Well, this is it.
13 minutes ago 51 minutes ago, A Memory of Light, the final (14th!!) installment of The Wheel of Time, was released on the East Coast. We’ll get it here in Texas in another 45 minutes ten minutes. I could go pick it up tomorrow (and as it happens I will, from The Twig at the Pearl Brewery).
I’ve known that I would be sad when I finished this last volume, and read “The Scene” that Robert Jordan wrote decades ago, the final scene of the book, the one Brandon Sanderson (who took over the series after RJ died in 2007) got to read before anyone else and said of it, “As a Wheel of Time fan for nearly 20 years at that point, I found myself supremely satisfied. The ending is the right one. Somewhat unexpected, somewhat daring, but also very well done.”
I’ll tell you what I didn’t anticipate. I didn’t anticipate sitting here, before the book has come out, before I have laid my grubby hands on it, and being nervous about reading it. Every word I read will be one word closer to the last that will ever be written about The Wheel of Time world. RJ’s wife Harriet McDougal (also his editor) has confirmed there will be no “outrigger novels.”
I do and don’t want to read it (but of course I will, you know I will). I picked up The Eye of the World in the summer of 1997, fresh out of high school and looking for something to pass the time before I set off to college in NC. I still vividly remember standing in the Fantasy section of the Lovers Lane Bookstop in Dallas reading the prologue. I think I read several pages of Chapter 1, too, before being dragged to the front by my mother, where I purchased the first of what would be a life-changing series for me. Before I left in early August, I’d read the first 6 books, which by my rough mental math using the infallible Wikipedia works out to about 1,962,000 words (actually I just totaled it on a calculator and it comes out to 1,962,127… Impressive!).
Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yes. The creed of the series, the opening paragraph of every book, says, “There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.” Just so, while Book 14 may not be the ending to the Wheel of Time (there are theories that in the final confrontation the Wheel will be broken but I don’t buy it and it contradicts RJ’s own words), it will be an ending. An ending for all of us.
Bringing this back around to me (because with the writer, it’s always about them, isn’t it?), I could never imagine the tremendous virtual ink spilled over the series, over theories, predictions and what-have-you, happening to anything I ever wrote. I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like it, and I wonder whether there ever will be again.
At the same time, I believe in that level of success for myself, because I have to believe. Optimism is the writer’s true religion. It is what drives us when all evidence might point to the contrary. Fifty-third rejection slip? Number 54 will be the jackpot. This manuscript is a dud? The next one will be the love child of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Faulkner and Twain (you are free to banish that mental image at any time).
The Third Age, an age in the past, an age yet to come, draws to an end.
My Age is just beginning. I hope yours is too.