleted chapter that will be published as a short story in the forethcoming Unfettered anthology (details here). That point of view is Bao the Wyld - those who have read A Memory of Light know the other name we know him as. I'm excited! (my review of A Memory of Light, a spoiler reaction, and an interview with Brandon about it) Edit: below is the quote from the TorChat:
“River of Souls,” the forthcoming Wheel of Time short story featured in Unfettered is a collection of scenes that illustrate Demandred/Bao the Wyld’s story leading up to A Memory of Light.

  • Along those lines, Jason over at Dragonmount has been good to me over the years with throwing a lot of traffic my way. So, I'll potentially throw some back at him - he's doing a Kickstarter for fantasy movie he's producing - it just needs the final touches at this point and the goal has just about been met. Consider giving it some support.
  • The rebooted Amazing Stories is live now. I'll actually be contributing periodically.
  • I've been fan of the Wheel of Time audiobooks for a while now - I use them as re-reads for the series and it's a great way to pass the time during my weekly 2.5-hour commute that I do for work. The folks over at Macmillan audio gave me a sample of Chapter 3 of A Memory of Light - check it out.
  • And finally, below is the photo of books I've received in the last month or so.
Books Received: December 24, 2012 - January 23, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

2012 In Review

2012 was another busy year here at Neth Space. The real world has kept me from reading as much as I’d like – but that’s nothing new, just a bit extreme as life at home and work keeps me crazy busy. I only managed to read 22 books in 2012, a disappointment, but I still count it as a victory. A few interesting stats are summed up below.
  • 22 books read
  • 13 Published in 2012
  • 3 Published in 2011
  • 2 Will be published in 2013
  • 2 are what I consider YA (up from 0 in 2011)
  • 16 are part of a series
  • 15 were provided by the publisher
  • 4 are debuts
  • I read more books published by Random House (7) and its various imprints than any other – 4 from Del Rey, 1 from Doubleday, and 2 from Transworld (which is UK, so I’m not sure if it counts). I also read 5 from Tor and 3 from Night Shade.
  • 4 books were published by ‘small press’ (same as last year)
  • None were anthologies or collections (down from 1 last year)
  • 7 were written by female authors (up from 4 last year and counting K.J. Parker as female) and 2 were written by a person of color or other distinct ethnicity from my own (up from 1 last year) (possibly more since this is a difficult thing to keep track of)
  • 3 are what I consider science fiction (same as last year)
  • 9 are what I consider epic fantasy (up from 8 last year)
  • Only 1 is what I consider steampunk (same)
  • 8 are what I consider urban fantasy (up from 6)
  • 1 is what I consider sword and sorcery (down from 2)
  • Only  is what I consider alternative history/historical fantasy (same)
  • I conducted only 1 interview and helped out with a couple of others
  • There have been approximately 53,000 site visits this year (not counting RSS) from 144 countries. About the same as last year, and the year before that, and the year before that … – I’m quietly happy as a mid-list blogger.
  • The Westeros Forums, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist and Twitter are the top referring sites (other than Google).
  • My post about the release date for the next book by Scott Lynch was the most popular post (when’s it going to be published, Scott?), followed by my review of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. Third place goes to my review of The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie – a series that has been out for a while now and a review that is several years old (this was 3rd place last year as well). This tells me that Joe has a strong staying power (or that my Google-fu for that post is particularly good).
So, the best books I read this year are listed below. With only 22 total books read this year, I’ve limited it to the few that managed to stand out.
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon)
For all its flaws, I’d been waiting for this one for almost 20 years and I thought it paid off. Laughter and Tears. (review)

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon)
Just wow. In any other year this would have been tops. A spectacular debut and I can’t wait for more. (review)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Book Depository, Powell’sBooks, Indiebound)
I had to see what all the buzz was about. It turned out that I really enjoyed it. (review)

Honorable Mentions
Of course there are quite a few very good books that didn’t quite crack the uppermost tie – the 2 below just missed the cut. But really, I only read 2 or 3 books that I wouldn’t recommend for one reason or another.
Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick (review)

Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Woodring Stover (review)

And for kicks – the worst book I read in 2012
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte (review)
Please read the review – it was so awful that everyone should have a taste.

