The Wheel of Time vs The Best: this could be embarrassing
They say if you spread the love, you get some back. I've recieved a lot of suggestions for this comparison section, and have as a result been introduced to some great authors and books along the way. Right now, besides my reading assignments for school, I'm reading two authors who are truly pioneers in the genre: Tad William's and his OTHERLAND epic, and GG Kay's 'Fionavar Tapestry'. great fantasy. Thanks guys for hooking me up. I have also succumbed to the demand for a Donaldson comparison, and have written a comparison of the "wheel of time" to the "Tom Covenant" series. It will be up in a couple of days.
"All hail the King of Fantasy!" A Jordanite might proclaim at a book signing.
"Huh? Is Tolkein's body somewhere in the back?"
"No you fool! Robert Jordan is coming! Hooray!!"
That is a fictional snippet of dialogue that could happen at any number of book signings or conventions. The second person could do any number of things, from laughing in the Jordanite's face to smacking him upside the head with a copy of "the Hobbit". But it cannot be argued that most of the rabid fan of the Wheel series consider Jordan to be, simply put, "da Bomb." If you couldn't have guessed by now, I disagree. Let me tell you a little about a few of my favorite authors and books, so you can see where I'm coming from before we begin...
First of all, I don't consider there to be a "King" of Fantasy. I consider there to be a Queen, and her name is Robin Hobb. Her Farseer Trilogy is simply the best series I've ever read, and that is saying quite a bit. The three books (only 3? yes, Jordan, she only wrote 3) do a simply incredible job of character development, and created some of the most memorable fantasy characters I've ever read.The dialogue is real, the plot is well-done and planned, and above all, the story is fresh, without leaning on the work of other, earlier authors.It makes me furious when I see utter crap like "Path of Daggers" make the top of the bestseller list, while such outstanding stories like Hobb's go largely unnoticed. I can already see my E-mail filling up with hate mail from rabid Jordan fans, completely dissing Hobb's series and telling me I'm a freak to think it's the best. You have your opinion. But simply put, Hobb is smarter, more original, more talented, and her series is so much better than the bloated "Wheel" that it's embarrassing.
I also enjoy the on-going series being written right now by George Martin. "Song of Ice and Fire" is completely changing the way people look at Fantasy. Dwarves and Elves are out. Human beings, with human faults and behaviour, are in. Authors and readers are beginning to realize that humans are more than complicated anough to write about, and Martin is leading the way with his series. Ladies and Knights, Bastards, Kings, and ugly, womanizing Dwarves. Humanity, in its great spectrum, is displayed by Martin, who is writing a series that seems so effortlessly good that it's almost pathetic comparing the Wheel to it. A little outlining goes a long way, Jordan. If I had to speak out and give a name that everyone would agree on as the "king", Martin would be it.
Tolkien. The man who created modern fantasy with his 4-book masterpiece, "The Lord of the Rings" (I'll be generous and include the Hobbit). In 4 books, he gave us a true epic, with scenes that will forever live on in the minds of its readers. When did the wheel series ever match the beauty of Lothlorien, or the horror of Sam's battle with Shelob? Never. When you strip away all of the hype surrounding the Wheel, all you have is a pale, shoddy imitation of Tolkien's work. This man defined greatness, a true battle between good and evil.
There. Those are the series' I am going to compare with Jordan's work. Don't worry, Donaldson fans, I haven't forgotten you. But I know these books much better than Donaldson's "Thomas Covanent" series, which I've only read once. It WAS incredible, but I feel more comfortable with these.
First of all, let's get the one glaring comparision out of the way. The Wheel to the Lord. It was funny, but I read somewhere that one Jordan fan was upset with Terry Goodkind, the author of the average "Sword of Truth" series, because he was supposedly ripping off Jordan's work. If I remember correctly, the guy thought that Goodkind, "should be beaten up by Jordan and George Lucas with a bag of doorknobs"...if anyone needs to be beaten up with anything, its Jordan.
The Lord vs The Wheel
The similarities between "Eye of the World" and "The Fellowship of the Ring" are so great, so glaringly obvious, it's just f***ing blatant that Jordan copied Tolkien's work to establish himself as the self-crowned "king" of fantasy. "Not so!" You cry. "Man, it ain't true!"
Two Rivers. The Shire.
