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View Full Version : This is why the Wheel of Time 'bloats' in the middle


Great Lord of the Dark
09-04-2013, 09:24 PM
This is a thread about how the scope of the series gets broader about 6 books in. Please, no comments on Brandon vs. Jordan, no comments about about whether it sucked or not, stick to why it gets 'bloated' and what was achieved both successfully and unsuccessfully. Thank you.

The Wheel of Time is the story of how Rand, a simple farm boy with a well-entrenched world view and morality goes out into the world in search of adventure. Early in the books, the point of view is restricted to other like-minded characters and the action and plots are straightforward. The villainous Seanchan are so alien in their adoption of slavery that they are presented as nothing but the enemy.

The series takes a major shift in The Shadow Rising, where even wider and stranger locales and cultures are encountered. The Aiel in particular present a new framework of ethics that Rand struggles to adopt out of necessity of keeping their warriors allied to him.

Rand begins to try to wrest these other cultures to his way of thinking by force, imposing laws and penalties on those who act against his morality.

Lord of Chaos is when Rand's confusion over how to reconcile these cultures is represented as a constant jump from one character to another, usually showing a new or different point of view. This jumble is purely intentional.

Soon, Sea Folk and Seanchan points of view show up, lasting for only one chapter, that character's viewpoint then vanishing, never to be seen again in the series. Bethamin offers one of the first times Seanchan are presented somewhat favourably. These represent the ever-expanding number of cultures Rand is being exposed to.

In reaction to his inability to dispose of the new moral frameworks being thrust at him, in Winter's Heart, Rand tries to toss his original moral grounding away, resorting to base assassination to achieve his goals, which have taken precedence over all other considerations. He soon finds this leads down a sombre path.

Crossroads of Twilight offers no Rand perspectives but for the epilogue, which is told in an omnipresent voice. The other characters founder, searching for their own guiding principles.

Rand discovers that his chosen path of no conscience at all ultimately leads to killing his own father, and rejects it. He grounds himself in acceptance. He cannot change the world, he can simply save it and let it change itself. He decides to trust others to do what is right, based on their own culture and morals.

Ultimately, he expresses his newfound balance between the various needs of the world's cultures through an elegant tool: the Dragon's Peace. He uses the one element he can control as leverage to persuade the others to meet him part way. Every one has to give up some part of what distinguished them. Ultimately, he must accept that he cannot end the hated Seanchan culture of slavery on his own. The people who survive the Last Battle will take up that cause, if they so desire.

When Rand goes to Shayol Ghul, it is with a form of his early morality, slightly changed by exposure to the different cultures which have shown him other ways of living, some better, some worse, usually a mix of both. He is not the one to judge whether the way they live is right, he is the one to earn them the chance to live their lives at all; they will choose what to do with it.

Rand's victory over the Dark One comes after he relearns this lesson in battle, and accepts what he cannot and should not change. Like Tam, he was changed by what he lived outside the Two Rivers, but his core stayed true. Rand has grown into adulthood.

A Memory of Light represents this by focusing back in on familiar characters who have also been changed by what they have lived, but who are in majority the same ones seen in The Eye of the World.

The structure of the entire series, from simple and straightforward, to expansive bloat, to resolution, is not one of author's ego after hitting the big time, nor one of not knowing when to stop hitting the keys, nor showing off all the cool world building he created. That big puffy bump in the middle is intentional, and represents what all of us must learn to cope with the world, wherever we were raised.

Theoryland already existed as a microcosm of that theme, where each of us brought some perspective to the table that was unique, and broadened everyone's view, against our will quite often, just as was done to Rand.

In conclusion, the change in pace in the middle of the series was done intentionally to represent Rand's state of mind as he attempted to reconcile the different cultures, ethical frameworks, and standards of morality of the various factions of the world. Robert Jordan executed this exceedingly well and subtly, such that a majority of fans did not recognize the purpose of the change in pace and number of points of view. A Memory of Light brought the elements of this theme to a logical, consistent, and satisfying conclusion, both in terms of plot elements and structure.

That is my theory.

Read the blog already!

Zombie Sammael
09-05-2013, 08:42 PM
Just because something is intentional doesn't necessarily mean it is a good idea or works well, or is the best way to show a thing. I still maintain that a tighter focus would have improved the series. I really didn't need POVs from Random Aes Sedai #4050 or Random Darkfriend #27 to show me that Rand was learning and changing as a person, nor did I need Perrin to take quite as long as he did to do, well, anything, nor for Mat to have a learning experience whilst travelling with Valan bloody Luca's bloody circus. Cut away some of those unnecessary POVs and tighten up the plotlines for the main characters and you have a better series without losing any of the imagery which you talk about.

Terez
09-05-2013, 11:29 PM
Just because something is intentional doesn't necessarily mean it is a good idea or works well, or is the best way to show a thing. I still maintain that a tighter focus would have improved the series. I really didn't need POVs from Random Aes Sedai #4050 or Random Darkfriend #27 to show me that Rand was learning and changing as a person...This was always part of what made the series interesting to me. If I liked stories with limited cast, I would have fallen in love with something else. I don't think the mid-late books were bloated so much as they were incomplete. Easy to forget that the books not only took longer to write starting with ACOS, they also got shorter. It's clear in retrospect that this is when RJ's health started to decline; he said that LOC almost killed him, and that after his initial six-book contract was up he followed doctor's orders to cut back on his writing hours. If he could have done 7-11 in 3-4 books instead of 5, I think fans would have overall been happier with what happened in the story.