And the most disappointing book I read in 2012
Orb, Sceptre, Throne by Ian C. Esslemont (review)
After the big improvement that I thought Esslemont had with Stoneweilder (review) I was very disappointed by the step back. This one was a mess that I can only recommend to the hardiest of Malazan fans.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Interview: Brandon Sanderson on The Wheel of Time and A Memory of Light

One advantage of having a blog like this is that over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. And when the fan in me finishes reading a book I’ve been waiting almost 20 years to read, I know who I can email to possibly have a few questions answered. While, I suppose that this is an interview, it may be more helpful to view this simply as a conversation that I’m making public. These aren’t questions that I thought long and hard about and these aren’t questions that are designed to serve as a resource to fans, etc. These are simply some questions/reactions that I had while reading A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (my ‘non-spoiler’ review, Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon), which I assume that you all know is the 14th and final book in The Wheel of Time (WOT) series. Ideally, this would have simply been an in-person conversation that I had with Brandon, but of course that wasn’t in the cards. So, they probably aren’t the questions you would have asked, but they were questions that I had.
Beware the spoilers! This short Q&A discusses A Memory of Light (AMOL) and there are spoilers in the questions and answers. Some of the spoilers discussed are pretty big reveals – the details may not be discussed, but a few significant events are revealed.
Thanks to Brandon and his assistant Peter for making this happen. Enjoy!
Neth Space: How much have ideas that you or other members of Team Jordan first saw in fans discussion influenced the book? Spoiler follow-up: Such as the tactical use of gateways?
Brandon: Tactical use of gateways is honestly all me. I hadn’t even played Portal before I wrote these books. I have since went back and played it, and they’re doing some of the same fun stuff. That was me from years and years ago as a guy who likes magic systems reading the Wheel of Time books and saying, “If I had gateways, this is what I would do.” In fact, I had built up some magic systems using things like gateways that I will never be able to use now, because I got handed the master magic system with gateways.
Team Jordan was somewhat uncomfortable with my use of gateways, in a lot of ways. They felt I was pushing them. But my response back was that I didn’t want to push the magic system in other ways; I didn’t want to be inventing a lot of new weaves. I didn’t want to be doing a lot of things like that, because I felt it would be taking the system too much in the directions I take the Brandon Sanderson systems. I really do like Robert Jordan’s magic system, but I wanted to take some of the specifics that had already been done, such as gateways, and say, “Here’s where you can extrapolate with them.”
As for other things that have been discussed in the fandom—I certainly wasn’t as big a part of the fandom as I am now, not anywhere near it. For instance, I didn’t care about Asmodean until I started talking to other Wheel of Time fans, and it was a big deal to them, and so it became a big deal to me. There are certain things that through fandom and talking to other fans you tend to rally around, that I kind of wanted. One was a reunion between Tam and Rand. There are other things like that, that for a long time we’d been waiting for and we’d talked to each other about, and we’d imagined what they’d be like. Those sorts of things did influence me; I had to be really careful not to be too influenced though. Being too influenced would lead me to put in lots of inside jokes, things like Narg—that would have been letting the fan in me run too wild. So I did have to rein that in.
It’s hard for me to separate the years of talking about the Wheel of Time with friends and reading about the Wheel of Time from what I eventually ended up doing in the books. Once I did start working on the books, I didn’t go plumbing through fan forums looking for things that should be included. I specifically stayed away from things like that, though I did suggest to Maria at times that she should watch and see what people were expecting, so that we would know what things we were not going to end up fulfilling, and could be prepared for them.

Neth Space: You have a tendency to break the 4th wall at times in your WOT writing. How did you come to this choice as it’s not a technique that Robert Jordan used? How have Team Jordan and fans of the series reacted to this?
Brandon: My answer is that I disagree with you. I don’t think any of those things break the fourth wall. Robert Jordan put fan names in the books; he named things in the books after streets in his hometown; he named characters after people he knew. That’s how he wrote these books, and it’s how I’ve written all of my books. It’s just how you get inspired as a writer. With Roedran, I honestly think that’s what Rand would think and say; it’s what he would come up with. It’s one of the big theories I felt was really what Rand would consider in-world. So I just have to disagree with you; I don’t think that any of this is breaking the fourth wall.

