Friday, January 11, 2019

Best-Forgotten Books: THE EYE OF THE WORLD by Robert Jordan (1990)

The good news first: Half of The Eye of the World is a pretty good book.

Now the bad news: The other half is mindless blather, and the only way to separate the good from bad would be to take a red pencil and cross out all the crap. 

This came as a surprise to me, because I read this and several sequels back in the '90s, and remember liking them. I quit only because I was all caught up, and didn't want to wait for the next book. And that concerns me. I mean, that was only twenty-some years ago. Was my taste really that bad?

Anyway, I reread several of Robert Jordan's Conan books last year, and found them so good I read two and three in a row. The prose was rich but tight, and the characters fun to be with. Each was a little longer than the average Conan pastiche, but seemed just the right length for the story. Every word counted. 

So I was looking forward to a return visit to The Wheel of Time series. Now finished at last (with help from Brandon Sanderson), the series runs fourteen books, plus a few extras. I figured the audiobook versions would give me years of entertainment.

Alas and alack, that was not to be. The Robert Jordan who wrote The Eye of the World (real name James Oliver Rigney, Jr., Wikipedia tells me) seems to be whole different guy from the one who did those Conan books. Rather than the adult fantasy I expected, this book reads like Young Adult. Everything has been dumbed down to a level that borders on Juvenile. 

There are many long and dreary dream sequences (never a good sign) and many stories told of former ages, all of which are more intersting than the main story (another bad sign). 

Of course, Jordan was not trying to make this Conan-like. He was trying to rewrite The Lord of the Rings. The story itself is pretty good, and the characters (aside from the snot-nosed Young Adults) are interesting. But the prose is bland and boring, and dang near every scene is twice as long as it should be. Many scenes containing two or three minutes of meaningful story were stretched out to twenty minutes by tedious and repetitive inner dialogue. 

I found this maddening, and there were many, many places along the way where I nearly chucked the whole thing. But I figured if I didn't finish it now, and give the series a chance, I never would. So I stuck it, suffering through almost 30 hours of this sucker, to see if the payoff was worth it. 

As I'm sure you've guessed by now, it wasn't. The big finale was as bloated as everything leading up to it, and left me cold. Too bad. As I said up front, half of this book was pretty good, and if cut to half (or maybe a third) of the length, I probably would have liked it. I could see this as a decent TV mini-seiries, or maybe a graphic novel. But as a 30-hour audiobook I give it three thumbs down. 

So now it's decision time. Do I listen to another 400 hours of this stuff, or puncture both eardrums with an icepick? Both sound equally appealing. 


George said...

Like you, I struggled with Robert Jordan's series. Same problem: bloated books that needed a Good Editor to get rid of the crap.

I did enjoy Robert Jordan's CONAN novels.

Evan Lewis said...

Jordan supposedly planned it to be a six-book series, but even that got away from him. If he'd planned three from the start - and stuck to it - it may have been a worthy successor to LOTR.