Crossroads of Twilight offers no Rand perspectives but for the epilogue, which is told in an omnipresent voice.We also get him in Chapter 24, and the epilogue bit is not Omni.

Zombie Sammael
09-05-2013, 11:55 PM
This was always part of what made the series interesting to me. If I liked stories with limited cast, I would have fallen in love with something else. I don't think the mid-late books were bloated so much as they were incomplete. Easy to forget that the books not only took longer to write starting with ACOS, they also got shorter. It's clear in retrospect that this is when RJ's health started to decline; he said that LOC almost killed him, and that after his initial six-book contract was up he followed doctor's orders to cut back on his writing hours. If he could have done 7-11 in 3-4 books instead of 5, I think fans would have overall been happier with what happened in the story.

I've had several near-arguments with Lupus about this very thing, and it's interesting, because she's always been able to point out to me exactly why a certain POV is there (even down to the bath scenes) and what it shows or tells us. Of course, my counter-argument is always that there was a better way to do it, and that if RJ had decided to use less POVs he would have had to change the plot to make those things happen in other ways, and it would therefore have made the series tighter, but as Isabel would say, that's a what if game ;).

For my part, as far as personal appeal goes, I think what really grabbed me at a young age was the sources, and the way the world was drawn. A world which could be our world in the future (or indeed, in the past) retained just enough of the fairy-tale mystique whilst drawing from enough different sources that it felt consummate in its approach to the creation of a fantasy story. As the series drew on, it lost some of that feel, precisely because the sheer scope of the world and the number of viewpoints diminished the sense of wonder; we started to learn how everything worked. Next to RJ, my favourite pure fantasy writer is probably Robin Hobb, and in (IMO) her strongest work she uses first person perspective; I contrast Fitz knowing the baddies are up to something but never knowing precisely what with having an actual point of view from Moghedien thinking, essentially, "Eh, I'm dead evil, me," and find RJ comes up short, even though the construction of the world and the plot is far more final. WOT's greatest strength, for me, was in taking the ideas developed out of Tolkien and before Jordan and bringing them to a point of completeness where the story had been told. In my opinion, closing that chapter on the entire fantasy genre allowed for other authors such as Brandon Sanderson and China Mieville to find entirely new directions to take their stories. It completed the trope of the chosen one as much as it could ever be completed, and now we're ready for different stories and different ways of building a secondary world.

yks 6nnetu hing
09-06-2013, 04:11 AM
WOT's greatest strength, for me, was in taking the ideas developed out of Tolkien and before Jordan and bringing them to a point of completeness where the story had been told. In my opinion, closing that chapter on the entire fantasy genre allowed for other authors such as Brandon Sanderson and China Mieville to find entirely new directions to take their stories. It completed the trope of the chosen one as much as it could ever be completed, and now we're ready for different stories and different ways of building a secondary world.

I think that's really well put. WoT really is/was revolutionary in 1991 when it refused to delegate the female characters into the "your princess is in another castle" role; when it blurred the lines between good end evil; and when it refused to fall for the human-dwarf-elf trope. That there are gender and social perspectives there that in 2013 seem outdated simply shows how fast the world has changed.

Yes, there are even more gritty writers with even less distinction between good and evil nowadays, yes there are even more believable female *and* male characters, yes there are more diverse ecosystems... but all of that has come in the last... maybe 10-15 years? Back when Jordan pitched his story, everyone was reading Eddings, Feist and Brooks and thought that THAT was what Fantasy was supposed to be like. There was Anne McCaffrey of course, but her writing was a blend of SciFi and Fantasy; when it came to "pure" fantasy then yeah... there were very fixed rules, and Jordan broke those rules.

Terez
09-06-2013, 04:37 AM
I've had several near-arguments with Lupus about this very thing, and it's interesting, because she's always been able to point out to me exactly why a certain POV is there (even down to the bath scenes) and what it shows or tells us. Of course, my counter-argument is always that there was a better way to do it, and that if RJ had decided to use less POVs he would have had to change the plot to make those things happen in other ways, and it would therefore have made the series tighter....I don't think that your definition of "tighter" is the same as mine. For the most part, I can't see why I would have wanted any scenes to happen in a different way or with different characters. To use baths as an example, since you brought it up, taking baths is something that people do; if the story never mentions it, then it becomes a bit unrealistic, but RJ always layered such scenes with plot, starting with the Stag and Lion in Baerlon and ending with the Sea Folk bargain in KOD. But there aren't many baths on screen, which makes me wonder why people keep going on about it.

GonzoTheGreat
09-06-2013, 04:39 AM
Nitpick: Eddings didn't have all that many dwarf princesses in castles.

Zombie Sammael
09-06-2013, 04:52 AM
I don't think that your definition of "tighter" is the same as mine. For the most part, I can't see why I would have wanted any scenes to happen in a different way or with different characters. To use baths as an example, since you brought it up, taking baths is something that people do; if the story never mentions it, then it becomes a bit unrealistic, but RJ always layered such scenes with plot, starting with the Stag and Lion in Baerlon and ending with the Sea Folk bargain in KOD. But there aren't many baths on screen, which makes me wonder why people keep going on about it.

