Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Eye of the World Review (Robert Jordan)

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and go. What was, what will be, what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Not even the person in charge of writing synopsis which are found on the inside flap of a hardcover book (or on the back of a softcover, in this case) could come up with a proper summary of Robert Jordan's acclaimed masterpiece. If they did, for some reason they contrived to not put it on the back of the copy I borrowed from the library. Perhaps the Summary Writer started writing one, realized that anyone who took a half-second of a glance at it would immediately put it back, and decided, The more vague it sounds, the more readers will succumb to sheer bloody curiosity.

Well, I didn't exactly succumb to curiosity. No, unfortunately I knew exactly what I was plunging into when I picked up the first book in The Wheel of Time series. Or, at least, I thought I knew. My sister told me that I had to read at least the first book, laughing gleefully to herself. What she didn't tell me was that The Eye of the World would be a truly religious experience. . .

That is, if your religion consists of making yourself suffer as horribly as is possible. Wait! I believe Buddhism does that! Robert Jordan's series would be more appropriately named The Wheel of Suffering, not The Wheel of Time. Well, it was certainly my own little Wheel of Suffering. Though I did not finish The Eye of the World, what little I got through should ensure enlightenment for quite some time. I started reading the book with the intention of finishing it - I really did! But . . . then I looked at the Index. Then I counted the pages. And then . . . I read Chapter 1. Brisingr was easier simply because it is Young Adult fiction. This is Adult Fiction! Written by an adult! One is supposed to be waaay past this.

The Eye of the World starts with a farmboy. Surprising, right? I mean, what fantasy novel doesn't have a happy, clean, well-fed, well-spoken, educated, adolescent male suffering from a severe lack of . . . Well, everything. Now, Robert Jordan couldn't use hobbits and elves and wizards and dwarfs - oh no. But he managed to rack up . . . Oh, three very annoying adolescent farmboys (Rand, Mat, and Perrin), two men-hating women (Egwene and Nynaeve), a not-quite-a-wizard-but-knows-old-legends-and-smokes-and-has-a-white-beard dude (Thom, the gleeman), a lump who does all of the heavy work (Lan), and a female wizard lady with a glowing stick that doesn't really do anything useful until MUCH later (then the Reader and characters discover all of these nifty things it can do; things that would have solved a boatload of troubles earlier), and who hands out coins as tokens that you're not supposed to spend, but then she gets mad when you do spend it (Moiraine). Oh, yes, and later another flirtatious girl is added to the deck (Min), along with someone else and then another character who I'll get to later.

With such a large slew of characters, you would think that finding a single likable one would be fairly easy. I am laughing evilly right now, for I know most of you are thinking, Isn't there one? Well, let me put it this way: Rand is the typical fantasy farmboy - clueless, whiny, tries to be an influence to the kiddies, pretends that he isn't oogling at the passing ladies, struts around with a puffed-out chest, and shmooshes every inn's cook. Oh, yes, and of course he has a mysterious destiny that he has to come to odds with.

Mat, though, must be the most annoying out of the three. He is the "prankster," but never have I encountered a more irritating one who expresses his excitement with the most aggravating and redundant exclamations. He is also the stupidest out of the group. Example: at one point the octet of travelers are being chased by uggubuggus (i.e. monsters, or the badguy's "best soldiers") - a whole army of them. After Moiraine causes an earthquake and builds a wall of fire (something she could have done earlier!), Lan the Lump comes up with the brilliant idea of hiding out in "the one place that the Trollocs will not go." (i.e. the Trollocs are the uggubuggus.) It's a city. An abandoned city with a creepy, ominous name of Shadar Logoth. Now, this is a place that everyone would like to avoid, and our octet could've avoided it at all costs - or no cost at all. But, no, instead they decide to camp there. Mat, Rand, and Perrin go exploring. At night. They encounter a weird suspicious-acting old man by the creepy dark name of Mordeth. They follow this creepy dark fellow of the creepy dark name of Mordeth into a creepy dark staircase into a creepy dark room with lots of glittery treasure. Mordeth encourages them to take some. Through a series of not-so-complicated, but very-uninteresting events, the trio discovers that Mordeth is a dark spirit-type thingy. What a shocker. It is only after this that Moiraine informs the three stupids that, "Oh, this place is cursed and there's spirits that will kill you if you wander about at night, and by the way, there's this really bad spirit named Mordeth who will possess you if you accept any of the treasure." Talk about an FYI! Now, Mat did take something from the treasure - and after hearing this, he doesn't return it. This piece of the treasure is, of course, cursed, and it ends up, um "haunting" him later. Not only can I not believe the sheer stupidity of Mat in this escapade, but it also boggles my mind as to why this scene was even necessary. There was absolutely no reason they had to go into that city, and there is absolutely no reason why Moiraine didn't tell them earlier about the city's skeletons in the closet.

Perrin is the least annoying out of the three, but he's still pretty vexing. The only thing that keeps him from being as annoying as Rand and Mat is the fact that he doesn't talk much. Something ends up befalling Perrin, too - I didn't exactly read that part, though I skimmed it. Let us just say that Perrin contracts yellow eyes (oddly enough, none of his friends seem worried by this), and he has a yearning for raw meat, hunting, and he starts growing a bit of gray hair in places that hair isn't supposed to grow on people. Next he'll be howling at the moon. No one knows why this happens - no one cares. Next there will be a vampire.

