ch3cooh: (Winter)
[personal profile] ch3cooh
Both of these series are amazing.  Mistborn is 3 books long, but part of an enormous unfinished universe.  The three books stand alone though and, if you like epic fantasy at all, or plots that are masterful puzzles in any genera, read these.  Rated on 3 axies: World Building, 9/10, Plot 15/10, Characters 6/10.  The Wheel of Time seems similarly epic, slower, but more intriquete and the characters are a lot stronger in my opinion: World Building 9/10 (but very different), Plot 8/10, Characters 9/10.  The series is 14 books long however, which is... intimidating.

And there aren't any spoilers in the details below, just big-picture writing/style observations. :)

:) I finished the Mistborn series a while ago, but then had a rough and busy couple weeks.  However, wrt the end of Mistborn: IT. WAS. PERFECT!  Really in pretty much all ways I can measure, it was such a satisfying conclusion. The plot and world-building are impossibly well crafted and last quarter of the 3rd book is one ridiculous climax atop the next, paying off absolutely everything. After reading the first book, I thought, "OK, that was good...' but I probably wouldn't have continued the series if not for a very strong recommendation.  Now I pass that recommendation on with equal intensity. :)  And I'm reading the Wheel of Time series now, in part on the premise that if Brandon Sanderson pulled the ending together, it won't disappoint.

However, it's really the differences between the series that interst me/prompted me to write this entry.
Wrt the Wheel of Time: I'm half-way through the third book now.  I may need to cut back on how much I'm reading... it's getting a little extreme.   But here's what I will say for the Wheel of Time --

* Compared to Mistborn, the plot develops far slower and less directly.  In some ways, this seems purposeful and done extremely skillfully.  Much like in Mistborn, it's not always clear what's important - dreams, for example, are of great significance, but Jordan mixes in the characters' own hopes and fears and it's beautifully unclear where these end and where prophecy/external influence begins.   There's not as much design and logic to the antagonist, but that also feels skillfully purposeful with the opposite theme as in Mistborn so far: learning that what has been assumed to be a single, intelligent enemy, is actually many competing factions + some nature and randomness... maybe... :) I'm not sure yet, but I feel like I've been able to slowly gather clues (and herrings) as to the overall design in a very cool way.  It is a lot slower than Mistborn though - I've been multitasking reading (listening to the audio book actually) with transit, some art, and data entry (the SPMPS final surveys, which are so cute!) The writing just feels slower overall somehow, and, as a result, it's a little harder to read. There is also waste in the plot. Not everything gets used - and while that feels less elegant in some ways, it also feels refreshingly real.  There is waste, and confusion, and perhaps more of these than the opposite at times.  I loved that Mistborn did not have this, and I love that Wheel of time does.

* There's this amazing study of spreading information and the decay of information over time, distance, telling in different cultures... and so much more - my perception of this has been steadily increasing so far and it's awesome! To be honest, I think it would be well worth reading the series only for this part - the attention Jordan pays to the motion and development of information.  It is brilliantly crafted, and central to the development of events. Again, this is something that Sanderson also did well and to excellent effect: carefully tracking what each character knew and how it would make sense for them to interpret the information in the context of all other information they had.  Jordan builds on this... extensively... extremely extensively! :) A single prophetic fact might be reflected in two dozen or more places, bent by the politics and by cultural shifts.  Reflections of reflections of reflections in a beautiful crafting of mirrors - themselves warped and woven into a pattern.  :D  Gerr... I'm wandering too deeply into metaphor because I can't figure out how to adequately describe how awesome this part of the series is!  But it's there on every level imaginable: from epic prophecies, to seeing the characters move to places where an event that the reader 'sees' first hand is believed to be fact vs. rumor vs. ghost story, to how characters' interpret their own motives and their dreams and what they choose to tell others.  So much thought went into this, I don't even...

