Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Readthrough of Time: The Eye of the World

So the first book of the Grand Readthrough is done and gone. I can't really make this a traditional review, because, hey, what's the point? The book is 20+ years old, it has a lasting impact on the fantasy landscape, and anything of great importance about this book has really already been said. I can't add anything to that. What I envision with this is more a random hit of thoughts from someone who's read dozens, perhaps hundreds, of books influenced by it without having read this previously. It puts me at a weird advantage and disadvantage as a result - I can see some clear parallels to more current fiction, and even places where those who have come after Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time are, frankly, doing it better.

So anyway, Book One: The Eye of the World. Our initial players are established, some problems detailed, and a lot of interesting stuff goes on. Some random scattershot thoughts beyond the jump, much of it spoilery if you're not caught up, as well as a surprise Fruitless Pursuits exclusive:

* First, my basic thoughts on the book. My introduction to adult fantasy literature was actually The Sword of Shannara, the Terry Brooks series. The first book, from 1977, is a book I haven't read in close to 20 years, but reminds me a lot of The Eye of the World, largely in part since both probably (read: definitely) derive from The Fellowship of the Ring. So Jordan's not exactly breaking new ground even in 1990, never mind reading it in 2012. This is not a bad thing, mind you - I love a good high fantasy and some nice sword and sorcery as much as the next guy, and a lot of the modern fantasy books, from the urban trend to less accessible stuff like some of the Night Shade Books collection, leave me cold. It's just interesting to read in this context.

* I was impressed about how quickly this book got rolling. I'm used to most books, fantasy or otherwise, taking a lot of time to establish settings and characters and whatnot, and I believe it was 11 pages in when we started diving head-first into the plot. This would have been great had the next few hundred pages taken their time to catch up, unfortunately, but I did love the initial attempt to not waste any time. We learn about the Fades very quickly, we see some Trollocs, we see a lot of fun nods to future book titles already - it felt good and a little different. I'm also surprised at the amount of mystery Jordan introduced so early on, and truly how well it unwound itself over the 660ish pages. I would have liked the first third or so of the book to move differently, but it made up for it.

* So, Trollocs. Listen, I get that they're sort of this universe's orcs, I get that everyone is really, really afraid of them, but what I don't get is why. The only reason we're really afraid of Trollocs is because Rand and company are afraid of Trollocs, and perhaps because there are so many of them. At least from my point of view, they're simply big and dumb and not really that scary or vicious or even that dangerous at all. Yeah, they take out Rand's father, but it was dark and no one was expecting them - for god's sake, they essentially get trapped in the Ways like dumb animals. Really strange, maybe someone can explain this to me.

* On the flipside, I really like the Darkfriends as an enemy. The idea of them, in my mind, as this grand worldwide conspiratorial group that are linked in mysterious ways and could be lurking anywhere tickles me in all the right places, even if "Darkfriends" is quite possibly the least threatening name of anything ever. May as well call them the Rainbow Kittens, y'know? Especially when you compare them to the Trollocs, the Darkfriends are great. I'm hoping we see more of them going forward.

* So far? Loial, the Ogier, is my favorite character. I don't know whether it's because Jordan wrote him so well, or if they remind me of so many other super-expressive sci-fi/fantasy characters from various mediums that I've loved over the years, but I enjoyed every scene Loial was in, and I'm hoping we see more of him as well.

* As a quick aside, I'm mostly spoiler-free except for one point that I read regarding someone (possibly Rand) losing their hand. If it's Rand, I'm very impressed, as the last couple pages give a fairly obvious foreshadowing moment to that eventually happening. If not, well, it's still some neat flavor for the world at hand.

So my thoughts so far? Very happy so far, even if it was a bit of a slog to start. I don't want to pace myself, but I'm kind of chomping at the bit for book two. I'm hoping with some established characterization and some sense of the world that the next book moves a little quicker, but that's it. Regardless, I'm feeling very in right now.

And now for something different, Macmillan Audio was kind enough to offer us a sample of the audiobook for The Eye of the World. If you're looking to catch up/reacquaint yourself with The Wheel of Time, the audiobooks might be your route. You can hear a sample of The Eye of the World here, and, if you're interested, purchase the audiobook at your audiobook retailer of choice.

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