Lucker’s Official Non-Spoiler A Memory of Light Review
So, now that I’m free from the restrictions of my NDA I’m basically going to do two reviews—this one is going to be non-spoiler (it’s on the Pre-Release Spoiler board so I am assuming you’ve read those, but even then I’m not going into any details on those spoilers either). Later, maybe this weekend, once more people have the book and we move to open the spoiler board to a more comprehensive thread range I’ll post a second full spoiler review that will likely be an expansion on this one to add specific detail and references, for tonight though hopefully this will prove enjoyable—or at least interesting—to those of you waiting for the release (and hopefully not too maddening. No long now. )
Okay, as many of you know I have been fiercely critical of Brandon’s efforts on the Wheel—and yes, I’m probably not in love with this book. I will say this, however. It is a huge step up from TofM. For that matter it is actually a step up from tGS as well, and I won’t be surprised if the general consensus is that it is the best of Brandon’s three (though personally I think I will always prefer tGS, for though this is a better book in some ways on a technical level, I feel tGS was more of a Wheel of Time novel in style), nor where people will sit it in relation to some of Jordan’s works—tSR, LoC—you know, the bad ones [eyewink, yes I’m joking].
Moreover, it is evident that in this book both Brandon and Team Jordan did listen to us, and did try to resolve issues that have been under discussion. Not all of them of course—I don’t think it a spoiler to tell you that you will be seeing the word tempest, at least once or twice (perhaps Brandon’s version of the Necessary)—nor are all of the attempts to answer them done well, but I always did say that all we had a right to ask was that they try, and they did.
Ultimately, I was right about stuff, wrong about stuff (though largely happy with why I was wrong and what occurred in its place—I’ll speak more on this sort of stuff in my spoiler thread when it goes live, obviously]. There are a lot of the same issues—hyperbole, the jokes being taken that one sentence too far—but these are toned down compared to earlier books. Brandon’s voice is a lot stronger, but so too is his writing (in places). There are still out of character stuff, and out of culture stuff, though the former is more subtly handled, as are the winks to the reader.
Ultimately, I would say this—I enjoyed the book for what it was [for me]—a streamlined trip to the end. That probably leads me into the next set of thoughts, and what I think has been the most common concern I’ve seen raised (and felt myself).
The Question of the Day—Was It Rushed?
Portrayal of the Plot and Subplots
I suppose the first thing that occurred to me as I read, and thus perhaps a good place to begin this review, was in that the book does not feel rushed. To be frank, this startled me—perhaps even greatly, and I do not think I was alone in feeling like Brandon would have to rush through many scenes in order get things to the end. Instead each scene does roll across what felt an appropriate time for the events within it—at no stage is there a feel of ‘okay, you need to know this, so this happened, move along we have to be home by nightfall’.
That’s not to say sacrifices aren’t present. A lot of secondary plotlines are never touched on—anything not directly touching on the main arc was mostly left to slide, and even the things that did peripherally involve the main arc were touched very lightly (more usually relying on inference for resolution). Now, mind you, we always knew there would be a fair number of things that weren’t resolved at the end of the series—Jordan was always clear on this. I could perhaps have wished we’d been given some hints that some of the completely absent plotlines were still progressing and a nod to how they might continue post TG, but perhaps that’s just fanboy-wanting-everything.
I will add that most of these absences can’t really be felt within the story. There are a few exceptions were along the way you think ‘wait… that happened how if we haven’t been told anything about this??’ but mostly those moments are few and far between, and the story flows on quite smoothly—which is not to say that there aren’t several moments where, if you know the story and the world you pause and go ‘okay, why didn’t they explore this plotline whilst this was going on?’ (those moments are actually beyond common, so be prepared if you’re a world junkie like me) but there is a difference between that and the absence of a subplot that would have been needed to make the plot that is being revealed make sense—the latter, for the most part, is not an issue.
I’m not sure if that makes sense, lol. Anyway, I’m going to move on now but, yes—scenes take the appropriate length of in world time, and page exposure, but the book is very focussed on its main arc, and doesn’t deviate, which can be a good thing, but can also at times be a little sad—at least for those of us for whom the depth and complexity of the Wheel was the primary attraction, as opposed to getting to the end and learning what happened.
That, I suspect, will come down to personal taste.
Depth and Complexity of the Plot
This is, perhaps, the place where the amount of material Brandon had to cover became problematic (and why I understand those who have been saying the book DID feel rushed, despite what I just said above). Whilst the appropriate time span is spent on each scene, there is a definite sense of superficiality to much of the depiction—in particular the world, and the character work. This is not always the case—there are some thoroughly developed scenes, including the majority of what I regard personally to be the top two most important plot arcs of the book, and what I feel to be one of the most beautiful scenes in the series.
But, for the most part, the arcs seemed to almost follow a formula—specifically, an attempt for depth in the initial scene [for the most part succeeding, though in some, not], and then the arc becomes WoT-Lite, a gentle skim through the world, a paddling at knee depth, before the concluding scene regains some depth (occasionally with a dive in the middle to refresh). Some might actually prefer this, in particular those who had major issues with what Jordan called ‘cinematic writing’, but for me it makes the depiction feel pale.
The concluding scenes mostly do tend to hold their depth unlike some of the initial scenes, though they do have their own issues which I’ll speak of now.
Resolutions and Confrontations
Unfortunately one of the results of the shallower skim through the world is that when I reached the resolutions of some arcs, I did not feel invested in the scenes, even when it was quite well written or highly emotive (and, sadly, at times this combined with the high degree of hyperbole to lend a caricaturish overtone to some scenes which viewed alone in a vacuum might simply just have been potent).
The confrontations did not fare any better, at least to me. The failure to develop in-world, character motivated tension left them feeling too often like Goodkind-esque straw man debates where one character is propped into an untenable position to be knocked down by another. This was by no means all of them, and as I said what I regard to be the two most important arcs fared very well, which is hugely important—and in truth this may well come down to personal taste, but the whole thing ties together—shallow arcs leading to superficial confrontations—and leave many of the resolutions feeling somewhat abrupt, and even contrived. When you add all this to Brandon’s tendency to tip his hand too soon, it does rob a lot of the sense of impact from the book—though perhaps that won’t be as much an issue to someone who isn’t as geekily steeped in fanboy theory-making as I am, lol.
Ultimately, though the book is very focussed in scope, and streamlined in getting itself there, it does do an excellent job at the one thing it needed to show us most—the Last Battle is come, the Shadow hangs across the land, and all that is teeters on the edge of a blade. Have fun at Tarmon Gai’don!!