The "congars and the coplins"?? Can you say "Sackville-Bagginses"? (that just pissed me off at how he copied Tolkien, there)
Shaitain the "Dark One". Sauron "the Dark One"
The Emond fielders. The Hobbits.
Fades. The Nazgul.
The Blight. Mordor.
It's sad, really. His fans are always throwing it in our faces that this guy kicks Tolkein's arse. How can anyone say that when you see that most of the wheel is in truth, "Lord" dressed up in a different suit? Pathetic. I also enjoy the fact that both "Dark Ones" really don't do crap. Shaitain basically sits around the whole series, while his lackeys do the work, same with Sauron. You guys cousins or something? But while Tolkien's evil was loaded with symbolism (Nazi-Germany, Industrial Development against Agricultural Conservatism etc.) Jordan's baddies basically are bad because they are supposed to be. "We gotta be bad, or there ain't a story, man". I really didn't understand what the big deal was, with the epic battle. Why are you guys fighting, exactly?
The whole conflict in wheel seems totally contrived, artificial. Tolkien had a vision, a story to tell, and he delivered it in three high-octane volumes, wasting not a page. For all of you Jordan fans, I ask this: Don't you think Tolkien had enough material to write 9, 10 books? Well, why didn't he? The man knew how to tell a story, and more importantly,he knew when to end it. Jordan believes that his readers should spend half of their life with his story (I'd rather spend half my life with a Superman comic book, to be quite frank with you)
I will remember scenes from "Lord" until the day I die. I couldn't remember 90% of "Wheel" 3 months after I quit reading it. No bull. All I remembered from "Fires of Heaven" was the Aiel fought and some guy got his head chopped off. How's that for memorable? Robert Jordan fans like to compare Jordan to Tolkien, but the truth is that Jordan doesn't have nearly the same vision, or sense of storytelling. The man hasn't written a scene he didn't like, and so the word "editing" or "compression" isn't in his vocabulary. His characters go off on these completely random tangents, and that sense of urgency you'd think that would be there in a battle to save the world isn't there. There really is no comparison to these two series. Tolkien's is a tale of innocent, pure goodness, against a mighty wrong, darkness that seems unstoppable. Wheel is full of bitter unlikeable "heroes", fighting because they have to against an artificial evil, with neither side caring that much about who wins.
The Farseer vs The Wheel
The Farseer Trilogy is a pioneering work, and the first thing you notice about it is that it is in the first person. It is damn hard to write a novel like this,but Hobb pulls it off brilliantly. Jordan would have a stroke trying to write his bloated prose from this perspective. The second thing you notice, as a result of the first-person,is the clear, unadorned narrative. Every word is important and conveys meaning. You really notice it when there is dialogue. Hobb is very talented at letting the characters tell the stories, without bogging down right in the middle of the conversation with a whopping 2 paragraph description of a character's clothing.
This series boasts one of the best antagonists fantasy has seen in Prince Regal, a villan so feeble, so human, it seems almost a joke that the hero can't just punch him and end it. This guy isn't the dark one, the embodiment of supreme evil. He's just a spoiled, power-hungry, bad dude, who does things that actually make the reader hate him. Can't really say that about "Shaitain" can you? The conflict isn't about physical confrontation or large armies warring. Court intrigue and the ascension to the crown is the war being waged, and in that sense, Regal is all but untouchable.
No one, save maybe George Martin, has does intrigue any better than Robin Hobb, and I have yet to see any author flesh out better, more realistic characters. By time the series is over, the reader knows the main character perfectly, his desires and fears, his failures most of all.
Now, to me, comparing the Wheel of Time to such a master work is...well, it's downright embarrassing. I feel sorry for Robert Jordan and his little scenes of "intrigue",of Forsaken taking control of Aes Sedai, the Black Ajah, Darkfriends and such. It seems good when you've been reading nothing but the WoT for 4 months and you can list all of the Ajahs and their responsibilites, but when you drop "The Shadow Rising", and pick up books like Hobb's, with real characters in an well-plotted story based entirely on intrigue and the mechanics of court politics...it reveals the "wheel" for what it is: An amatuer's excercise with clumsy, heavy-handed attempts to lead the reader along with dull hooks of "intrigue" or betrayal. I finished the Farseer Trilogy, and could only shake my head when reflecting on the sorry "wheel of time". Put down the pen, O Hack Jordan, and leave writing fantasy to the pros!
