Sunday, February 16, 2003

Review: "Crossroads of Twilight" by Robert Jordan

Poor gullible me.

Upon finishing Robert Jordan's last book, I threw it across the room and swore I'd never read another volume of "The Wheel of Time." But when "Crossroads of Twilight" ($29.95, Tor) hit shelves last month, I felt like there was some unfinished business between myself and Mr. Jordan. After all, I've spent more than a decade with this series and invested my time into reading the nearly 10,000 pages so far. I really wanted to see how everything turns out. Against my better judgment, I borrowed a copy.

I'd love to offer a plot summary here, but I can't. There isn't one. In fact, the main story of "The Wheel of Time" hasn't moved forward a single inch in four books and nearly 4,000 pages. "Crossroads of Twilight" again gets bogged down in Jordan's out-of-control subplots. The series has turned into a gigantic soap opera, but instead of getting snippets of the myriad subplots daily, Jordan's fans have to wait 1-2 years between installments.

I like complex stories as much as the next reader, but there's a point where complex crosses the line into confounding. Jordan has created so many forks in the road that he can spend precious little time with any of them in nearly 700 pages. I had hoped he'd begin to tie up some of those loose ends in the tenth volume, but no such luck. I believe the truth is that Jordan doesn't have any idea how the story is going to end. I get the feeling he's just buying time until he figures it out.

This is all the more frustrating because the series had such promise. Back when I first picked up "Eye of the World" in the early 1990s, I thought it was the best thing since Tolkien. It was a well-written, intriguing opening to what was supposed to be a five or seven book series. Now, the estimate is 13, but based on the pace of the last four, I'd say that's a generous estimate. At this rate, it may never end.

Once again, Jordan has topped the best seller list, so apparently someone is still interested, but "Crossroads" was one of the most disappointing reads I've ever forced myself through - even worse than I expected. If you haven't picked it up yet, you won't miss much by skipping it and waiting for the next one.

I can only hope that one day someone releases an abridged version that boils the good parts of the story down to that five or seven book series. I'd really like to find out how things turn out, but I don't think I can make it through another volume like "Crossroads."

The only good thing I can say about this book is at least I didn't spend any money on it this time.

No comments: