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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Wheel of Time: A Memory of Light - Not a review!

I will post a review of the book after I've read it (the release isn't until Tuesday) but in the meantime I want to share one of my favorite Wheel Of Time-related memories.

By the time Robert Jordan passed away I'd been reading the WoT series for almost ten years. I think most of us in the fan base knew that Mr. Jordan wasn't going to finish the series, and most of us were worried about who would complete it. There were rumors of different authors that had been tapped, rumors of family members who planned to finish it, rumors that it would never be completed.

Meanwhile, I had been reading books by a fairly new writer: Brandon Sanderson. He'd put out a fantastic novel called Elantris, and the beginning of a trilogy: Mistborn. He'd been gracious enough to put together some great discussion questions for my book club, and to answer our lengthy questions. We'd struck up an email friendship and I was really impressed with him. Not only was his writing strong, I thought he was a supremely decent guy. So a little voice in my head kept repeating "Wouldn't it be great if they picked Brandon to finish WoT?" But who would pick a relative unknown to pilot this 10+ volume behemoth of a series to its finish?

It turns out, Robert Jordan's widow (and editor) Harriett and the fine folks at Tor knew exactly what they were doing. The announcement came on the day I was preparing Joseph-Beth Bookellers, Pittsburgh to welcome Brandon for a signing. Our office phones started ringing, my email alerts starting going off and then I was simultaneously bouncing in my chair and trying to re-work all our in-store signage to reflect this amazing news.

When Brandon got to the store he had this backpack with him. One of the first things he told me was that he'd left his GPS charger somewhere and almost didn't make it to my store. Then he told me that his laptop wasn't with him because he'd left it in the bins they give you for your personal items at airport security. He'd been forced to call his wife and ask her to drive to the airport and retrieve it for him. He had a death grip on this backpack when we left the store to grab dinner.

At dinner Brandon explained that the backpack was full of written and audiotaped notes from Mr Jordan. He'd written outlines and when he was no longer able to write he'd recorded his thoughts to tape. And Brandon had all of this, plus his own notes on the series, all in this backpack. And I kept thinking about that GPS charger, and the laptop. And from that moment on I was watching that backpack like a hawk. All I could think was "If that thing gets lost in my store I'm going to be the bookseller who wrecked Wheel of Time."

It's been a few years now, since that amazing day. Brandon's got a few more books under his belt (all exceptional. If you haven't read his work outside of WoT you really should). My Jo-Beth store is long gone, but I own my own bookshop now and Sci-Fi/ Fantasy is our mainstay. The whole world knows Brandon's name now, and I don't think it's going too far to say that his skill had revitalized the WoT series beyond what many of us thought would be possible. I can't wait to read the final chapters of this epic series along with the rest of the world. And as I'm reading the 14th book, I will carry a mental snapshot in my head of this young guy with a *really* tight grip on a backpack.

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