Robert Jordan: Genius or Hack?
by Abby Goldsmith
Page 3 of 3
While there is this constant undercurrent of attraction/ repulsion between
male and female throughout the series, Jordan has no handicap in creating
individuals with unique personalities. There are women who fight alongside men
and women who prefer intellectual activity. There are men who would die to
protect their loves, and men who try to see women only as sex objects. To say
that Jordanís characters are wooden is to say that the works of Stephen King
dreary and unoriginal. It is true that Jordanís characters undergo slow
and yes, the first half of the first volume has a labored beginning. But by the
end, it is just about impossible to resist the second book.
This addictive quality is almost entirely due to the unforgettable
characters. These are not your stock comic book heroes. All have families,
histories, hopes, dreams, fears, and imperfections. Rand is fascinating not
because he can kick ass, but because he is actually frightened, kindhearted to
fault, and under a ton of ever-increasing pressure. Elayne is interesting not
because sheís a rich princess, but because she doubts her own ability to rule a
country that may turn on her at any time, and is torn between too many duties.
Mat is awesome, not because heís a rebel and an unwitting war genius, but
because heís also cocky, gullible, conniving, and completely in denial of his
If these solid characters arenít enough to build a world, then Jordan adds
action, dialogue, and description in abundance to round it out. When mist
gathers on Toman Head, the reader feels it. When shanty huts are built by war
refugees outside the sober fortress city of Cairhien, the reader is put right
there, watching the dusty widows and children whose husbands died in Aiel
attacks. There are some critics who complain that Jordan is too descriptive. I
agree. He revels in description, and I love every minute of it.
This series, I believe, has the potential to be the greatest work of fantasy
every written to date. Time will tell. Unfortunately, the cover art is a major
point of dissuasion to new readers. Before I found out that the artist was
chosen by the publisher, I assumed that Jordan had hired a friend of the
I hate to criticize a fellow artist- but it is not his talent that I criticize
so much as what he chooses to paint. The cover art was the main reason that I
delayed for years before deciding to read this series. Only pressure of friends
convinced me to put aside my reluctance. The female characters in Jordanís
are powerful. The covers never portray them this way. Jordan might have a much
larger female audience if the artist depicted actual scenes from the books.
Lately Robert Jordan has been talking about starting another gigantic epic
series. This scares me... not because Iím not eager to get addicted to a new
one, but because Iím afraid he might give up on The Wheel of Time. He may begin
to see it as a chore rather than the amazing, fantastic, engrossing work of art
that it is. To those who say it has gone on long enough already, I say: "be
quiet and let the man work!" I cringe at every scathing review of the Wheel of
Time I read, because I have the idea that Jordan is sensitive to criticism,
whether or not its is constructive. Imagine if Tolkien had quit writing his
Lord of the Rings because it was too long, or if Tad Williams quit
of his two epics. Imagine if Stephen King decided to stick only to short
stories. Some of these authors have sculpted the landscape of modern fiction.
Criticizing a work of art based solely upon its length or its size is not a
legitimate form of criticism. A sunset may be beautiful even though it takes up
the entire horizon and sky above. As far as I know, there is no rule that
that a series of books must fall below 9,000 pages to be any good.
If The Wheel of Time continues beyond page 100,000 of book 100, I think Iíll
still be reading it. Rather than losing quality, I believe the author is
strengthening his stride with each new novel. Please, Robert Jordan, take as
long as you need!
You can email Abby Goldsmith at Abby@wayforward.com
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