It's the one in COT, where Elayne is pregnant, and RJ goes into exacting detail about how the water is heated and brought up to the rooms, etc, that I'm generally referring to when making snide comments about bath scenes, and I think that's the one that made a lot of other people start rolling their eyes. Lupus has a different take on it, but I guess I'll let her expand on that if she ever gets back on here...

Terez
09-06-2013, 05:32 AM
Two copper bathtubs sat on thick layers of toweling laid atop the rose-colored floor tiles where one of the carpets had been rolled up, evidence that word of Elayne's arrival had flown ahead of her. Servants had a knack for learning what was happening that the Tower's eyes-and-ears might envy. A good blaze in the fireplace and tight casements in the windows made the room warm after the corridors, and Essande waited only to see Elayne enter the room before sending Sephanie off at a run to fetch the men with the hot water. That would be brought up in double-walled pails with lids to keep it from getting cold on the way from the kitchens, though it might be delayed a little by Guardswomen checking to make sure there were no knives hidden in the water.That is "exacting detail"? Really?

Zombie Sammael
09-07-2013, 07:57 PM
That is "exacting detail"? Really?

I think an entire paragraph about how the bath is prepared is pretty exacting as compared to "Elayne had a bath", especially when the paragraph doesn't, on the face of it, tell us anything else. Of course on more careful analysis it tells us a great deal else but on a first read through it still feels pretty exacting to me, and IIRC comes immediately after some other fairly boring chapters.

Rand al'Fain
09-08-2013, 03:33 AM
I'll admit, it does get annoying, some of those parts (Elayne's baths, obviously), but for the most part, I did enjoy learning other character's perspectives on the world at large. Like some farmer learning he can channel while Rand and Nynaeve work to cleanse Saiden.

These little bits showed that what the main characters were doing did actually have far reaching consequences and effects, and not just for other powerful people (Aes Sedai get thrown in this too), but for the regular oridinary person.

Granted, this sort of thing doesn't always work and can become convulated and overall lose you (some book series based off of WWII but in a fantasy world setting, each chapter was some different character you never hear from again). But RJ did it in away it all tied in well and made sense, and (for the most part) without having a bunch of useless stuff in there.

Great Lord of the Dark
09-08-2013, 09:35 PM
addressing everyone's comments in order:

Zombie Sammael (still one of the best usernames ever): Could Jordan have achieved the same in less words? Most readers feel as you do, that the story was going nowhere fast. I submit this was part of the point he was making when he stretched those sections out. The structure of the story matches the theme at each point of the story. In this section, you can't know where you're going with no moral compass to guide you. It's a quagmire.

Let's say he did write it more succinctly. Does the story lose anything by the fact that the structure doesn't necessarily match the themes? In most cases, it's balancing the need for the story just the way the author wants vs. entertaining the audience. Failing to entertain is a cardinal sin.

Although I now enjoy this part of the story much more than I used to, I suspect the trade-off is not worth it in most readers' view.

There is something right to your idea that once you tell readers the inner workings, it's time to end the story. I suppose keeping inner workings secret is where many RAFOs come from.


Terez: This is what happens when you write in a tiff and use memory instead of databases. Good catch.

I agree that the diverse and immersive points of view are something Jordan does best, and added the rich depth that kept us coming back for more.


yks 6nnetu hing: I think you're correct about some of what made Jordan stand out at the time. I do not know which, if any, of these authors have made the story structure match the story's message and themes. Perhaps it's only something which is of little interest to casual readers?

Rand al'Fain: At the end of the series, Rand is meant to represent everyone, so the farmers and soldiers and such each face choices in the vein of Rand's major conflict. Broadening the cast to convey the scope of the Last Battle, yet bring it all back to a very personal set of common choices was very well executed throughout the series.

THE BATH!

Technically, Rand has way more baths than Elayne.
Learning from the above, I actually went back to the books and found that I misremembered where the bath scene takes place. Elayne's major bath scene is lengthy because she keeps getting interrupted, a metaphor for duty before pleasure.

A similar complaint in The Shadow Rising was the interminable walk through the Waste in which 'nothing happens'. Except for Rand's budding romance with Aviendha, clues about Lanfear and Asmodean, and all the background on Aiel culture you need to interpret the rest of the story.

To Zombie Sammael's point, the placement of a description near other uninteresting details adds to the perception that it is overdescriptive. It seems to happen most often when the context of the story at that point is that the character must wait for something, which takes control of events away from them, and creates that feeling of 'nothing happening'.


So far, I sense little disagreement to the idea that the structure does in fact match the story's theme. So well, in fact that it throws readers off.

Zombie Sammael
09-09-2013, 12:44 AM
(I've always thought you had a pretty sweet username too, as it happens)

Though you are correct that slow down does to some extent thematically match the portions of the series in which it takes place, that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea from a storytelling perspective. I'm a comic book fan, and we complain a lot about decompression as a storytelling technique over recent years, since it makes it feel like we get less bang for our $3.99 per issue. That sort of thing isn't strictly speaking a problem for a writer like RJ, since he isn't writing an ongoing periodical, but it does cause the series to extend, even when that extension serves a metaphorical purpose. It isn't necessarily good writing; Stephen King, for instance, might be likely to argue that putting symbolism before storytelling is putting the cart before the horse. If I believed there really was no other way to demonstrate these things, I'd probably agree with you that it works as an amazing structural metaphor and I really love it, but as it is, it slows down a story that by that point ought to be racing at breakneck speed towards a thrilling conclusion. YMMV.