Neth Space: As I was reading AMOL there were many times where I was fairly overcome with emotion – which is not too common of a reading experience with me. To use a WOT phrase – laughter and tears. Sometimes I just had to set the book aside for few minutes to let the motion calm down. I’m not novelist, but through this blog and my day job I do write a fair amount. I’ve experienced that sense of pride, that sense of emotional overload that happens when the writing feels right, when my emotions for what I’m are writing cross over onto the pages themselves. I imagine that as you’ve written the final three WOT books you’ve experienced similar feelings. That you sometimes sit down to dinner with your family after writing and are overcome with your love for them as a result of what you had just written. That you have that urge to hug, love and be comforted as events from you’re writing stick with you. Assuming you can relate to this, please share a moment or two.
Brandon: Boy, that’s a hard one, because those are going to be personal moments. You describe it quite well, but it’s the sort of thing that happens with writing any series. The most personal moments for me honestly happened when I read the ending years ago. For me, the series has been finished already for all of that time. It has been an emotional experience, and I’m certain it will continue to be one.
You also have to remember that writing this was very draining, and that has kind of the opposite emotional effect. But I’m not a terribly emotional person. I’m not sure I can come up with anything specific other than that night sitting and reading the ending that Robert Jordan had written.
This is spoilery, but there’s also the moment when I wrote Egwene’s death scene—that was probably the most emotional scene I wrote. I finished it, and then it was like a “wow, so that just happened” sort of moment. I don’t know if I can describe it in the same way.
For you, reading the book, these moments are going to come like unexpected smacks to the face. For me, I spent five months working on the outline for this book specifically, after I had spent months outlining the other two books. So I knew what was coming, and that makes it a different experience.

Neth Space: Spoiler follow-up: What specific scenes in your writing proved to be the most memorable? What are a few of your favorites from the final three books in the series?
Brandon: Perrin forging his hammer is probably my favorite that I worked on extensively. My favorite that Jim worked on extensively would be Verin’s last scene. Rand atop Dragonmount at the end of The Gathering Storm is a pretty big one for me. In the last book, my favorite would have to be Lan’s charge right at the end, which is a scene that I worked out years ago, that I pointed a lot of things toward, and specifically in this book built a lot of things around. For a fun scene, getting Mat on the back of a raken was a pure joy for me to be able to do.
What other scenes really stand out to me? Robert Jordan’s last scene, which I’ve mentioned before, is a great one because it’s become the focus, for me, for the entire sequence that I have written. From the beginning, that was the ending that I was working toward. So I was very excited to be able to actually get there.
That’s just a few scenes; there are a lot of them in this book and the series.

EDIT: Thanks to the folks over at Macmillan Audio I have an audio sample from Chapter 3 to share with (no big spoilers). I love the audiobooks and have been using them as 're-reads' for years, so give it a shot.

