Thursday, 16 December 2010

Randland and Me

Thats probably all the fiction I read these days. Right now, its another RJ iteration. I first started reading RJ in Colombo, in 2002. Every week, I would go and get me a new book, which I would consume, with multiple bottles of Corex and vodka, along with Muthu’s masala Maggi. 

I remember the first time I read The Eye of the World. The book started off slowly – and the familiar tropes of “stranger comes” – the scary man in the black cloak, the beautiful and mysterious woman visitor on winternight and her badass male companion and then the trollocs hit. Emond’s Field became the doomed hometown. The tension built up, slowly, steadily – the flight to Tarren’s Ferry, the draghkar, Baerlon and beyond.

I could tell that there were sections of the book that dragged. There were places where every character volleyed with the idiot ball. But all this became irrelevant as the book raced to its conclusion. The last chapters zipped by and the next day, I was at the bookstore, looking for “The Great Hunt” and “The Dragon Reborn”

I can perceive the problems with the books, the turgid pace on for long stretches, the dangling plot threads, the occasional terrible characterization, the sniffing and the snorting and the endless braid tugging, the disappointment at the series progressing without any significant deaths, Egwene’s Mary Sueness, Elayne and Faile fighting for the Scrappy award.

Halfway through the books, I was overcome by the sheer number of characters – nearly 2000 named characters at the last count. And the books started getting bad. Long stretches where nothing happened, characters becoming more and more unlikeable, Endless descriptions of dresses and jewellery, battles without stakes or suspense, villains who were stupider than everyone else – reaching apotheosis in  “The Crossroads of Twilight”.

This wasn’t like the other authors -  I had become a fan. I lived in that world, in Randland. I had invested too much time in the T’averen, and too much hate on Egwene, Elayne and other scrappies. to give up. I trawled the web for discussions on the WoT. I read and reread the wot faq. I downloaded and shared alt.shrugged with anybody I could, whether they were into Jordan or not. I lurked on RASFWRJ and AFRJ. I read and reread sections of the books – The Falme section of The Great Hunt, Mat’s encounter with Gawyn and Galad in Tar Valon and the stone of Tear climax in The Dragon Reborn, Rhuidean in TSR and several others. But you can reread the books only for so long and I couldn’t sustain enthusiasm until tCoT

My ardour dimmed considerably after “The Crossroads of Twilight”. The gap between the publication of tCoT and that of Winter’s Heart – or atleast, the availability of tCoT in the subcontinent was too long. I had moved on from RJ to children’s fantasy – reading Artemis Fowl and Garth Nix, Septimus Heap and Robert Rankin.

I came back from Sri Lanka in 2005. One of the first things I did after that was to buy me an XBox. I rediscovered Bioware. I hadn’t read the WoT books for a long time. Then, late that year, I wandered into Landmark to find KoD on the shelves. I bought it, but while the book was better than tCoT, it wasn’t by much. The thrill had gone.

Later, I heard about Jordan’s death. I was upset – after all, he was a writer in whose books, I had invested significant time. And I was vaguely curious as to how everything would have turned out. I saw that a guy named Brandon Sanderson had started working on the WoT. I wasn’t very optimistic about this, and I did not buy tGS.

Then, sometime in this year, I started browsing and I found myself in the WoT page. I read the “Oh Crap” reference there and figured what had happened. I also read Leigh Butler’s review – where she said “tGS was good, ToM is better”. I bought ToM and I was back in Randland, deeper than ever. I have been there since.