GonzoTheGreat
09-09-2013, 03:54 AM
YMMV.
Which may very well be source of the whole issue. Some writers are very good at writing short stories, some are very bad at it. It may be that Stephen King could have written this series in just half a dozen books, but I don't think RJ could have done so. And if SK had written it, then it would have been a very different story, I suspect. So the kind of approach to telling the story (your mileage) you get depends upon (varies with) the author who is telling the story.

Of course, some authors are capable of improving their style; but it seems a bit unfair to chide RJ for not managing to do so now.

Terez
09-09-2013, 06:04 AM
Terez: This is what happens when you write in a tiff and use memory instead of databases. Good catch.I was using memory. Just saying. :p (It's not hard for me to remember that one because the general lack of Rand POVs in that book stands out.) (I misplaced a bath scene in COT to KOD, though. My memory is not always perfect...)

GonzoTheGreat
09-09-2013, 06:15 AM
(I misplaced a bath scene in COT to KOD, though. My memory is not always perfect...)
That's just a matter of spelling, though, as COT and KOD are pronounced the same.

Terez
09-09-2013, 06:24 AM
Only if you are a Germanic barbarian.

Great Lord of the Dark
09-10-2013, 11:31 PM
Zombie Sammael: Decompression may be why I never walk out of the comic store with a comic after flipping through a pile of them.

I can't argue that Jordan could have taken half as long, or twice as long to convey the same message through the structure of his writing. I am somewhat surprised that no one has previously theorized that he may have been doing this intentionally. I still think it adds a lot to the story, but can see that it doesn't compensate for the perceived lack of progress in many readers' minds.

After these recent posts and seeing some of the vitriol expressed by several commenters on the blog of the fellow who used Goodreads and Amazon stats to visualize fan appreciation of the Wheel of Time, I am struck with how intensely many still feel at the 'betrayal' by a favourite author. Most striking is that supposed fans' very first thing to say is that the Wheel of Time is long and boring in the middle.

They won't be selling many copies to their friends like that.

Does no one remember how awesome the series is? Those moments of epic resolution? The sense of wonder in the early books? Appreciation of the goofy relationships between the sexes in every culture? Are we all done recommending this series to friends?

Why do fans feel the need to add the caveat about the middle books to every review, commentary, or summary?

I can only surmise that the emotional wounds from those books still run deep after all this time, and never had a chance to heal properly after Jordan's death, so a bitter aftertaste is the last most powerful memory many retain.

Can anyone say 'The Wheel of Time is great!' without adding the caveat?

GonzoTheGreat
09-11-2013, 02:46 AM
Does no one remember how awesome the series is? Those moments of epic resolution? The sense of wonder in the early books? Appreciation of the goofy relationships between the sexes in every culture? Are we all done recommending this series to friends?
Bela died.
That is, admittedly, not quite such a big thing as one might assume without this spoiler.

Isabel
09-11-2013, 09:26 AM
Zombie Sammael: Decompression may be why I never walk out of the comic store with a comic after flipping through a pile of them.

I can't argue that Jordan could have taken half as long, or twice as long to convey the same message through the structure of his writing. I am somewhat surprised that no one has previously theorized that he may have been doing this intentionally. I still think it adds a lot to the story, but can see that it doesn't compensate for the perceived lack of progress in many readers' minds.

After these recent posts and seeing some of the vitriol expressed by several commenters on the blog of the fellow who used Goodreads and Amazon stats to visualize fan appreciation of the Wheel of Time, I am struck with how intensely many still feel at the 'betrayal' by a favourite author. Most striking is that supposed fans' very first thing to say is that the Wheel of Time is long and boring in the middle.

They won't be selling many copies to their friends like that.

Does no one remember how awesome the series is? Those moments of epic resolution? The sense of wonder in the early books? Appreciation of the goofy relationships between the sexes in every culture? Are we all done recommending this series to friends?

Why do fans feel the need to add the caveat about the middle books to every review, commentary, or summary?

I can only surmise that the emotional wounds from those books still run deep after all this time, and never had a chance to heal properly after Jordan's death, so a bitter aftertaste is the last most powerful memory many retain.

Can anyone say 'The Wheel of Time is great!' without adding the caveat?

I can:)

Davian93
09-11-2013, 02:29 PM
That is "exacting detail"? Really?

Personally, I really like that level of detail compared to "Elayne took a bath"...it called creating an atmosphere and making it feel real. One of the things missing in the final couple novels was that level of detail. It felt like the difference between looking at a Renoir in a museum and a courtroom sketch drawing.

Uno
09-11-2013, 05:55 PM
Bela died.

Poor gullible Gonzo. That's what Bela wanted everyone to think.

Zombie Sammael
09-11-2013, 09:07 PM
Personally, I really like that level of detail compared to "Elayne took a bath"...it called creating an atmosphere and making it feel real. One of the things missing in the final couple novels was that level of detail. It felt like the difference between looking at a Renoir in a museum and a courtroom sketch drawing.