The Song vs The Wheel
Don't let Robert Jordan's praise of "Game of Thrones" dissuade you: think of it as a pupil praising his teacher, for that's how it is. If you are looking for one of the best fantasy series, look no further. A Song of Ice and Fire has what you're looking for. This series is so f***ing good, so effortlessly good, it's scary. No series should be this good. ("But it isn't even done!!" the Jordan fan screams at his moniter at this point. No it's not done. And how many volumes of WoT did you read before you started telling me how Jordan's series was the best ever? Hmm??) Martin is a true visionary, and his work thus far has been nothing short of revolutionary, groundbreaking, progressive, breakthough type stuff. In ten years, fantasy authors will be citing him as a major influence on their work.
What has he done to shake the fantasy world so, you ask? Well, he has seamlessly combined the concept of fantasy magic and plotting, and combined that with genuine, human storytelling. These are literary quality heroes and villans, in the sense that there really is no good or evil in the arena of politics and kingcraft. There is no black and white in his work, only lots and lots of shades of gray. Humanity is his story, and war and politics are merely his backdrop. His work thus far stands as a shining example of "New Fantasy".
Next to "Song", "Wheel" just seems worn-out, tired...old. Jordan's rigid adherence and dependence on Tolkien and past fantasy work, without the talent,passion or vision of those early authors, makes his series simply inferior to pioneering new authors of today. Those new authors got off the crutch of Tolkien while they were still in college. Jordan's plot, that supreme conflict, is just cliche now. It's old. His characters are cardboard puppets, jerky robots, next to the desires, instincts and pure humanity of Martin's cast. An entire chapter of Rand and Egwene "talking" can't compare to a few lines uttered between Ned Stark and his wife Catelyn in their bedchamber. They breath real dialogue, while Rand and co. read from a tedious script.
Based on literary merit (or any merit, for that matter) "wheel" can't touch "The Song of Ice and Fire". If the series ends as well as it has started (a big 'if' as always), it will be a towering classic. If "wheel" manages to end its self-indulging run, it will just be simply, mercifully, over.
Tom Covenant vs The Wheel
"The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever" was introduced to me by a friend, who one day handed me his tattered copy of book 1, "Lord Foul's Bane" and said, "You have got to read this." The rest, as they say, is history. Donaldson's books compose the greatest series no one has heard of. Contrast my introduction to Tommy Covenant, with that of the Wheel of Time, where TOR's publicity machine was churning out free copies of a portion of "Eye of the World" to innocent patrons of the local booksellers. "Hey kid, want some candy?"
The first thing you notice about the Donaldson's main character is that, simply put, he's an asshole. But an asshole that deserves pity and a little understanding. The dude is a leper, after all. He is thrown into a world simply called "The Land" where he is hailed as the champion of destiny who must defeat the lord of darkness, Lord Foul. The land's people treat him with a lot more respect than he got back on earth, but troughout the series, his flashes of kindness and humanity are rare. This is a man that has learned not to hope.
Steve Donaldson's series is High Fantasy, with a twist. The main character doesn't want any part of the adventure. I mean he doesn't want any part of this story. Donaldson fleshes him out really well. If you got hit by a car and found yourself in a fantasy world, you'd probably do the same things he did. Couple that premise with a well-plotted, constantly moving (well, it does drag a little in the 2nd trilogy) high fantasy tale, and you have one of the best fantasies ever written.
Now to compare it to the Wheel of Time. The Wheel has an unquestionably epic storyline hidden amidst the filler, and in the hands of almost any other author it could be pulled off once a LOT of the fat was trimmed off. But the characters are an absolute, bonafide phsycological horror show. You'd think that if a person had this huge responsibility of saving the world thrown upon their shoulders, they would grow up pretty quick. Well, these folks don't. I don't know if it's intentional or not, but these characters don't act anything like real people. Rand is supposedly going insane from the voice in his head, Lews whats-his-name, and yet he has plenty of desire to turn Min into his sex toy. If I had Rand's problems, having sex would be the last thing on my mind, but that's just me. Once again, it's the 12-year old mentality kicking in.
In a nutshell, Tom Covenant is mature plotting, and well-thought out, adult characters; very enjoyable to read. Wheel of Time is a traveling freak show of character behaviour and motivation.