A Memory of Light Spoiler Reactions

For whatever reason, I’m going even further afield than usual with my ‘review’ of A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (my ‘non-spoiler’ review, Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon). This post (below the cut) is basically a point-by-point reaction to some of the events of AMOL. It’s full of spoilers and if you read them, it will tell you how the book ends and many of the happenings along the way. It’s very colloquial and informal, so comment in kind. Beware, the book is spoiled here and I’ll make no apologies to anyone who gets upset reading this post and whatever discussion follows because some spoiler is revealed. So, take a look and then share what you think. If you prefer, my non-spoiler review is here.
Now, let’s get to it…. 
  1. As I’ve watched the reactions to the ‘Memories of Time’ released by Tor, I’ve had my own little version of how Team Jordan must experience the world. Yes, sometimes the reactions are spot on. But more often than not, they go way wrong. Crazy. It’s amazing to see how things go when I’m thinking the answer was so clearly obvious, but then people take it opposite direction.  
  2. Talmanes in the prologue is awesome. Many have issues with what Sanderson has done with The Wheel of Time since taking on the near-impossible task of finishing the series in a way that fans can love, and some of those issues are very real, but sometimes Sanderson has improved things. Talmanes is one area. He takes a character who was cardboard and barely worth mentioning and grows him into someone likeable, humorous, subtle and heroic. It was fun reading his leading the battle of Caemlyn. Though he should have died. He should not have been healed to fight again. And I tire of the new titles that seemingly come out of nowhere – Dreadbane. Seriously, that’s terrible.
  3. Androl – I like him and Pevara more and more. Obviously Sanderson does as well. I wonder how much of Androl is a reaction to reading what fans have written. The potential tactical use of gateways – we see it. Opening a gateway into a volcano to destroy trollocs, opening a gateway in front of an attacker to behind the attacker so they kill themselves. Precise use of gateways as weapons. These are cool. I wanted more. But he was ultimately mishandled. He just sort of fades away in the Last Battle. He either should have gone out with a real bang…or something. By the end he just sort of hangs on.
  4. Moiraine. So, he needed her to convince Egwene to sign the Dragon’s Peace. And then again as a link with callandor. She still felt strangely absent toward the end. And why didn’t we get a Moiraine vs. Cadsuane scene.
  5. Demandred. I love that he wasn’t Roedran like so many thought. I loathed the lack of subtly with which Sanderson handled it. Too much of a nod to theorists, too much of a breaking of the 4th wall. But Shara? The set up for that could have been handled much better. Perhaps another example of Jordan being too subtle in earlier books. Perhaps an attempt for readers to be as surprised as those fighting the battles. While I like that it gave the forces of the dark an edge, it was ultimately mishandled.
  6. More Demandred. He plays the big role in The Last Battle. But I’d have liked to know more earlier. What we see earlier was either wrong or painfully incomplete. Who knew that Demandred was bat-shit insane? As insane as Rand in his own way. He was always supposed to be the cold, calculating bad guy. Another place things didn’t go as well as they should have.
  7. Mat. Everyone’s favorite. This won’t change. His leading of the last battle was awesome! I like how all the great captains were taken out, how the forces of the dark manipulated them. I like how it took some doing to get Mat into the leadership place he was. Only Mat could have won the battle.
  8. Really, Mat and Rand in a bragging battle? As amusing as it was, it didn’t work for me. Another too big of a nod to the fans.
  9. Horn of Valere. Excellent – most everyone thought Mat needed to blow it. Everyone was wrong. His ties were broken. Olver has a place. I love that Noal was a hero. That Birgitte comes back just after her death. Hawkwing and Matt don’t get along. Good stuff. Hero wolves? Oh well, don’t feel strongly one way or another.
  10. Lanfear – I love that she helps Perrin. I love that she’s a wildcard. We don’t know what’s going on with her…until the very end.
  11. Perrin. Good fighting, continues his growth. Awesome to see him finally let go. But really…he couldn’t kill Graendal because she’s a woman. Please. I thought we were past this. This must have been an RJ plot piece, one that should have been fixed. Though I suppose you had to have some good forsaken fighting going on.
  12. Fain. Thank god he didn’t end up as the Gollum of WOT. I love that every theory I ever read on his place in the Last Battle was wrong. I actually love that all of the build-up, all of the hints of bad things, go nowhere. That Mat walks right into the mist, and kills him. Easy as pie. How wrong we all were, but so obvious in retrospect. The series needed a nice little Red Herring and Fain served well. Now, was Mat’s luck tied to the evil of Fain? The dice stopped.
  13. Along those lines – it’s all over. Our three ta’veren are probably not ta’veren anymore. Does Mat still have is luck? What about everyone always falling in line with Perrin? Of course we have no answers, but it’s something to think about.
  14. So many hate Egwene, even more so since Sanderson has taken the helm. While I can’t say that I always like her, I don’t agree with the hatred. The accusations of Mary Sue. Etc. She dies, she dies as she creates. The Amyrlin dies as she kills the M’hael. Nice balance. 
  15. Cadsuane. I would have like to see more of her during the Last Battle. A good fight scene or two during the battle. Opportunity lost with all those wonderful toys. I did not expect her to survive. Neither did she. Amyrlin? I laughed.
  16. Logain. Not the lovable leader many have made him out to be. Of course he was very nearly turned and there were consequences. But, is it a surprise that he did the right thing in the end? Cadsuane and Logain, White Tower and Black Tower. I think I’d like to see that.
  17. Thank the lord that Nynaeve didn’t heal death. I was very surprised that she never got time with Lan prior to the end. That was proof enough for me that Lan wouldn’t die. Though him killing Demandred…man, Niagara Falls baby. When he stood up with Demandred’s head I thought for sure he was a hero of the horn returned. He was always one I expected to die, but thought would live (if that makes any sense).
  18. Siuan dead. Expected. Actually not too saddened as it was appropriate. But I would have liked to have seen a POV from Bryne at that moment. I would have liked that decent into madness and death charge. Really, it could have been done in half a page – why not?
  19. Gawyn dead, Galad almost dead. Well, Gawyn should have died a long time ago. Not sad about it. He was incredibly stupid and flawed all the way to the end. Galad – I don’t think I’m upset we never got the Rand-Galad reunion. But I sort of wish he had died as well. For a minute I was waiting for a Tam takes on Demandred moment, where Tam succeeds. It would have been a nice thematic arc to the book and appropriate end to Demandred and Tam. But Lan did fine.
  20. Ituralde. I always like that guy. In my mind, clearly the best of the great captains. I wish we would have had more of him. I would have loved to see him and Matt in command together. I’m glad he lived though.
  21. So, two forsaken survive. Graendal and Moghedien. What will Avi do with a forsaken lapdog. What with Seanchan do with a forsaken and damane – and one from Shara as well? Oh, those outrigger novels would have been so much fun.
  22. So, just who is this old Aiel woman who has appeared twice now? She visited Aviendha in the waste and now Rand just after he seals up the DO. It appears that TAR is involved, but that’s not necessarily the case. Is this the creator?
  23. Oh the ending. First, the last word was not ‘time’, but ‘ending’. I can see how that scene began it all, though it’s certainly an odd one if you step back from WOT. The hero of the world steals a horse and runs away from his 3 wives and all the other forces of good. Oh, and he has a new body – that of the bad guy. That actually sounds pretty terrible when put that way. But, it fits. It’s beautifully written and I was bawling. In retrospect I can’t help but hear the Randland stories of Elvis/Jesus/Mary/Jim Morrison/Johnny Appleseed being spotted around the world. Or, maybe he’s Tom Bombadil, traveling the world in song and making the green things greener and everyone happy and gay. That’s it, Rand was always Tom Bombadil. Yes, my sense of humor is terrible.
  24. Now that I’ve read it all and finally know how it turns out. I’m incredibly torn. I want more. I want the prequels. I want those auxiliary novels with Mat and Tuon returning to Seanchan. I want more short stories and novellas. I want to read more. I don’t want it to be over. But, the end was perfect and appropriate. As much as I want all those things, I want all of The Wheel of Time to end as it did.