Just out of interest, is your every WOT-based post from now on going to be Brandon bashing, veiled or otherwise? I just want to know if I can put you on ignore or not. Thanks.

GonzoTheGreat
09-12-2013, 04:09 AM
Poor gullible Gonzo. That's what Bela wanted everyone to think.
Ah, so Bela is like Moiraine?
Poor Frenzy.

EvilChani
09-20-2013, 12:13 AM
Just because something is intentional doesn't necessarily mean it is a good idea or works well, or is the best way to show a thing. I still maintain that a tighter focus would have improved the series. I really didn't need POVs from Random Aes Sedai #4050 or Random Darkfriend #27 to show me that Rand was learning and changing as a person, nor did I need Perrin to take quite as long as he did to do, well, anything, nor for Mat to have a learning experience whilst travelling with Valan bloody Luca's bloody circus. Cut away some of those unnecessary POVs and tighten up the plotlines for the main characters and you have a better series without losing any of the imagery which you talk about.

Used correctly, and with some restraint, random POV characters can add a great deal to a story. In the beginning, I found the random POVs interesting, but they quickly wore thin when I realized almost every single Aes Sedai shared the exact same opinions and behaviors and that the same could be said for every other "group" (Darkfriends were nearly as bad as the AS). Where random POVs truly come in handy is to show contrasting opinion or action (this is why Verin, in the beginning and until she went to hand everything to Egwene, was one of my favorite tertiary characters), both from the main characters' perceptions (of themselves, as well as their surroundings) or to reinforce those same perceptions. The problem I found with the random POV characters was that they were cookie cutters...all AS thought Rand needed to be "guided" (i.e., controlled by them), all DFs thought and behaved like sociopaths, and the Forsaken were one-dimensional jokes. When every single character comes to the same conclusions or possesses the same attitudes, there is little point in showing them. In fact, in that case, it simply becomes tedious and annoying to read.

There were a multitude of cultures, yet in every one the women were manipulative bullies and the men were almost always spineless cowards who shrugged off abuse while muttering under their breath about how unreasonable women were. Sure, in one culture, the men were practically enslaved (odd that it was in the one place where no one could channel at all, really), and in others they were simply hapless targets for mental or physical abuse (or murder, in Ebou Dar), but they were all so similar that the only real distinctions were what sorts of ugly ass dresses they wore or how the men wore their beards. It quickly became the proverbial anvil dropping on our heads, just like the anvil of "Mat/Perrin/Rand is better at dealing with women than me" when each of them has every reason to thing the other two didn't know enough of women to fill a thimble (seriously, between Faile's abusive psycho behavior toward Perrin, Mat hooking up with murderers, and Rand...well, being owned by three women, two of whom acted like they couldn't stand him most of the time, why would any of them thing the other two knew a damned thing about women??).

And while I agree that the plotlines for some of the main characters could've been tightened (like the Perrin chasing Faile thing, which got really annoying), some of them were not explored enough, IMO. Egwene probably had as many POVs as Rand by the end, but rather than showing her growth into a leader, it was rammed down our throats by random POV AS talking about how she practically shat gold simply because she told them to do something that showed a bit of common sense (seriously, a 100ish year old woman asking a slip of a brat who has never even gotten laid how to handle her warder???). Too much of her plotline was forced and RJ (as well as Brandon) forgot all sense and decided to tell rather than show. Too many things were forced in the series to, I assume, save time and/or space, while seemingly pointless bloat was added for reasons I can't really fathom.

GonzoTheGreat
09-20-2013, 03:18 AM
It quickly became the proverbial anvil dropping on our heads, just like the anvil of "Mat/Perrin/Rand is better at dealing with women than me" when each of them has every reason to thing the other two didn't know enough of women to fill a thimble (seriously, between Faile's abusive psycho behavior toward Perrin, Mat hooking up with murderers, and Rand...well, being owned by three women, two of whom acted like they couldn't stand him most of the time, why would any of them thing the other two knew a damned thing about women??).
To be fair to them:

- Mat and Rand hadn't seen all that much of the Perrin/Faile interactions, so they had no basis to think there was anything awry there.

- Rand also had Lanfear, who was so besotted with him that she would have happily fetched his slippers and lit his pipe. Come to think of it: that could explain that infamous "final pipe moment", couldn't it? Lanfear lives!

EvilChani
09-21-2013, 12:57 AM
To be fair to them:

- Mat and Rand hadn't seen all that much of the Perrin/Faile interactions, so they had no basis to think there was anything awry there.

- Rand also had Lanfear, who was so besotted with him that she would have happily fetched his slippers and lit his pipe. Come to think of it: that could explain that infamous "final pipe moment", couldn't it? Lanfear lives!

LOL at Lanfear lighting his pipe. I think she'd have been more likely to cause the pipe to explode, thereby blowing off Rand's head. *can think of all sorts of inappropriate comments to add to that but will refrain* :p

Good points about the trio. Plus, I suppose guys don't run around bragging about all the ways they've been bamboozled by women. None of them should want to admit to some of their experiences and just how inept they are with the opposite sex. Though, it would make for some pretty hilarious reactions...can you see Perrin's reaction if Mat told him about Tylin tying him in pink ribbons, denying him food if he didn't put out, and riding him at knifepoint? He'd probably appreciate Faile a lot more, lol.

