Wednesday, December 02, 2015

To Review Or Not To Review...

Years ago I remember hearing a friend talking to someone about the fantasy series, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. I wasn't reading a lot of fantasy at the time, so I didn't pay a lot of attention. I think book 3 was probably the most recent release. They seemed like they were really into the series. I do remember thinking the premise was interesting, an epic saga that gets played out again every age. I remember thinking that each book in the series would be about one age, and the next book would be the next age, etc. Fantasy seemed to be inextricably linked to trilogies, so this notion could be interesting without wearing out its welcome. Of course I was completely wrong about the premise. Instead it was a long series about just one age.

Some years later I saw discussion of the series in a forum. I still wasn't reading a lot of fantasy, so I didn't pay a lot of attention. This time around the thing that really stuck with me was the idea that around book 6 or 7, I don't remember which exactly, the series really slowed down, and readers were enduring it more than enjoying it. I got the general impression that Jordan wrote stories with a slower pace. About this same time I was hearing good things about Brandon Sanderson. He was writing fantasy, and they are girthy books, but that the stories moved well. My impression, purely from listening to others' opinions, was that these two authors were virtually opposites. That's why I got a little curious about the news that Sanderson was tabbed to finish the massive series left unfinished with Jordan's passing.

My interest in writing prompted me to consider reading the series as an academic exercise to compare and contrast the two authors. I didn't have a baseline for either author, so I didn't really entertain the idea seriously. Sure, the 11 books written before his passing would give me a decent baseline for Jordan. That would still leave me with no baseline for Sanderson. I still wasn't really reading fantasy. For that matter I wasn't really reading for pleasure outside of reading forum posts, and that isn't always pleasurable. Truth be told, while I love reading, I don't read a lot because my reading speed isn't that fast. It isn't like I have a reading impairment or dysfunction, but a door stop of a book is usually going to make me look elsewhere.

A few years later I find myself in a job that affords me the opportunity to listen to an mp3 player for 5-7 hours a day. My music collection isn't very extensive, so I quickly got tired of listening to my music. Eventually I was wanting to listen to something else while working. I first discovered We're Alive, a modern take on old timey audio dramas, and enjoyed it immensely. After listening to the whole first season and all of what was released of the second in a matter of days, I was on the search for more audio fiction. This eventually led me to audiobooks that I could check out from my local library. I could even download them from my home computer.

An interesting challenge to getting my fiction this way is that the library doesn't always have full series available. Sometimes I can get books 1, 4, and 9 of a series. Other times I might be able to get books 1 and 2, but not 3 and 4. Next it's the other way around. Finally I came to The Wheel of Time, and I come to find out that they whole series is available from the library in audiobook. Suddenly that compare and contrast exercise is sounding a lot better. The icing on the cake is that I have now "read" a couple Sanderson books. I have a baseline.

That brings me back to the present. As of this moment, I am almost finished with the final book in the Series. Fourteen books completed, or I will be in the next couple of days. Now I'm trying to decide whether or not to write up a review of the series, or more accurately the exercise. I have some very strong opinions about my exercise. A part of me wants to write a multi part review of the series as a sort of catharsis. I'm still trying to decide whether or not to do it. If I had an actual audience here I would ask for readers' opinions. Oh well. I'll decide eventually.
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