EDIT: Thanks to the folks over at Macmillan Audio I have an audio sample from Chapter 3 to share with (no big spoilers). I love the audiobooks and have been using them as 're-reads' for years, so give it a shot.

Review: A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Back in 1994 I caved to the recommendations of a number of m cousins and bought The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, the first book in The Wheel of Time series (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon). I have always been a big reader and The Eye of the World was not my first venture into fantasy, but I still have to consider it to be my ‘gateway drug’ into the world of fantasy reading. I lost many hours reading away in my dorm room. I blew my meager budget buying up the rest of the books that were available at the time. And when I finished reading those I immediately began my first re-read of the series, the first of many, though I now do re-listens with the audiobooks. So you must realize that A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, the 14th and final book in The Wheel of Time series (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon), is the book I’ve looked forward to reading the most in my life. These characters have become my friends as the books bring the comfort of nostalgia. Over the years this series has led me to the internet, led me to discussing these and other books on message boards, which inspired me to start a blog, where I can interview authors, through which I’ve had the opportunity to interact with many and have dinner with Brandon Sanderson, which eventually gave me the opportunity to read the final book in the series just a little earlier than pretty much every other fan. The ending that I’ve so craved to know – I know it now. It is awesome. It does justice to the millions of words leading up to it. It is appropriate. And now I mourn, yes mourn for the end of The Wheel of Time. While I can always reread (or re-listen to) the books, the end has come. I’m just remembering the times. The series is over now. That part of my life has truly passed. At the same time I celebrate the series and all that it has brought to me, I do mourn its passing, though more often with a celebratory drink than tears.  