Tomp
09-21-2013, 04:11 PM
This may be the wrong thread for this but here goes.

What I first loved about the series was the descriptions that made the world come alive like none other. Later when the POVs became more numerous it showed a much more complex fantasy world than what (for instance) Eddings had. In those books all the people of a given nation behaved more or less the same way and it seemed that you had ten or so real people in the book and the rest were extras. In WoT you certainly had some extras but you also had hundreds of individuals who showed different aspects of human nature more or less regardless of which culture they came from although their culture would "colour" them in certain ways.

The ending was always going to be difficult to tie together when all the players were spread so far apart and so many agendas were at stake at the same time. I think it was a very difficult job that was not perfect in its execution. That being said I'm not sure if RJ would have done it better than BS. What I was partly dissapointed by was how some long plot lines had a non-climactic climax, one example is how Nynaeve finally got Lan's bond. I can understand that that plot climax was sold short because of all the other things happening but it was still a bit of a dissappointment. Overall I love the series but I think that I will take a few years break from it since I've been overexposed to it for quite some time. I think that when I read the whole series again in five years or so I will conclude that it indeed is a masterpiece, although flawed.

Khoram
09-22-2013, 09:08 PM
I've always loved the idea that the world of WoT could be our past or future, and because of that, I haven't had too many problems with the middle books precisely because I always saw it as a take on real life. How RJ presented the characters made them real, and even though they were doing mundane things throughout, they were thigs that I could (more or less) relate to because of how mundane they were. You know, except for ruling kingdoms, running away from would-be captors, or kidnapping a foreign ruler and seeking passage in a travelling circus around the countryside. Details. :p

I've always loved the idea of putting myself in the book; of putting myself in the shoes of the various characters. So those books weren't as brutal for me as they were for other readers.

It really did help that I could read them all through, though. Mostly. :D

Seeker
10-01-2013, 01:37 AM
Just because something is intentional doesn't necessarily mean it is a good idea or works well, or is the best way to show a thing. I still maintain that a tighter focus would have improved the series. I really didn't need POVs from Random Aes Sedai #4050 or Random Darkfriend #27 to show me that Rand was learning and changing as a person, nor did I need Perrin to take quite as long as he did to do, well, anything, nor for Mat to have a learning experience whilst travelling with Valan bloody Luca's bloody circus. Cut away some of those unnecessary POVs and tighten up the plotlines for the main characters and you have a better series without losing any of the imagery which you talk about.

Indeed.

Seeker
10-01-2013, 01:43 AM
I think an entire paragraph about how the bath is prepared is pretty exacting as compared to "Elayne had a bath", especially when the paragraph doesn't, on the face of it, tell us anything else. Of course on more careful analysis it tells us a great deal else but on a first read through it still feels pretty exacting to me, and IIRC comes immediately after some other fairly boring chapters.

No, actually, it really doesn't. It's a paragraph about how water gets from the kitchens to her room with some flowery description. This isn't deep.

Figbiscuit
10-01-2013, 08:48 AM
I'm intending to keep this brief.

I for one like GLOTD's idea. I'm not sure whether it's true, but I like the idea. I'd like to think that it's true, that RJ was weaving a huge metaphor in with the slower nature of the books in question, but then other people have made comments in the past about how those books appear slow as all sorts of weird and wonderful things are going on with the timeline (which I also never really paid attention to), so I don't know. But I like it.

I always liked all the extra POV's, and mostly all of the extra description - as has been said, they flesh out the world further than a lot of other fantasy, and are one of the reasons why I don't read much other fantasy as an adult, but I can revisit these books over and again. Although less so since I started visiting these boards more regularly :rolleyes:

I agree that it does sometimes feel like people have forgotten just how brilliant this series is, whether you are reading it now for the first time, or have been following it faithfully since the beginning. There is a lot of plot bashing and critique over style, and as I've been typing this it has just struck me that much of that could be taken as simply as that people are just upset that the story is over and lashing out in temper (that is a very general way of framing it, but I'm at work and I know you're all intelligent enough to know what I really mean). At the end of the day we're all here because at one time we loved the books enough to want to delve further and deeper into the world which was created, and we are lucky to even have a series of books which was created with that kind of scope. I know you are all HCFF's, but sometimes, lighten up :) xx

Ishara
10-01-2013, 12:40 PM
Have you read GLotD's Blog? Cause more thoughtful commentary is just waiting for you!

Seeker
10-01-2013, 03:29 PM
Used correctly, and with some restraint, random POV characters can add a great deal to a story. In the beginning, I found the random POVs interesting, but they quickly wore thin when I realized almost every single Aes Sedai shared the exact same opinions and behaviors and that the same could be said for every other "group" (Darkfriends were nearly as bad as the AS). Where random POVs truly come in handy is to show contrasting opinion or action (this is why Verin, in the beginning and until she went to hand everything to Egwene, was one of my favorite tertiary characters), both from the main characters' perceptions (of themselves, as well as their surroundings) or to reinforce those same perceptions. The problem I found with the random POV characters was that they were cookie cutters...all AS thought Rand needed to be "guided" (i.e., controlled by them), all DFs thought and behaved like sociopaths, and the Forsaken were one-dimensional jokes. When every single character comes to the same conclusions or possesses the same attitudes, there is little point in showing them. In fact, in that case, it simply becomes tedious and annoying to read.

