The biggest problems with Jordan's books...and why he's a weak writer.

Anthoney

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#21
Every time I read one of the "what's wrong with the WOT' lists, I find at least half the list are the reasons why I liked it in the first place.
 

BAYLOR

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#22
Ironically, after this post was started as a rant against Jordan's books, we seem to have been talking about him quite a lot - including in positive ways. Maybe that's karma, krm27 :)
I do enjoy his Conan the Barbarian novels of which he wrote alot of .:)
 

Cathbad

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#23
BAD: My two main problems, as a reader,were tremendously long - yet unneeded - preludes, and the fixation on lesbianism.

GOOD: What kept me reading until the very last sentence of the series was Jordan's expertise in creating his characters! I found each unique and believable. Enjoyable an well-written characters, for sure.

As far as the story line, I tired on that by somewhere in book 3.
 

HareBrain

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#24
I was glad to see this link, as I thought he'd archived them somewhere inaccessible. That said, having read his reviews of 1-5, they're more repetitive than I recalled, and I'm not sure why he persists with reading a series of huge books he clearly has no expectation of enjoying (though he's not the only person to have done so -- I read through a load of reviews once by a Goodreads member who seemed to like reading Cassandra Clare books purely to trash them in reviews).

And gods knows that FAQ shows zero attempt to get to grips with what people like about the series.
There is some discussion in the comments of the review of book 5 in which he ponders this -- it's odd that the question doesn't seem to have occurred to him before. But maybe not that odd, if you've ever read any of Roberts's writing: he's ferociously intelligent, but never gives the impression of considering what a reader other than himself might enjoy.
 

Toby Frost

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#25
I've never read WOT and almost certainly won't, but Roberts' comments, for me, raise wider questions of what we want from books, and why we consider them to be good, especially in"epic" fantasy.
 

HareBrain

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#26
I've never read WOT and almost certainly won't, but Roberts' comments, for me, raise wider questions of what we want from books, and why we consider them to be good, especially in"epic" fantasy.
Agreed. And I've just found that in the review of book 8, he goes much deeper (and more sympathetically, to some extent) into why fans might be enjoying what he doesn't, and there's a great discussion in the comments:

PUNKADIDDLE: Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time 8: The Path of Daggers (1998)
 

The Big Peat

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#27
Its quite vexing that my work internet won't take me to those links. Curses!

There is some discussion in the comments of the review of book 5 in which he ponders this -- it's odd that the question doesn't seem to have occurred to him before. But maybe not that odd, if you've ever read any of Roberts's writing: he's ferociously intelligent, but never gives the impression of considering what a reader other than himself might enjoy.
Not uncommon among reviewers. Or writers. Or, well, people...

I've never read WOT and almost certainly won't, but Roberts' comments, for me, raise wider questions of what we want from books, and why we consider them to be good, especially in"epic" fantasy.
Fair comment.

Short answer - I think most people reading genre fiction are fans of the genre and not just the individual series, and I think most people who are genre fans like their books to remind them of the genre. The easy LotR comparisons are a feature, not a bug (and one publishers insisted on in pretty much every Epic series of the time), albeit not the most popular one. Roberts talks about relishing challenge; that's not what most genre fans are there for. Ultimately, you're probably there for an entertaining story told with the conventions you enjoy the most.

And one of the conventions of Epic Fantasy is this sense of telling all of a massive story and going deep into it, and where I think Jordan particularly succeeded was that, by the standards of the time, he went deeper than anyone else. Deeper into the characters, into the world, into the ramifications, everything. Roberts calls out a particularly drawn out piece of writing at the start of Eye of the World; leaving aside questions of Show vs Tell (Jordan shows, Roberts advocates telling), Jordan's version took us a lot deeper into what it was to be Rand Al'Thor. That matters. I'll happily read more words for more depth. People talk about fat he could have trimmed but many a greedy person will tell you the fat is where the best flavour is.

Which maybe accounts for why people who hate the characters and find them unrealistic feel so vehemently about it!
 

millymollymo

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#29
WoT brought female characters to a main arc in a popular EPIC FANTASY written by a man - whole chapters devoted to female characters slaying things and being heroes. Not wholly escaping damsel in distress syndrome, but hell it was about bloody time. GRR Martin's Game of Thrones, followed the next year. I discovered ASOIAF while searching for the next WoT. Funny how books do that.

I reckon Jordan listened in on a working woman gossip's at least for a little while at some point, it's clear enough in the dialogue in places.

