Robert Jordan: Genius or Hack?
by Abby Goldsmith
Page 1 of 3
Few critics and fans are able to agree on The Wheel of Time. Some say this
series grows more exciting with each new volume. Others say that the first
or four books held promise and excitement before the series descended into a
complex mess of boredom. Some view the female characters as being so strong
they believe Robert Jordan is actually a woman writing under a pen name; others
say the women inhabitants of Randland (as fans refer to it) are dull
of feminist extremists. Some fans are so obsessive that they’ve set up
large-scale role playing games and sites of worship for ‘the Creator.’ There
also people hold Jordan in contempt for getting them hooked on something that-
in their opinion- turned into a pile of crap.
What is this monstrous work that has inspired so much contradiction? Is ‘the
Creator’ a clueless copycat author, or a true genius?
I admit that Robert Jordan shares a notch with Stephen King at the very top
of my authors-to-worship list. But in truth, there is really only one work
created by Jordan which I hold in such high regard: The Wheel of Time series.
Almost every other work of fiction I have read pales in comparison. If not for
the Wheel of Time, I never would have touched the genre of fantasy.
There are certainly some elements in this unique series which have sparked
legitimate criticism. In The Eye of the World, the first volume, the
influence of J.R.R. Tolkien is undeniable. We are introduced to an isolated
farming village centered around a Brandywine Inn. The main protagonist’s
are named Mat, Perrin, and Egwene, which sound rather like Meri, Pippin, and
Eowyn. The Trollocs speak like Orcs. And yes, those ogiers are about as hasty
and formidable as Ents.
A line may be drawn between honorary tribute and true copying. By the second
volume, these Tolkien-esque elements all but disappear, and we begin to realize
that Randland is not Middle Earth by any stretch of the imagination. Instead of
remaining innocent, the protagonists grow powerful and cynical. Instead of
facing an enemy with a single agenda, the enemies multiply, and each has a
different set of priorities. Magical abilities are exclusively the province of
gifted human beings. Not a single elf, dwarf, balrog, or wizard is ever
encountered. Those original hobbit-like elements, in fact, seem to have been
used intentionally by the author; altered for his purposes, but deliberately
left recognizable to any Tolkien fan... much like those references Stephen King
makes to our real world in his Dark Tower series. If The Wheel of Time ever
becomes a timeless classic- or grows to dominate the genre of fantasy
literature- then Jordan has ensured that the man who paved the way will never
Deliberate, too, is Jordan’s construction of each volume. No matter how many
new subplots are introduced (or solved), the reader is assured of a specific
beginning and a specific climax at the end. Rand will battle one or more of his
most powerful enemies. In between, love triangles and quadrangles twist around
with all the contrivance of a soap opera. Jordan seems to follow whichever
character he deems most important at a certain point. There are occasions when
main character is entirely left out of a volume, much to the frustration of
character’s devoted fans.
Does all of this indicate a formula, or amateur writing? Or is this art?
We know that Jordan has outlined his entire saga. He alone knows how it will
end- but he has assured readers time and again that he does know. Thus,
it seems likely that he meticulously plans each volume. Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Abby Goldsmith, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.