Tor's official announcement about the last novel in The Wheel of Time series - A Memory of Light - has caused a huge amount of vitriol across the interwebs.
As noted by many of my fellow bloggers, Tor have confirmed that the last WOT novel will indeed be split into three volumes (more on that later) which will be released over a two-year period.
In the face of growing fan unrest, Brandon Sanderson has written a very lengthy post in which he explains why the decision was made to split the novel into three volumes.
Now, I respect Sanderson very much. I think he's doing an amazing job, and deserves far more credit than he's being given. Sure, maybe at the end of all this he'll walk away a very wealthy man indeed, but let's put things into perspective - he's taken on the task of writing the final novel (and thus the most important) of a series that has been going for almost twenty years and has sold 30 million copies worldwide. To put it bluntly, it doesn't get bigger - or riskier - than this.
It's a hugely tough job Sanderson's got, and I really admire the way he's tackled it and the way he's trying to make things as transparent as possible. It's clear that the decision to split the novel into three was not his own preference, and he certainly should not be criticised for this decision. He clearly just wants the book to be as good as it can be, and I don't think WOT fans can ask for more than that from him.
However, the reasons he's given - which have been fed to him from Tor - are pretty ludicrous.
"By this point, I'd already warned Tom and Harriet that I saw the length being very large, but I hadn't told Tom the 700-800k number. When I'd mentioned 400k to him once, he'd been wary. He explained to me that he felt 400k was unprintably large in today's publishing market. Things have changed since the 90's, and booksellers are increasingly frustrated with the fantasy genre, which tends to take up a lot of shelf space with very few books."
Come on, booksellers surely aren't going to give a toss how big A Memory of Light is, as it'll sell by the absolute bucketful anyway. 400 pages, 800 pages, 1000 pages - it doesn't matter. The book will fly off the shelves regardless of size.
Jordan's widow, Harriet, has also offered a flimsy excuse:
"The material that Jim left was very capacious, and Brandon saw after working with it for a while that he could not complete it in less than a total of 750,000 words. This is probably an impossible thing to bind - unless we sold it with a magnifying glass. 250,000 words is in fact a fat, or Rubensesque, novel. You will notice that 3 x 250,000 equals 750,000. So... part of the decision was based on making a book within the scope of binding technology. The major part of the decision was to get ALL the story that Jim left out there for us all."
A 750,000 word novel could easily be published in two volumes. Look at Jordan's earlier WOT novels - The Shadow Rising is 393,000 words*, Lord of Chaos is 389,000 words*. So why could A Memory of Light not be published in two books of 375,000 words?
The claim that the books couldn't physically be published in two volumes is just bullshit. The primary motivation behind the decision seems to be money - the more volumes, the more profit Tor will rake in. While I don't like to see fans getting fleeced, at the same time we have to understand that publishing is a business and with a global recession on, this decision makes perfect business sense for Tor.
It's just a shame they've tried to pull the wool over everyone's eyes by making noises about binding problems. In fact, it's pretty disgraceful.
EDIT: Check out Adam's latest post on Tor's explanation - excellent article, well worth reading.
*Please note that I've taken these word counts from the murky depths of the intarwebs, so I cannot gurantee their accuracy! Please correct me if they're wrong.
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