Interesting blog post yesterday from Brandon Sanderson on the 10th anniversary of Robert Jordan’s death. As it happens I’m reading The Wheel of Time right now, and I quickly connected with what he was talking about with this “cup of coffee” bit. I didn’t know he got that from Jordan.
I read the first 7 or 8 of the Wheel books many years ago (the 14th and final book was completed by Sanderson in 2014), and back then that “cup of coffee” thing was actually one of the reasons I stopped reading them. It’s a common complaint among F&SF readers — that Jordan was too verbose, as if he’s avoiding coming to the point. It’s easy to get impatient, particularly with the repetitive behavior of some characters (“blood and bloody ashes!!!!”).
But reading it again I think those little details are a big part of what makes the series special. Some say that all that volume adds detail to the world, or that it makes it feel like a real place. But I’ve always felt there’s another reason — just the sheer audacity of it.
In a genre that was famously locked into the familiar trilogy format, Robert Jordan, known at the time mainly for penning a couple of Conan the Barbarian tie-ins, stepped up to the plate, said “stand back and hold my beer”, and proceeded to tell a story that ran 4.4 million words over twelve *thousand* pages and took almost 23 years to complete. Wow. (For perspective, Rowling began Harry Potter 7 years later, finished it 4 years earlier, and it runs about a million words. Yeah.)