He came like the wind, like the wind touched everything, and like the wind was gone.

Now some of you are probably asking why I chose to begin this post as I did – this is supposed to be a review a book, no more. Well, it is more, and if you are looking for a simple review for the concluding volume of a fantasy series, you will need to look elsewhere. Few things in my life have been with me as long as this series. Few things have consumed the time and mental energy in my life as this series has. Few things have I waited for with more desire. I cannot simply review this book or even this series (though I will try) without touching on the relationship I have with it. I know that many fans will be able to relate. Others may understand without relating. Others will simply roll their eyes, not understanding at all (though I imagine they already gave up if they ever started reading this in the first place). With and through this series I have grown from teenager entering college into a husband and father, a homeowner with a mortgage, a respected contributor to my industry, and a mid-list blogger. It’s a journey that’s been shared, a journey that has reached an ending.
Note: I have not included what I would consider spoilers in this review. I do discuss some events and some of the advanced information that is widely available for those who look. I do discuss some of the more ‘thematic’ developments of the book. I do discuss my reaction to them. I don’t consider anything that I am writing about to be spoilers, but some fans may disagree. Consider this a warning – while most people will consider this spoiler-free, some disagree on the details. In this separate post, I blatantly throw around spoilers and my reactions to them – but this review is ‘safe’ territory.

