Ars Legendi: Beginnings and endings

Alan Duff

Apocalyptical signs as a science have been a real disappointment around the world with every single prediction for the 2012 doomsday-including the death of the Twinkie and the “fiscal cliff”-missing its mark. Even the illustrious Mayan calendar’s promises fell short, unable to predict that Americans would burn 14.5 billion gallons of distilled corn in 2011, according to the USDA. Clearly our ethanol sacrifices to Popol Vuh the Maize God, and general love of corn saved us from impending doom.

With the coming of a new year though, I have plenty of opportunities to learn from my mistake. My new year’s resolution is to stop believing that every time Hallmark fails to print a new calendar that it’s the end of the world.

2013 also offers plenty of reasons to celebrate. As of writing this, the Wheel of Time book series 14th and final volume “A Memory of Light” was published, completing a story that was started 23 years ago and spans the length of four and a half million words. For some perspective, the book series has been running since before I was born and is at least three times the length of the Bible. But whom am I kidding; this is Lawrence. The Wheel of Time series, for ease of reference, is four and a half times longer than the entire Harry Potter series.

That’s the less extraordinary part. What makes the series distinct is that the author and creator Robert Jordan died in 2007, yet the final three books were all published in a completed form by the author Brandon Sanderson. For a New York Timesbest selling series to be able to retain its success and quality after Jordan’s death is amazing and may mark the first time a long bestselling book series has been completed post-mortem according to the wishes of the original author.

Sanderson, an already established author and longtime fan of the series has followed Jordan’s planned notes, and included the many completed chapters Jordan planned out before his untimely death. Thus, Sanderson ensured the story stay as close to how Jordan intended it to be while filling in all the gaps Jordan was unable to complete himself.

It’s uncanny for a series so large. Publishing history is littered with many half finished books and series by successful authors. Frank Herbert’s Dune books and David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King” both suffered from a lack of content and structure when at last published. This fear of long-term writing projects that might go unfinished has been prevalent among fans of many series, and the Wheel of Time series seemed like it would suffer a similar fate. I hope this example will sate some of these fears for other popular series like “A Game of Thrones.”

It is sad that such a long series is ending, but I would take a good ending any day over the risk of a series being stretched out too long. Like the recently announced additions to the Hobbit movies: episode IV “A New Hobbit,” episode V “The Goblins Strike Back,” and episode IV “Return of the Dragon.”

For now I look forward to reading the book and the final chapters, which were written by Jordan and pieced together by Sanderson. I would recommend the series to any fan of The Lord of the Ringswith a free summer.

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