Guest Blogger: J.T. Oldfield

On Why I Do Not Read Series Until They Have Been Completed

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, and Age yet to come, and Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

How my heart loves to read those words, which introduces the first chapter of each of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. A series that drives to the crux of human understanding and development. A series that will never really be completed. At least not the way it should.

Because there are eleven books (plus a prequel) in the WoT series, I’m not going to delve into the plot, into the myriad characters, or into writing that puts it on the level with any contemporary literary book. Instead, I’ll just use the cited passage to say that Jordan is, in his fantasy world, able to touch on and embellish the themes that have made for great story-telling for thousands of years, and probably long before the written word.

Think about it. How many books, plays, scriptures, TV shows, can you think of that hit on these notes? “This has all happened before, this will all happen again” (Battlestar Galactica). “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” and “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Gen 1:1 and John 1:1, respectively). Star Wars. Hero’s Journey. Kafka & Camus. Homer & Sophocles. Tolstoy. It’s all wrapped up right there, in that first passage.

Call me a heretic, but I think that Jordan is even better than Tolkein.

And now I get to the point in writing this where I get seriously depressed.

Because Robert Jordan, who set off to write a trilogy, and then doubled it, and then finally contained himself to writing twelve books, such was the story he wanted to tell, and now will end up with not the beautifully round and symbolic number he thought, but will have 14 (plus the one prequel, though he planned to have three). And why? Not because he rambles on and on and on (though he does) but because he died and someone else has to finish it.

I came to this series a decade after the first book was published. I was young, eighteen, a freshman in college studying English and Comparative Religion, and I fell in love. I can hardly imagine those who have been reading this series for going on twenty years.

While I do have high hopes for Brandon Sanderson’s (who was chosen to complete the series) novel, which comes out next month, it is just not the same. Look at it this way: if something had happened to J.K. Rowling, could Harry Potter have been the same if someone else wrote the last book? Even if the plot was the same?

And that is why I will no longer read series until they are completed. Hunger Games is fantastic, you say? That’s nice. I’ll read it when book three comes out. Because as soon as I pick up a book and see that it is the first or second or third in a series of X books, I put it down again. I just don’t know if I can go through that again: falling in love with an author, watching him struggle valiantly with disease, feeling selfish and guilty thinking “please just let him finish the book”, hearing that he has died, and knowing that it will never end exactly how the author intended it to.

Maybe hits to the heart of the matter: the guilt I feel over my own selfishness. Then again, I don’t know if I’d ever want to write a big series due to that same reason (I’ve always been a bit morbid).

The point is, I’m just not willing to do it again.

About Jackie 3273 Articles
I am a 30-something SAHM with two adorable boys and a supportive husband who is very tolerant of my reading addiction. I love to read and easily go through about a dozen books a month – well I did before I had kids. Now, not so much. After my first son was born, I began to take my hobby of reviewing a little more serious and started Literary Escapism to help with my sanity. I love to discuss the fabulous novels I’ve read and meeting all the wonderful people in the book blogging community has been amazing.

7 Comments

  1. I completely agree. It’s been so long since the last book, I’d have to go read the entire series again to read the sequel. It’s the same with George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series.

  2. Great guest post.

    I haven’t read WoT because it’s an unfinished series. I hate that feeling of waiting for the next one. When it’s finished I will definitely read it.

  3. Great post. I agree with JT, although I never thought of it that way. I just enjoy reading a series all at once, really becoming involved in that world and leaving with a sense of closure. I really dislike waiting.

  4. I too am guilty of please don’t die yet. I read books 1 – 5 in six weeks then had to wait, then wait again. I swore I would wait until the series is complete then read them all in a row. Now I find out that the final book will be a trilogy. I just don’t know if I can do it.

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