I haven't re-read these books in a very long time, nor do I intend to. My reading tastes have changed. Though I am curious to see how Sony/Amazon's treatment of the series will pan out.
 

The Big Peat

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#32
WoT brought female characters to a main arc in a popular EPIC FANTASY written by a man - whole chapters devoted to female characters slaying things and being heroes. Not wholly escaping damsel in distress syndrome, but hell it was about bloody time. GRR Martin's Game of Thrones, followed the next year. I discovered ASOIAF while searching for the next WoT. Funny how books do that.

I reckon Jordan listened in on a working woman gossip's at least for a little while at some point, it's clear enough in the dialogue in places.

I haven't re-read these books in a very long time, nor do I intend to. My reading tastes have changed. Though I am curious to see how Sony/Amazon's treatment of the series will pan out.
I think my favourite damsel in distress moment was when

Mat frees Egwene, Elayne and Nyneave from the grasps of the Black Ajah... and they just run straight off to hunt them down while ignoring all his warnings of danger. Powerlessness for a moment doesn't define people

Tbh, I think you could make a good case that very few male fantasy authors have had so many good arcs for women since.
 
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#33
And people say the books get WORSE as you go along???
I don't know. I never got far enough into them to find out. Can you tell us why you persevered so far and then wrote such a long complaint? I'm genuinely interested. Most people with this opinion would have just thrown the book away (or recycled it if they were environmentally conscious).
 

The Big Peat

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#34
I've never read WOT and almost certainly won't, but Roberts' comments, for me, raise wider questions of what we want from books, and why we consider them to be good, especially in"epic" fantasy.
Okay, the longer version.

Today, I heard that some people consider "It's Cold Outside" to have some really unfortunate undertones. I did some googling, read up on it and saw that some people consider it romantic, some consider it a bit rapey, and some even think its a bit subversively feminist for its era.

And this is I think that illustrates the most important thing. That people can look at something and see very different things.

And that when it comes to what readers want, this is crucially important because two readers can say they're looking for the same things, then read a series like Wheel of Time and have two very different views. Millymollymo talks about how much the female characters meant to her. I know some women who find his representation of women deeply misogynistic. Millymollymo says she found SoIaF searching for the next WoT - someone in the comments said there was nowhere to go with Wheel of Time other than the next one.

There's a *lot* of criticisms that have been made of Wheel of Time, that can be made of the Wheel of Time. Writing quality, storytelling pace, repetitive nature, heavy use of stereotypes etc.etc. But that doesn't mean that people who enjoy the Wheel of Time don't care about those things. A lot of the time they just have a different barometer for those things. I care a lot about writing quality but find Jordan's acceptable; I think the storytelling pace severely dampens the quality of some of the middle books, but enjoyed the glacial pace of the first four.

So what does the popularity of the Wheel of Time vs Roberts' comments say about what readers want? Mainly nothing. As part of a bigger whole, about all the complaints that I've ever seen about popular series?

Maybe that people really don't care about prose quality. Or maybe that they do, but that the present accepted ideal of good prose varies wildly from what people secretly think is good prose - or maybe fun prose.

Maybe that the biggest single selling point for a story is that here's an interesting character and don't you want to see next, like its a soap opera. I'm not sure any author's given readers as much time with the characters as Jordan and few have (arguably) gone as deep.

Maybe that writing troubled wish fulfillment rarely guided an author wrong and ditto "The same but different".

But honestly, I think its kinda just there's no wholly satisfactory answer. But then I believe that readers are given to lying about what they want anyway. Which is not exactly a revolutionary new idea anyway...
 

HareBrain

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#35
I'm not sure any author's given readers as much time with the characters as Jordan and few have (arguably) gone as deep.
I was thinking about this before I read your post, the question being whether character depth is almost inevitable if you spend enough time with them and a great enough variety of dramatic things happens to them, because all that history adds up. Is that what's happening here, or does Jordan do something more?
 

millymollymo

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#36
I kept reading because I wanted to know how it ended, I had suspicions, the clues are all there.


I'd read a whole new series of giant books on the continuing adventures of Matt the Prince of Ravens.
You can almost hear those dice rolling. And yes, there is endless potential for tie-ins I would happily buy.

There are a *lot* of criticisms that have been made of Wheel of Time, that can be made of the Wheel of Time. Writing quality, storytelling pace, repetitive nature, heavy use of stereotypes etc.etc. But that doesn't mean that people who enjoy the Wheel of Time don't care about those things. A lot of the time they just have a different barometer for those things. I care a lot about writing quality but find Jordan's acceptable; I think the storytelling pace severely dampens the quality of some of the middle books, but enjoyed the glacial pace of the first four.
This. Thank you!

