RIP Robert Jordan: The Wheel of Time stops turning
Posted on Monday September 17, 2007, 14:03 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
This isn't strictly film-related, but today saw the sad passing of fantasy author Robert Jordan (real name James Rigney Jr.), the man behind the Wheel of Time series - and since said books were optioned for the screen a few years back, I thought we should acknowledge it.
Jordan had been battling cardiac amyloidosis for over a year, and was in the process of writing the twelfth (and final) Wheel of Time book at the time of his death. Aside from being an author with the sort of devoted fanbase more usually associated with Star Wars films and Doctor Who, Jordan was also a former Army officer who served two tours in Vietnam, a physics graduate, a history buff, and an author who made enormous amounts of time for his fans even as he wrote the biggest saga in modern fantasy.
But while my deepest condolences go to his family and everyone who knew him, I must admit that my initial reaction to his death was more connected to the fact that he won't get to write the last of a series I've been reading since I was about 12; that he'll never write those other two prequels; and that the fate of one of the most enthralling series I've ever read is left completely up in the air. In other words, I'm personally gutted. We're told that his last book, A Memory Of Light, is incomplete, and while there is some suggestion that he's left notes and had extensive discussion with family about finishing it for him, there remains the ghastly prospect that we'll never know how it ends.
For those of you not initiated in the WOT cult, allow me to elucidate - there are eleven books and one prequel, with an average length of over 500 pages each, 1,500 named characters and one continuing storyline throughout. There are no Next Generations involved, no "Twenty Years Later", no complete resolution at any point. It's true that, after book five, the pace did slow and a lot of people switched off, but if (like me) you'd already fallen in love with the characters that didn't matter as much as it might have done.
The hero, Rand al'Thor, is a shepherd whose destiny it is to save the world. Only problem is that he's likely to go mad and die in the process - which is a bit of a worry, given that he has the power to move mountains. Meanwhile, his friends from the village where he grew up try to help him unite the disparate countries of the world to fight the Dark One (there's always one) while facing their own challenges. Only they also manage to make things complicated because no one ever bloody communicates like they should. And they spend a little too long discussing dresses and facial hair. And don't even get me started on the bloody kidnapping of bloody Faile!
Ahem. Sorry, a wave of geekery just knocked my feet out from under me for a moment. But the rest of the books boast great characters, fascinating cultures, plots (in both the storyline and conspiracy sense) as intricate as lace and some fantastic set-pieces. The central characters genuinely grew and changed as the saga continued, evolving with both books and readers - and there are endless hours of entertainment to be had from reading the conspiracy theories behind certain characters' motives and identities online (Bela the pony is God is a particularly good read).
The point is that this is like George Lucas dying halfway through making Jedi, or Peter Jackson quitting due to illness during The Lord of the Rings, or when Steve Guttenberg left Police Academy. It's absolutely tragic news for fans on several levels, both because the world of fantasy has lost a smart, kind and talented writer and because his work may never be completed. Rest in peace, Mr Rigney, but if your ghost could see fit to come back and inspire your ghost writer (ahem) we'd appreciate it.
Posted on Monday September 17, 2007, 14:52
A sad day he was the best authors in the fantasy genre and seemed a nice guy.
However he had more than enough time to finish his epic. If that is he didn't drag it out from Book 6 onwards. It is somewhat in keeping with the frustration his loyal fans have suffered since that date that he dies with the series incomplete.
Posted on Monday September 17, 2007, 15:22
Absolutely gutted. I too have been reading the series since I was about 13 and have waited patiently for each to be released.
Yes there have been extended gaps between books, certainly the later ones but that only made it all the more pleasing when it hit the bookshops.
Not knowing how it all ends is maddening but I guess that is the least of his family's concerns at the moment.
RIP Mr Jordan and thank you.
Posted on Monday September 17, 2007, 17:46
He put up a long fight against an illness with very little odds of survival even a year. It's sad but mostly for his nearest and the completion og WoT must come second, but I have no doubt he has prepared for this eventual outcome and the fans will be left with some kind of closure.
As far as I remember I think he actually has named another person to complete the last volume from his notes on his blog.
Posted on Tuesday September 18, 2007, 20:16
the best reference for how this may work out okay in the end is david gammel. he wrote the first two books in a trilogy and then died. so then his wife wrote the third one.
then of course there's christopher tolkien, who has edited together almost all of his father's books from various notes.
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2007, 09:15
On the other hand Billy there's Virginia Andrews - yikes!
I really hope that someone will continue and finish A Memory Of Light; I dread someone else coming in and writing the other prequels from scratch - or worse, bringing out his proposed follow-up series Infinity Of Heaven, and calling it a Robert Jordan book.
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2007, 18:48
My sympathies to his family, and my thanks to Mr Jordan for some hugely enjoyable stories.
Having read his books, I'm gutted. I hope someone (hopefully who knew his ideas, and can write in a similar manner) manages to finish the series, it would be nice to have a conclusion having read the first 11 books and the prequel. Although, I agree with Helen that certain plot lines were added to drag out and slow the story down, rather than keep it moving along (the never ending Faile kidnapping for example), and if not for those, we might have already had the last book...
I had heard rumours about a possible film deal for the series - not sure whether it was a live film, or an animated version though.... Though how you'd condense down the series is anyones guess
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2007, 19:01
When I die, I have left explicit instructions for my family to rewrite my Attack of the Clones review and give it four.
Posted on Wednesday September 19, 2007, 19:01
They could also rewrite that sentence so it makes sense. But you know what I mean.
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2007, 19:18
Shouldn't that be "two?"
RIP Robert Jordan. It's a sad time for fantasy fans, but perhaps good news for our heaving bookshelves.
Posted on Saturday September 29, 2007, 20:04
I mean... really frustrating. I REALLY wanted to know what happens. I can only pray that some arch-Jordan impersonator is brought in to complete the series - just use constant corporal punishment and male characters going "I just do NOT understand women!" and you'd be some way there.
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2007, 08:58
Well its not quite the same as Peter Jackson dying during making Lord of the rings is it?
If you don't know how it ends you go and get the already-written-50-years-previously book which ties up a lot more loose ends than the films did anyway.
Having said that I am kind of pissed that this particular series is now incomplete. I started reading the first Wheel of time book when I was 16/17 (Eye of the world is it?) but I have this thing about not reading a story that is incomplete so when my geek friend who leant it to me told me that this story had a long way to go I put it down and said to myself "Some day, but not now". Now this day may never come.
Posted on Wednesday June 20, 2012, 07:01
And here we are nearly 5 years later and I'm about to finish Book 10. I'm glad that I haven't wasted my time as, despite being long-winded in places, its been a great series and I'm very happy it's going to have an ending. I'm making sure that I'll be up to date by next January.