Precisely.

Rep points for you.

There were a multitude of cultures, yet in every one the women were manipulative bullies and the men were almost always spineless cowards who shrugged off abuse while muttering under their breath about how unreasonable women were. Sure, in one culture, the men were practically enslaved (odd that it was in the one place where no one could channel at all, really), and in others they were simply hapless targets for mental or physical abuse (or murder, in Ebou Dar), but they were all so similar that the only real distinctions were what sorts of ugly ass dresses they wore or how the men wore their beards. It quickly became the proverbial anvil dropping on our heads, just like the anvil of "Mat/Perrin/Rand is better at dealing with women than me" when each of them has every reason to thing the other two didn't know enough of women to fill a thimble (seriously, between Faile's abusive psycho behavior toward Perrin, Mat hooking up with murderers, and Rand...well, being owned by three women, two of whom acted like they couldn't stand him most of the time, why would any of them thing the other two knew a damned thing about women??).

And more rep points.

The brilliance of the series is all rooted in the character of Rand as the Aristotelian hero. He hurts but he keeps going. The worlds spits on him and he keeps going. He learns that he has to give up his very life for strangers... And he keeps going. This is why the middle books weren't so great.

Anyway, one of the series's weaknesses is its portrayal of male/female dynamics. Most of the female characters - with the exception of Min and to some degree, Moiraine - were cookie cutters. You've already explained why so I won't repeat your points.


And while I agree that the plotlines for some of the main characters could've been tightened (like the Perrin chasing Faile thing, which got really annoying), some of them were not explored enough, IMO. Egwene probably had as many POVs as Rand by the end, but rather than showing her growth into a leader, it was rammed down our throats by random POV AS talking about how she practically shat gold simply because she told them to do something that showed a bit of common sense (seriously, a 100ish year old woman asking a slip of a brat who has never even gotten laid how to handle her warder???). Too much of her plotline was forced and RJ (as well as Brandon) forgot all sense and decided to tell rather than show. Too many things were forced in the series to, I assume, save time and/or space, while seemingly pointless bloat was added for reasons I can't really fathom.

Agree, Agree, SOOOOO agree!

With the exception of the fact that Brandon went out of his way to give us MORE Egwene POVs specifically to address this problem.

Uno
10-02-2013, 09:01 PM
There were a multitude of cultures, yet in every one the women were manipulative bullies and the men were almost always spineless cowards who shrugged off abuse while muttering under their breath about how unreasonable women were. Sure, in one culture, the men were practically enslaved (odd that it was in the one place where no one could channel at all, really), and in others they were simply hapless targets for mental or physical abuse (or murder, in Ebou Dar), but they were all so similar that the only real distinctions were what sorts of ugly ass dresses they wore or how the men wore their beards. It quickly became the proverbial anvil dropping on our heads, just like the anvil of "Mat/Perrin/Rand is better at dealing with women than me" when each of them has every reason to thing the other two didn't know enough of women to fill a thimble (seriously, between Faile's abusive psycho behavior toward Perrin, Mat hooking up with murderers, and Rand...well, being owned by three women, two of whom acted like they couldn't stand him most of the time, why would any of them thing the other two knew a damned thing about women??).

I've often wondered what kind of strange experiences RJ had with women. It's almost like he wanted to portray strong females, but he couldn't really fathom what such women would be like, so all he could think of was to make them all shrews and scolds. But, as I understand it from those that know more than I do, Harriet doesn't fit this mold at all, so it's all rather puzzling.

yks 6nnetu hing
10-03-2013, 05:53 AM
I've often wondered what kind of strange experiences RJ had with women. It's almost like he wanted to portray strong females, but he could really fathom what such women would be like, so all he could think of was to make them all shrews and scolds. But, as I understand it from those that know more than I do, Harriet doesn't fit this mold at all, so it's all rather puzzling.

I think it's because there's *still* the stereotype, particularly for women, that the only way to be strong is to be loud and pushy. You don't often hear the phrase "She's the quiet strong type", whereas the "he's the quiet strong type" is quite common.

Terez
10-03-2013, 09:02 AM
I've often wondered what kind of strange experiences RJ had with women.RJ has talked about this quite a bit; one of his stock answers concerning the way women behave in WoT had to do with the women in his family. He grew up with strong women, and therefore prefers strong women.

They are complex women (http://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=143#8), strong women, the sort of women I've always found interesting. As my grandfather said, "Boy, would you rather hunt rabbits or leopards?" No choice there.
No, the women in my books are not obnoxious (http://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=186#52). The women in my books are strong. I grew up in a family where all of the men were strong, and the reason is the women in my family killed and ate the weak ones.

When I was a boy, just old enough to be starting to date in a fumbling way, I complained something about girls. And my father said to me, "Would you rather hunt leopards or would you rather hunt rabbits? Which is going to be more fun?" And I decided I'd rather hunt leopards.
There's another on the rabbits/leopards thing, but it was translated from English to Hungarian and then back to English. :D And of course, he often said the same thing about the women in his family without that particular metaphor.