OK, so let’s get to it. Did I like A Memory of Light? Do I think the series ended well? How did Sanderson do with the final volume?
I loved A Memory of Light. I think it ended well and appropriately. For me, I can easily say it’s the best conclusion to a fantasy series that I’ve ever read. However, the paragraphs above should put my opinion in the context it deserves – that of a crazy and dedicated fan who has been reading and rereading this series for nearly 20 years. I think that Sanderson did a wonderful and admirable job in a very difficult situation. No, he did not do things exactly the way Jordan would have – he couldn’t have, and thankfully, he didn’t try. He finished off the series as Jordan wanted – he honored what Jordan had done, he incorporated the ideas Jordan left behind and he filled in the blanks as best as he could.
The criticisms that some have of Sanderson’s handling of the final three Wheel of Time books will all hold up here. There are plenty of what people are terming ‘Brandonisms’. Sanderson breaks the 4th wall several times, seemingly speaking directly to the hard-core fans and theorists of the series. His relative lack of subtly in comparison to Jordan continues. Those who criticize the way Sanderson has broken out the timeline and presented the story may become extra ornery on the issue as there is a ‘get out of jail free card’ with time itself breaking down, especially the closer one is to the bore. Some of the characters still feel off – Matt at times, Aviendha, and others. But, it’s not always a bad thing. For example, Sanderson breathes fresh air into the character of Talmanes, rounding him out and making him whole rather than a cardboard cutout. Talmanes leading the Band through the battle of Caemlyn is simply awesome, and Jordan would have never written something like that. And it’s becoming increasing clear to me that many fans over overly eager to blame Sanderson for things that most likely are almost all Jordan in their origin – just how many ‘Brandonisms’ are simply ‘WOTisms’?
One of my biggest criticisms of Jordan’s writing is the way he finishes off the books. Basically, there is meticulous build-up of events, carefully setting up the climatic moments of his books. But too often the climax itself, the ending, the culmination of all that build-up feels rushed, or anti-climatic in its brevity. One way of looking at A Memory of Light is that we’ve now had 13 books of build-up and now we are at the payoff, when all that has been built up comes crashing down. Is it rushed? Yes, but not to the same degree as others. A Memory of Light is easily the most action-packed book in the series. In a series where it can be easily argued that there are far too many wasted words, A Memory of Light has very few, if any – even as it clocks in at 909 pages. All of the necessary pieces are here, though I would have been a bit happier with some more.
Jordan spent a lot of time on side-plots, many will argue way too much time was spent on them. Unfortunately, many of these were sidelined in this final book. It’s not that I crave the resolution to each of these – I realize that not everything should be resolved. However, I would have liked at least one sort of concluding point of view from each character we had become invested in during the series, even the relatively minor characters. For example – something from some the few remaining Black Ajah hunters, or the factions within the Aes Sedai rebels that we endlessly followed. Etc. There were also several confrontations that have been set up for quite a while that never materialized. I realize that this would have been nearly impossible to fit into the book, but I can still wish for it and consider it missed opportunities as often an extra line or paragraph would have been enough to satisfy me (but certainly not all). Of course, where we do get this sort of revelation (and there are several), it is sort of jarring to the flow of the story (see the discussion on ‘Brandonisms’ above). So, perhaps the balance is just right and it’s simply the invested fan in me always wanting more.
However, my above criticisms are really very minor when compared to my overall feeling toward the book. Sanderson did a great job finishing things up. Jordan’s final scene, which I understand is printed pretty well exactly as Jordan first wrote it, is a perfect ending to the series. Though admittedly, if parsed out of context it won’t hold up well. And the main character ARCs – Rand, Egwene, Mat and Perrin all hold up well. They finish appropriately and honestly, even with a bit of teasing. But be warned, there isn’t the happy Harry Potter Epilogue where we get a view in the future of how perfectly things are in the future. The Wheel turns, an age ends, and the story with it – but the world is not finished, more events will happen and many of our beloved characters have a future that we will not see.
The phrase ‘laughter and tears’ comes up often in the series, and laughter and tears sums up my reaction to the book as well. After playing such a big part in my life for nearly 20 years, I have a lot invested. Seeing the end game play out was and continues to be an emotional experience for me. Yes, I did laugh at Mat and Gual and Rand and Vanin and Talmanes. They provide some good times. And yes, I shed tears at Mat and Rand and Perrin and Egwene and Loial and Lan and many others. They were tears of joy and sorrow, but always with a bit of celebration. Because even the sorrow is celebratory in this book. In case you haven’t guessed it, I will reveal the biggest spoiler possible (one that Jordan revealed years ago, so it’s not really anything surprising): the good guys win. The Light is victorious. There are deaths. The fight didn’t go exactly as planned for any of the good guys. But they win. And in that victory come even more tears of joy and sorrow.
Throughout the series, Jordan has explored many themes – be it a take on archetypes, myth and legend, communication, sacrifice, predestination, original sin, triumph over adversity, good versus evil, duality, etc. – there is one theme that dominates the final volume: letting go. Letting go of guilt, hate, anger, what one cannot control, certainty, prophesy, predestination, inevitability, etc. It’s been there since the beginning – the void, embracing saidar, seizing saidin – these are all examples of letting go in one way or another. But in A Memory of Light, the message is delivered in the form of father figures. Two of the three central characters we have been following since the beginning learn this lesson as it’s taught to them by the father figures in their lives. It’s very well done and will provide a few tears for the fans out there, though in all honesty, I would have preferred the inclusion of a more concrete example with one of the female characters to balance out the wheel.
So, the wheel has turned. An ending has come. Jordan may have left the world prematurely, but his vision lived on through his widow, Harriet, Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan. A part of my life feels complete. The same part of my life feels a bit lost as it is now a thing of the past. It brought me laughter and tears and years of good memories. I will listen to the tale again. I will discuss it more. And it will fade away. But the ending was as it should be. I’m torn with half wanting more – the promised prequels, the outriggers, more short stories, etc. and the other half knowing that it ended as it should. Fans have craved and dreaded the moment of the end. They will love it and they will mourn for it. It will be celebrated. The Wheel of Time is a classic epic fantasy and it will be remembered. And now fans everywhere will experience the end and know that it is good.  
“There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time.”
 “But it was an ending”
Thank you Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Team Jordan and all of the fans I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over the years. It is an ending…but it’s a beginning too.

EDIT: Thanks to the folks over at Macmillan Audio I have an audio sample from Chapter 3 to share with (no big spoilers). I love the audiobooks and have been using them as 're-reads' for years, so give it a shot.



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