Lan. There is not much to say about Lan the Lump. He's . . . someone. Who does . . . something. Every once in a while, Lan the Lump spoke sense. When Egwene complained for tea, he snapped "No tea!" When Egwene joins the sextet (this is before it's an octet), he makes a wonderful observation that she will serve no use. Sometimes I liked Lan the Lump, but personally, a bush would have made more contributions as a main character.

The only good character was Loial. Sadly, Loial does not appear until much, MUCH later, and even he could not get me to read those last few chapters entirely. Loial is a quiet, bookish, shy, polite sort of character. He was out of place in the story, and I wish I could adopt him. But I can't. Not unless I wrote a story with Ogres. Yes, Loial is not a human, but an Ogre - or, rather Ogier, as Jordan thought he must spell it. It is sad, Readers, when the only completely-likable character is an Ogre. Shrek even had other characters that were more likable than the ogres.

And now that I have done my litany on characters, I will move on. I have heard from several fans and ex-fans who met Robert Jordan that he was a conceited jerk. I'm not surprised; it shows in his writing. Mr. Jordan clearly saw himself as a master storyteller. I have seen worse writing, but those authors have had the excuse of youth and inexperience on their side. In the 19 chapters (294 pages) that I read word-for-word, I encountered some of the most hilariously-bad phrases I have ever seen. These are the three main highlights:

"Stars gleamed like points of light" (pg. 146) [No comment.]
"Rand's heart shriveled like an old grape." (pg. 268) [Seeing that Rand is the main character, at this point the story should be over.]
"So this is what battle is like." (pg. 146) [Rand's most profound thought.]

On top of these three most brilliant phrases, Robert Jordan also seems to suffer from the Capitalization Bug. The Capitalization Bug is when an author randomly capitalizes words to stress that they are important, without explaining why they are important. Note: capitalizing a word does not make it important. My list of RCWs (Randomly Capitalized Words), at the end of 294 pages, was 64. What I read was not even half of the book. And none of those words in that 64 are counted twice. Jordan capitalized words like Traveled (that was our favorite), All, Power, Children, Spirit, Common (and not the commons of a town), Exile, Longing, Web, Sword That Cannot Be Touched, and various colors. Jordan also thinks that if he repeats a single word over and over enough times, people will become as excited over a scene as he did when he wrote it.

Then there's the random clubs. Clubs whose jobs, positions, political standings, and whatnot are not explained (clearly the Reader is supposed to magically know about them already). There's goodie clubs that turn out to be baddie clubs (at least, I think they were baddies), and then baddie clubs that turn out to be goodie clubs. And of course all of the clubs in between. Jordan has so many clubs that he runs out of names and starts to color-code them (no joke).

Lastly, there is the You Have to be Joking moment. It is . . . Moiraine's momentary growth spurt. I know that your head is cocking to one side and your eyes are bugged out in confusion at this point. That was my exact expression when I read this. Okay, so the setup: the octet is escaping a town - never mind which one - because some sightless maggoty fellow who is obviously just in search of directions has found them (and apparently he isn't supposed to). It is nighttime, so clearly the city gates are shut. Lan the Lump kindly asks that the gates be opened, they are, then one of the baddie clubs shows up and tries to stop them. Rather than making the baddie club-members momentarily freeze, or maybe cast five-minute blindness, Moiraine grows. As tall as the city walls - taller! She towers over the city, her eyes like twin moons (that is an almost-direct quote). One hopes that her clothes grow with her, though it is never specified. After everyone else has escaped through the now-open gate, Moiraine simply steps over the walls and continues on her merry way at her normal size. Do I really have to voice my personal reaction to this? I have read of a lot of stupid spells and whatnot, but that was special.

And before I close, I would just like to make a special note of someone who I marked as my hero in the story, even though he died as soon as he appeared. Narg the Trolloc was my absolute favorite. He clearly was attempting to assure Rand in the farmhouse (yes, Rand's farmhouse is attacked by uggubuggus; sound familiar?) that he was a friendly sort and hated to see little Rand scared. Poor Narg; he never saw the sword. Narg had more personality than a single one of the others, and I really think he ought to have be instated as the book's hero. Then maybe I would have read all of it.

And so I must close, Readers. If you are wishing to reach nirvana quickly, I suggest you read The Wheel of Time. You will experience so much suffering that your Wheel of Suffering will be ended. In fact, I don't know why more Buddhists don't read The Wheel of Time to reach enlightenment.



  1. I couple of months ago I found myself looking for a cheap read in one of our local bookstores. After looking around for a bit I spotted The Wheel of Time. Remembering that it was "supposed" to be decent, (and thinking that it would help me get in touch with my inner fantasy nerd, which I was sure I had,) I decided to buy it. After suffering through the first page or two I put it back on my shelf and haven't touched it since =] if you would ever like to nerd-it-up with a book series I have found one I like =] I'ts even by the same company who produces Dungeons & Dragons =]

  2. Yay, Sean, you show excellent intelligence towards literature if you couldn't even get through three pages of "The Eye of the World"! ;) Someday I may have to attempt reading the Dragon Lance series (I assume that's what you're talking about?) just to see if it's something I can read. But I'm glad to hear that you couldn't do "The Wheel of Time" - it's a mark towards smartness. ;)

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