Tuesday 5 August 2014

A Memory of Light - the end of the Wheel of Time Series

I've finally come to the end of the Wheel of Time series, with the final fourteenth volume, A Memory of Light. It all began way back during a trip to Kuwait, when I found volume 5, Fires of something, I think, and got engrossed in it: magical Aes Sedai take-offs on women religious congregations, complete with Mother Superiors with great power, candidates (Accepted) and Novices, and so on; female (magic?) power mostly, and then also hints of male power; bonding (mostly between men and women), forces of Light, and overwhelmingly, the forces of Darkness, with a number of Fallen Angels who are Very Powerful because blessed with the force of Darkness, even called Shaitan in some books.

So how is A Memory of Light? Like most of the other volumes, first of all, incredibly boring and excessively long drawn out. These volumes could have done with a heavy editor's hand. But stories are stories, and so one is pulled - what a word! - by the story, and Robert Jordan has, in the end, woven a powerful world of fantasy, one which I cannot help thinking is at root inspired by the Christ story, complete with Prophecies of an Awaited Saviour, though with plenty of elements borrowed from the East, such as reincarnation, and the Wheel of Time, and the many kinds of intelligent creatures populating the world.

I am particularly intrigued by the End, because such Endings are almost impossible to craft in any satisfactory manner. Intrigued because I think Jordan and Sanderson have done a creditable job. Rand, the Saviour, and a very human saviour, is faced with the possibility of annihilating Evil completely. But he is also given the vision of a world without Evil, which would be a world without Choice, and so, in the end, very Evil indeed. I think Jordan is trying to say that freedom, and our possibility of choosing between good and evil, is part of our very essence, without which we would not be human. Rand makes the right choice, when he realizes that we are made up of choice, of freedom. There is no world of human beings without freedom. Very very intriguing.

Also intriguing is the fact that the Dark One is sealed off, though the seals are weakening; and he is 'nowhere'; but he can still touch the world. And he seems to touch it mainly with the visions he places before intelligent creatures: tantalizing visions of Power, mostly, in this book; but Master of Deceit, Prince of Lies, as the bible has it so clearly. And whether he exists or not, this is it: deceit exists, lies exist, great lies, and we are continually called to make our choices. The choices between Real and Unreal, the choices between what to regard as Real, and what to regard as ultimately Unreal. Is that not a choice we face the whole time? Not exactly metaphysics, but Ethics, here. I am faced with the choice to opt for what is good, and true, and beautiful, and good for all, not only for myself; and what is pleasing, good for now, for me, or for a narrow circle of those I consider somehow close to me.... Every young person is faced with this choice, and we bump into this reality so often as we face our own helplessness in making contact, in communicating with the young, for whom Real is so different: the Real being pleasure, sex, perhaps money, or the latest gadgets, or just efforts to fill up the void, the emptiness within, the loneliness.... And then, are we so different from the young? Are we not also all of us, very often, sometimes, caught up in this pull between Real and Unreal, Good and Evil? Is this not the Confusion, the Darkness? So in the end this series, boring as it can be sometimes, deals once again with the very basics of our existence. So I like what 'Phil' writes in his blog:

Underneath this great battle, I tried to think about what the Wheel of Time was about. Women with deadly stares?  The prophecy of three backwater youngsters ascending to greatness? The perennial fight between blindingly white goodness and 'darkishly' black evil?  I could go on and on but the answer I found makes me happy with the way the book ended.  Wheel of Time is about heroism, sacrifice, truthfulness, friendship, love, doing the right things and right to the end, it remained true to this, with a nice touch of naivety and innocence. I don't think we will see many series like that in the future.  The Wheel coming to a stop is the sign of a new age in Fantasy. See A Memory of Light Review, 26 April 2013, in the blog A Fantasy Reader, http://afantasyreader.blogspot.it/2013/04/a-memory-of-light-review.html

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