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Time to Speak Out!!!
am 20. August 1999
Okay, I don't care what people choose to read. If you love westerns, romance, sci fi, fantasy, or any other genre of pop fiction...that's fine with me. I'd be completely content to let the Robert Jordans of the world do their thing without criticism or complaining from me. But now that this series has sold millions of copies (with a role-playing PC game due to come out and a silly coffee table book, "The World of Robert Jordan," available in book stores) it's time to speak out.
Many other reviewers have dismissed Jordan as being a Tolkien rip-off artist. These comments, although somewhat accurate, are irrelevant. Jordan may write fantasy as he wishes, Tolkienesque or not. Tolkien himself drew heavily from other works (Greek mythology, Beowulf, The Faerie Queen, the Bible). What is most disappointing about Jordan, though, is the quality of his writing. I doubt any of us would mind a Tolkien-like fantasy series, as long as it were as well-written as J.R.R's work itself.
Writers, as far as I know, are no longer paid by the word as Dickens, Tolstoy, Bronte, etc. were in the 19th century. One would begin to wonder, however, after reading the Eye of the World! Jordan seems to be filling up space. The plot drifts and wanders. When Tolkien wanders off the path slightly (oh, take Lothlorien and Lady Galadriel for instance) there is still relevence to the main plot. Also, since Tolkien had been working on his Epic history of Middle Earth long before writing The Lord of the Rings, characters such as Galadriel, Elrond, etc. alreay held a place in Tolkien's imagination and thus gave the Lord of the Rings a feeling of authenticity. The woods of Lothorien and the Lady Galadriel feel real in The Lord of the Rings because they WERE in a sense real; at least real in Tolkien's vision and history of the world he had created.
Jordan, on the other hand, seems to have little vision about the world he has created. When Perrin bumps into Elias, or when Perrin and Egewene run across the traveling people, or when Mat and Rand miraculously learn how to play musical instruments and juggle (within no time!) to earn their food...all of these plot diversions seem random, unplanned, and absurd!!! Trollocs attack at will. Lightening strikes a barred window just at the moment the bad guys have the good guys cornered. Wolves connect telepathically with humans!!! Where does the madness stop?!
Add to this a bunch of characters who act pre-pubescent (even though Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene and Nynaeve are all young adults). The women dismiss all men as wool-headed, worthless, or both. The male characters are even worse, so socially and sexually backwards that they don't even know how to SPEAK to girls at all!(Mat, Rand, and Perrin all wish--when confronted with a girl alone--that one of the others were around. "Gee, I wish Mat (substitute Perrin, substitute Rand) were here. He'd know how to talk to girls.") Also, Jordan's descriptions are repetitive. How many people are "stone-faced?" How many times does Loial "tuft his ears?" How many dresses and other articles of clothing do we need described? How many times can one handle the ridiculous exclamations such as Light, Bloody, and Burn Me?!
I'm amazed at the number of 5 star reviews. Are people so starved for fantasy? Try Tolkien or Ray Bradbury or Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books (which, despite being aimed at a younger audience, are wonderful!) The Eye of the World, and the rest of the books in the Wheel of Time series, is a soap opera, a never-ending story that drifts farther and farther away from any sort of anchor to hold it in place. Like General Hospital or All My Children, only those faithful readers who tune into each installment of the Wheel of Time drama can make sense out of anything, while those on the outside peer over their shoulders with a look of confusion.