* In Wheel of Time, the characters feel more real to me - more complexly dimensioned and more intricately developed.  In Mistborn, each character had an interesting mix of personal themes, but they followed fairly non-chaotic courses.  "Vin learns to balance trust/being part of a culture and community with her clever practicality and, survival instincts" "Elend learns to balance hopeful scholar with effective politician/leader" etc. And while the balances are definitely affected and developed by the environment, there isn't quite enough... chaos for the people to feel real.  On the other hand, by 1/2 way though book 3, Jordan has a score of main characters developed, and each is a unique, insane, and compelling mix of personality and themes and chaos. Madness is particularly well portrayed, using what feels to me like a superset of Sanderson's strategies: dreams replacing voices, and there are a half-dozen explanations for every part of every dream.  For example, characters may be going mad in the present under the personal strain, and/or they may be tainted by environmental forces, and they're trying to manipulate each other, and they are also a blend, it seems, of who they may have been in past lives...  and this mix is done subtly and surprisingly.  Picking out what influence belongs to what cause is the puzzle :) like genetics.  The characters also feel more like a mix of average people thrown into a crazy-epic circumstance.  They are more realistically self-centered, more complexly emotional, less reliable, and they collaborate less easily.

In any case, I'm glad I'm reading the series.  For the middle bullet above in particular - I can feel the dimensions for how I think about this part of books and gaming too, stretching as I read and try to parse what Jordan's doing. :)

Date: 2014-10-21 05:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've not read any of the Wheel of Time in - gosh, 15 years? I remember not liking it much. In fact, I remember doing a practice debate with my debate team where I argued the Affirmative of the claim "Wheel of Time is a poor derivative of Lord of the Rings" or something similar. But 14 year old Shauna was wrong about many things, so maybe I was wrong about Wheel of Time. I enjoyed your review/comparison, regardless. :)

Date: 2014-10-22 06:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:) It wouldn't surprise me if you still don't like it. If media has an awesome part, I tend to hone in on it and am not bothered by the issues that the media as a whole might have. Although, if an entire category of: setting/characters/plot is missing, then I will notice, but if each of those categories has an awesome element to it, I'll intently and happily focus almost exclusively on that element developing as I read.

For example, I said above that I think the characters are realistic in some unusual ways. Jordan seems to have paid a lot of attention to the balance between altruism/community and self-centered motivations. And, as I mentioned, dreams and the characters themselves are interesting mixes of influences - it's almost a puzzle to try to figure out the mix.

But there's plenty that I don't like about the characters. For example, there are a lot of romantic and friendly relationships that seem entirely 'flat' to me. But I had to consciously try to come up with that example -- I read with a kind of tunnel vision I guess, on the aspects of the writing/characters/story that appeal to me. :)

Edited Date: 2014-10-22 06:14 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-10-22 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That must make reading very pleasant! I'm definitely able to do that to some extent, if I like certain aspects enough, but I also get actively bothered by problematic elements.

Date: 2014-10-22 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It does make reading awesome -- I haven't had this much time to read since high school! I've been reading (mainly listening to audio books) about 2-3 hours/day on average. <3 <3 <3

On the other hand, I'm a little worried that this way of reading means that I tend pretty exclusively towards authors that I agree with in perspective... that's not quite the right word, but I'm not sure what would be. In any case, I've been noticing that all of the books I enjoy are a very very small corner in the space of all literature... and I'm not sure how/if it's important to me to branch out more diversely.

Date: 2014-10-23 12:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Do you read to relax, to be entertained, or to take in diverse perspectives? If the last one, it might make sense to put some intention into how you pick what to read. But there's other ways to broaden your mind than fiction reading, so I don't think you ought to.

Date: 2014-10-23 06:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:) All three! Although at present, I don't really have goals and direction in reading, the way that the last reason implies. But I value it when what I read accomplishes that goal.

My plan right now is to try to save up enough money so that I can take a class or two this spring. I should take math classes, so that I can have recent academic recommendations for grad school apps next fall, but what I really want to take right now are intro anthropology and lit classes. Math I'm pretty comfortable self-studying at this point, whereas I feel like there's SO MUCH in anthro and lit that I need someone to open the gate too.

I think some external guidance might help me learn how to read other kinds of literature. :) *sigh* But there's never enough time to take classes just for fun. :P


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