I think part of why many of RJ's fans don't see WoT women the same way he saw them is because so few of his fans understand his cultural context. Not only was his perception of women old-fashioned because of his generation, it was old-fashioned because he was born and raised in the Deep South, where white people revere the antebellum years as the Golden Age, and the 50s (before the Civil Rights Revolution) as the next best thing. I grew up in this culture in Mississippi, but Charleston reveres its confederate history perhaps more than any other place in the South. RJ would have grown up in that culture, but Harriet, who grew up on the peninsula, would have been much more immersed in it than even he.

It's almost like he wanted to portray strong females, but he could really fathom what such women would be like, so all he could think of was to make them all shrews and scolds. But, as I understand it from those that know more than I do, Harriet doesn't fit this mold at all, so it's all rather puzzling.
Oh, but she does. She is always the nicest person in the world when she's talking to fans because she understands that she has both her own reputation and RJ's legacy to protect, but I have seen glimpses of her claws. You know how good I am at bringing out that side of people. ;) She is very refined in everything she does, so even then she doesn't come across as a shrew or a scold. I imagine that's exactly how RJ saw the Aes Sedai, which is a very different picture than most people seem to have.

Tollingtoy
10-03-2013, 04:05 PM
Also, isn't the underlying theme of the whole series the damaged caused by people not working together? Only the males participated in the Strike at Shayol Ghul, and their half of the source was tainted as a result. If men and women had joined together, the seal could have been more permanent and the source wouldn't have been tainted.

To many of the women in the the WOT universe, men broke the world. Therefore, it is natural that there would be some underlying feeling that women are superior or that men somehow aren't as good since, from their perspective, they aren't. The way the AS and most of the characters act is a direct result of these events.

Terez
10-03-2013, 04:11 PM
Also, isn't the underlying theme of the whole series the damaged caused by people not working together? Only the males participated in the Strike at Shayol Ghul, and their half of the source was tainted as a result. If men and women had joined together, the seal could have been more permanent and the source wouldn't have been tainted.RJ said that if they had worked together, saidar would have been tainted too.

GonzoTheGreat
10-04-2013, 03:34 AM
RJ said that if they had worked together, saidar would have been tainted too.
That would've given them a bit more of an incentive to work together to solve the problem, wouldn't it?

Ishara
10-04-2013, 10:37 AM
Oh, but she does. She is always the nicest person in the world when she's talking to fans because she understands that she has both her own reputation and RJ's legacy to protect, but I have seen glimpses of her claws. You know how good I am at bringing out that side of people. ;) She is very refined in everything she does, so even then she doesn't come across as a shrew or a scold. I imagine that's exactly how RJ saw the Aes Sedai, which is a very different picture than most people seem to have.

I can totally see that. I would not want to eff with Harriet.

Figbiscuit
10-06-2013, 03:30 PM
Have you read GLotD's Blog? Cause more thoughtful commentary is just waiting for you!

Me? As it happens I have dipped in and out, altho I am in no way up to date with it. I tend to swing by on quiet afternoons at work :)

Ishara
10-07-2013, 07:34 AM
Yup, you. :) I'm lucky enough to be in the same province as GLotD. Having these types of discussions in person are even better, let me tell you!

Khoram
10-07-2013, 08:26 AM
When he made it out here last year we had those same conversations. And he also tried to get me to join the "RJ is wrong" group. :p Still don't know what to think. :D

Figbiscuit
10-10-2013, 03:21 PM
When he made it out here last year we had those same conversations. And he also tried to get me to join the "RJ is wrong" group. :p Still don't know what to think. :D

Wrong about what? I still believe Taimandred...;)

Linda
10-11-2013, 07:23 AM
I just wanted to say, GLOTD, that I did post my own ideas about the slowdown quite a while ago, but it was on wotmania, and not here. So I would expect you never saw it. And anyway it is lost in time.

I had a slightly different take on the slowdown. I see it as occurring because the Shadow is stymieing the Light with delay and distraction. They want the world to resist change: keep the nationalism, keep the factions, keep the anti-male channeller attitudes. That way there is division and not unity and cooperation. The world comes to a standstill, a giant spanner in the works. It can be broken then. RJ wanted the Shadow to really appear powerful and dangerous. (Showing a few more Shadow POVs would have helped, I believe, rather than holding everything over to the end.)

Rand being the agent of change - Lord of Chaos - had to break the societies into rubble drectly or indirectly, so that something fairer or more unified could be rebuilt. This parallels what happens with the Seals and Bore. It's meant to. When Fel wrote about clearing rubble before you can build it refers to the Land as much as to the Seals. Rand was naturally forcussed on the latter, but what Rand does is mirrored by what happens to the Land as a whole.

Jordan took a big risk writing the slowdown for two reasons. One is that it bores many readers, often because they can't see the purpose. Or they do see the purpose but didn't want it to go on so long (4 books, unheard of!). The other reason is that having bogged everything down, it can be difficult to get the plots going again. KOD is when RJ commenced the start up and some of it felt poorly paced.

It's late here, so I'll stop. Hopefully I have expressed this coherently.

Southpaw2012
10-12-2013, 01:21 PM
I can totally see that. I would not want to eff with Harriet.


I can totally see this as well. Nicest person in the world but you can tell that she can hold her own, that's for sure.