For me, it sums up so much of how people (and I until recently) approached books. @Venusian Broon nailed it with his potato metaphors.
(Also yes on the spoiler :D)
 

millymollymo

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#37
I was thinking about this before I read your post, the question being whether character depth is almost inevitable if you spend enough time with them and a great enough variety of dramatic things happens to them, because all that history adds up. Is that what's happening here, or does Jordan do something more?

I agree. By 13th book we are interested in all the characters, each is tied to the outcome in some way. As readers are put off by the amount of time we have to invest in massive doorstop arcs - robbing ourselves of that depth, amusingly that some readers actually seek/crave and is only there in Fantasy.
They all have to work together to achieve a common goal/good.
 

SilentRoamer

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#38
I was very grateful for Brandon Sanderson the writing machine that he is to finish this off for us, I was one of the people tracking his website as he updated it as a PERCENTAGE!

I think @millymollymo is right - by the time you get to the end you are really invested in the characters.

I read the main series books, New Spring and The World of the Wheel of Time. I still need to read the recent companion published with Memory of Light though.

Ok so these are some of the reasons I really do love WoT:

WoT was one of the first Fantasy series I read where women played an active and plot shaping role. Avhienda is awesome. I can see the flaws Jordan had writing about women as a man but I think he tried as hard as he could to give people a voice.

The peoples and customs are really deep and interesting, the entire characters and plot felt rich to me and of a scale like nothing else I had read.

I love magic systems, I dont mind a bit of uncontrolled wild magic type of magic, but really I love a good system. The magic system in WoT is one of the best in epic fantasy (probably my joint favorite along with Allomancy.)

Trollocs are awesome. Myraadral are even more awesome. Padan Fain..... The history behind the world. This is epic fantasy with a capital EPIC.

Just giving some love to WoT! :)
 

HareBrain

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#39
I agree. By 13th book we are interested in all the characters, each is tied to the outcome in some way. As readers are put off by the amount of time we have to invest in massive doorstop arcs - robbing ourselves of that depth, amusingly that some readers actually seek/crave and is only there in Fantasy.
They all have to work together to achieve a common goal/good.
I can see that, and I find it interesting that although Eye of the World didn't really work for me, and I suspect that I would agree with many of the criticisms if I carried on with the series, I still hanker to try it, because I can't find that kind of attachment anywhere else. I don't think I've ever experienced it (as an adult) to any epic fantasy series, but I have to a couple of JRPGs and manga/anime series, where in the end you just want to keep going with those characters and that world. It constitutes a kind of second life more interesting in many ways than the primary, even if some of it is boring (for example, in JRPG, endless similar random battles).

Professionally, I'm interested in the question of how much space a writer needs to create that same level of emotional investment. I've read novellas with great depth of character, but I wouldn't say I became emotionally invested in them. But one hopes it doesn't always need thirteen 700-page novels.

As a child I became very emotionally invested in, say, the Narnia books, which are mere pamphlets compared with Jordan. But I think that was something to do with being a child, and I doubt it would be possible to achieve that as an adult in the same length. I'd welcome examples to the contrary,
 

The Big Peat

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#40
I was thinking about this before I read your post, the question being whether character depth is almost inevitable if you spend enough time with them and a great enough variety of dramatic things happens to them, because all that history adds up. Is that what's happening here, or does Jordan do something more?
Bit of both. Wheel of Time might go on the longest of any Epic Fantasy series, but there's some other long ones that don't get close for character depth. Eddings gave me ten books with Garion but I never felt the same depth; I can't conveniently count how many Feist books Pug was in without getting it. Kerr's Jill, Nevyn and Rhodry were major characters for 10+ books... they kinda got there but not really.

Plus nobody would have kept up with the Wheel of Time if it hadn't hooked them early.

As for what Jordan did... I dunno. Bunch of things. Lot of drama, lot of larger than life characters, lot of long angst filled internal monologues, lot of different points of view... part of it was well written lines that punched it home. Part of it choices about what to emphasise. There's lots of reluctant Chosen Ones in fantasy, but Rand's clear dislike of the person he's having to become as a result really hammers it home. Compare it with Garion and, well, he has the odd emo moment but he's mostly there for the ride. Eddings' stories were stories about events. Jordan's stories were stories about people.

Could you get emotionally invested in characters with less? I think so. But... after a certain point, its compound interest. No matter how much you put in, you're not beating the guy who does it longer.
 

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