Finished Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World and it was a whopper. The story itself is 782 pages. Not the longest I've read, but remarkable because the whole book is nothing more than a setup, even a leaflet, for the rest of the series. And wheels within wheels: almost the whole of the book is a setup for the last couple of chapters, where it really gets exciting.
The book as a whole is a long journey, a long series of hair-breadth escapes, interspersed with threatening dreams, drawn out but at the same time picking up more and more pace, until the explosive ending. The ending makes you want to go out and get the next book pretty much immediately.
But that's not the first thing that struck me, by far, while I was reading it. That would be the similarities to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Here are a basic few:
- Two Rivers = The Shire
- Tam al'Thor = Frodo, brings back `ring' (either Rand or the sword, or both, depending on how you look at it) from his adventures abroad
- Fellowship sets out on quest
- Mischievious Mat Cauthon = Mischevious Pippin Took
- Moiraine = Gandalf
- Lan = Aragorn
- Sauron = Ba'alzamon
- Fades hunting our `hobbits' = Ringwraiths
- Trollocs = orcs
- Padan Fain = Gollum
- Journey to Blight = Trip to Mordor. Pack light, heroes! :-)
- Children of the Light capture Perrin & Egwene = Faramir's gang captures Frodo, Sam & Gollum. OK, this is stretching it a bit
- Green Man = Tom Bombadil, only sadder
- Green Man = Ent
- Egwene sounds like Éowyn
Anyway, I do appreciate that there are definitely big differences. Jordan writes in more modern prose, with more short, sharp sentences for dramatic effect. Short. Dramatic. And he avoids, for the most part, Tolkien's rambling descriptions of this valley here, that nook and cranny there, that seem to go on for days. Oh, and a blessed avoidance of accented characters in names. But they're more than made up for with a liberal dose of apostrophes. Check out the names of some of the main Trolloc tribes (and I've thrown in their roots in monster names): Ahf'frait (afreet), Al'ghol (ghoul), Bhan'sheen (banshee), Dha'vol (devil), Dhai'mon (guess this one), Dhjin'nen (djinn), Ghar'ghael (gargoyle), Ghob'hlin (again, guess), Gho'hlem (golem), Ghraem'lan (gremlin).
But I digress. There is the One Power, a mystical force which comes from the True Source of the universe, drives the eternal Wheel of Time, and empowers a few chosen individuals with great power but at the risk of death and/or madness. But then again, it's like Tolkien's One Ring where it gives you power against the bad guy but the price is high. The real revelation is the turning of the Wheel of Time, where apparently the ages come and go and come again; nothing new ever happens. Civilisations rise and fall, and fall some more, in the eternal battle (you know the one, Good v Evil). Mankind continues to lose science and technology because it just can't get a firm foothold on the Earth before it's all toppled away again. Bleak outlook, really. But then I've heard there are thirteen books in this series, each one presumably as fat as the first. With that kind of length, what else could Jordan be doing but telling the story of the liberation of humanity from the yoke of the Wheel? Guess I'll have to find out. But it's what I would do.