Can I read over 3,000,000 words in six months (and keep my job and friends)?

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Bore

Book; 5: The Fires of Heaven 
Chapter; THE END 
Character Groups;
Caemlyn            Salidar           
Rand                  Nynaeve
Mat                    Elayne
Egwene             Thom
Moiraine            Julin
Lan                    Siuan
Aviendha           Leane
Well, after two weeks of furious reading, I am now only 6 days behind schedule instead of a fortnight. Yay me!
The Fires of Heaven heralds a change of style for the WOT books. The first four have all run thus; Dark One tries to affect the world, Scooby gang sets forth to thwart the forces of evil (albeit by many different routes), Rand meets and defeats one or two of the Forsaken (the Dark One's ancient and powerful generals of which there are thirteen), there is much rejoicing. However, this formula got a little squiffy at the end of book 4 when instead of defeating the Forsaken-du-jour, Asmodean, Rand, along with another Forsaken, Lanfear, bound him into service. As such, Asmo has been hanging around all book, teaching Rand how to use the Power before his ignorance kills him. 
Also, in Fires of Heaven, events speed up dramatically. Books 1 through 4 have taken roughly a year and a half of the ill-defined Randland calendar (seriously, not even the characters know what the exact date is) but if my Foretelling serves me well, Books 5 through 9 take up only a few months. And just as well, because it's going to be a sweltering few months.
A quick review. Our story started on Winternight, a spring festival supposedly held after the snows have melted and the first green shoots are in the fields. Except that winter won't leave and the ground is still frozen. Cue heroic journey to the north, two Forsaken dead and spring returns. Through an accident with a magic pillar, the main core of the gang actually skipped over the following autumn and after taking out Forsaken number three they hid in the mountains for the winter. End of Year one, end of book 2. They spend the following spring chasing Rand across the continent and the summer in the southern coastal city of Tear, complaining about the heat. Then they go to the Aiel Waste and complain about the heat there too. Obviously the Dark One was listening because now they are back in Randland, it should be autumn, but summer has decided that winter owes it some time in lieu.
And here, at last, I come to my point. While the change of pace is very welcome, and even I wouldn't want to read a series of fourteen brick-shaped books that amounted to little more than a series of mini-boss fights, the middle volumes lack the focus and direction of the others. Basically, the Big Bad for the next three books is global warming and it's just not very exciting.
Anyway, I made my bed and I shall sleep in it, safe in the knowledge that at least book 6 has Perrin in it, who has been sadly lacking for the last 890 pages and hope that Mat finally gets a little less whiny and actually does something.  

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Twisted Tounges

Book; 4: The Shadow Rising
Chapter; 39: A Cup of Wine
Character Groups;
Aiel Waste      Tanchico       Two Rivers          
Rand               Nynaeve        Perrin
Mat                 Elayne           Faile
Egwene           Thom            Loial
Moiraine          Julin             Verin
Lan                                      Alanna
Aviendha                             divers Warders, 
                                            whitecloaks, trollocs and alarums.

A blip in the schedule could make it appear, to the untrained eye that I was a bit behind in my WoT marathon. It may seem that I should, at this point, be well into book 5 when I am in fact still in the depths of book 4. Do not be alarmed! The twin demons of redecoration and a fortnights holiday have been vanquished and normal service can now be resumed. 

To that end, I would like to discuss language. The good, bad and ancient. In a slight departure from my normal worship of all things WoT, I'm going to do some complaining.

As I have previously stated, in Randland there are as many dialects and accents as there are countries, probably more since people are sometimes described as using 'street' or 'noble' speech. However, there is only one actual language and everyone can understand everyone else. 

Now this might be fine if it was just the main continent. After all, we are lead to believe that all human beings currently alive are descended from the (relatively) small number of survivors of the cataclysm that ended the previous Age. However, the horizons of the world have expanded in the last few books. The Seanchan have appeared from beyond the ocean with their strange creatures and stranger ways but although a lot of their speech is in italics, they are understandable. It has since been revealed that they are the descendants of an invading army sent across the Aryth Ocean a thousand years ago and assumed lost. All right, so they started off speaking the same language but it has barely changed? In a millennium? I couldn't understand William the Conqueror. Mostly because he'd be speaking french, but still.

Now we have the Aiel. The Aiel are a warrior people that live in a vast desert. They are descended from a sort of honoured servant class from the Age of Legends, although very few of them know that. In the past 3000 years, they have had very little contact with the outside world and most of what they have had has been stabby-stabby in nature. And yet, AND YET, they are easier to understand than the Seanchan.

Here is the crux of my argument. Through a series of fascinating events, Mat can now fluently speak the Old Tongue. This was the language spoken in the Age of Legends (therefore, what the Aiel should have spoken) and seems to have been in use for about a thousand years afterwards. In present day, it is only known by scholars and certain nobles, to everyone else it is so much gobbledigook, like Latin. So where did the 'new tongue' come from and how did it develop simultaneously in separate cultures? 

English, as it is spoken today, would be unrecognisable to, say, a 1000 year-old Anglo-saxon, because of the influence of other languages, cultures and their swords. If everyone in the world spoke the same language, how would new languages form?

Yes, I know this is nit-picking as an extreme sport and yes, I know it is only a book but when the rest of this fantasy world is so carefully constructed, it strikes me as odd that something so central to the plot could be overlooked.

I'm not going to stop reading though!