My Hugo Ballot 2014

The voting deadline for the Hugo Awards is tomorrow, July 31st, and I’ve read as much of the Hugo content as I’m going to have time for. So, the time has come for me to cast my ballot and put awards aside until next year. As I’ve done the last couple years, I’ve publicly shared what my ballot is going to look like, as kind of a final section of my Hugo review that is kind of an overarching look at what I thought of the categories. I didn’t read work in all the categories, so I’ve abstained from voting in those that I had no familiarity with and left them off the ballot.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with how the voting system works, it used an instant runoff scheme which allows you to rank all of your choices. First, they count everyone’s first choice. If no one gets more than half the votes, then the lowest ranked one in that scheme is eliminated, and anyone who chose that one as their first choice then has their 2nd choice tallied instead. And so on until there is a clear winner. It is possible to vote for “No Award” which you do if you would rather no one win at all than for the remaining ones to win, and in the end if too many ranked No Award above the eventual vote-winner, then no award is given.

 

Best Novel

  1. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  2. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  3. Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK) (will post review on July 30)
  4. Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  5. No Award

I also reviewed Larry Correia’s Warbound here but ranked it below No Award. I didn’t get a copy of Neptune’s Brood until quite late in the game. I won’t finish it before the deadline but I’ve read far enough to get an overall impression to rank it here. I originally planned to post this ballot on July 30, but decided to post my partial review of Neptune’s Brood on that day to give me a couple more days of reading.

 

Best Novella

  1. “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  2. “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  3. No Award

I reviewed this year’s Novella category here for more details.

 

Best Novelette

  1. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
  2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  3. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  4. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Short Story

  1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
  2. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Related Work

  1. “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

 

Best Graphic Story

  1. The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
  2. Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  3. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  2. Gravity, written by Alfonso CuarÃ’ n & JonÃ’ s CuarÃ’ n, directed by Alfonso CuarÃ’ n (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  4. Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  5. Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  2. No Award

Game of Thrones is awesome, and that was one of the best episodes in the series so far. I haven’t seen the rest of the category, but I am tired of episodes of Dr. Who dominating the ballot. There ARE other worthwhile things being published in SF, people. I’d rather Dr. Who would not be on the ballot or win anymore, so I’m voting accordingly. I haven’t seen Orphan Black, don’t know anything about it–so I don’t want to vote for it with no knowledge, but to vote No Award above Dr. Who episodes there’s nothing to do but lump Orphan Black in with them.

 

Best Editor, Short Form

  1. John Joseph Adams
  2. Neil Clarke
  3. Sheila Williams

 

Best Professional Artist

  1. Dan Dos Santos
  2. Julie Dillon
  3. John Picacio
  4. John Harris
  5. Galen Dara

I based these entirely on the portfolio included in the Hugo packet. Though I do have a soft spot for Dos Santos–I have an autographed print of his portrait of Moiraine Damodred hanging in my office at home. They’re all good but I tend to like the styles that make the people seem very real, and convince me that everything unrealistic is just as real.

 

Best Semiprozine

  1. Lightspeed Magazine
  2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies

 

Best Fanzine

  1. Dribble of Ink

 

Best Fancast

  1. No Award

It’s not that I hate the nominees. It’s just that, with all the amazing fiction podcasts out there, I find it extremely disappointing that only nonfiction podcasts are on the ballot, and that the only fiction podcast that’s ever been on the ballot had to heavily pander to get there. If fiction podcasts aren’t going to be recognized in this category, then I hope this trial category is short-lived.

 

Best Fan Writer

  1. Kameron Hurley

 

Best Fan Artist

  1. Sarah Webb

I based these entirely on the portfolio included in the Hugo packet, which only included work from three of the five nominees for some reason.

 

Hugo Novel Review: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

written by David Steffen

I’ll try to keep spoilers out of the review and just talk on broad arching principles and maybe a few specifics that aren’t major plot points. Since this is a series of fourteen huge books, that limits a great deal of what I could talk about. But I’ll do my best.

I had nominated the final book of the series, A Memory of Light, for the Hugo Award, but it is not just the final book but the whole series that is up for nomination. I had no idea this was a possibility until it happened. It’s only allowed if none of the individual books were on the final ballot in previous years, and I think the idea is to consider a single long work as a whole if it has a continuous plot arc from beginning to end. So, that’s what happened.

Some people on the Internet are making a stink about The Wheel of Time series being on the final ballot, complaints that some Wheel of Time fans might start a voting bloc, etc etc. There’s drama every year, and this isn’t even the biggest drama of this year. If you want to get worked up about such things, go for it, but it’s operating entirely within the rules so if you don’t like it, try to influence a change in the rules. Otherwise, IMO, there’s not really anything to complain about.

Plus, if you buy a supporting membership for WorldCon this year to get the right to vote which costs $40, then you get the entire Wheel of Time series in ebook format at no additional cost. That is seriously cool.

History of the Series

The Wheel of Time is an epic other-world fantasy series created by Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan wrote the series up to book eleven: The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, The Lord of Chaos, Path of Daggers, A Crown of Swords, Winter’s Heart, The Crossroads of Twilight, and Knife of Dreams, published between 1990 and 2005.

In 2006, Jordan publicly announced that he he had been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis. He passed away in September 2007, having left copious notes and partial sections written of what he intended to be the one final book. After some long consideration, Brandon Sanderson was chosen as the writer to complete the writing of the series using Jordan’s notes. In Sanderson’s words, he said that there were certainly better writers than him, and there were certainly bigger Wheel of Time fans than him, but he was probably the best choice to maximize both of those concerns at once.

Brandon Sanderson finished writing the remaining sections of and compiling what ended up being the final three books of The Wheel of Time: The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and A Memory of Light, published in 2009, 2010, and 2013 respectively.

Review

Most people who’ve tried reading the series fanatically love it, fanatically hate it, or fanatically love it until about book ten at which point they lost interest and never finished the rest.

Those who fall into that last category: I encourage you to give the rest of the series a try. As a whole, I see value in almost all of the books in the series, though there’s certainly some uneven qualities. Book ten, The Crossroads of Twilight, is the exception. I went on at length about that particular book in a separate review, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that nothing happens at great length for a long book, until literally the final page when something finally happens. So, you might just want to read a general summary, read the last few pages, and move on to Knife of Dreams. Granted, I wouldn’t listen to someone’s advice if they told me that, but if you do insist on reading it, just keep in mind it is not representative of the quality of the series after it, so at least try Knife of Dreams.

I’ve also written up a separate review for A Memory of Light, the last book in the series, which you can find here.

The first book starts with a sudden influx of strangers into the town of Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers, where three young men of very similar age live: Rand al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara. It seems like these are just visitors for the holidays, but it’s no coincidence that the town is attacked by Trollocs, beasts the locals believe to only be myths. One of the strangers in town, Moiraine Damodred and her warrior companion Lan Mandragoran, smuggle the boys out of town, claiming the attack was directed at finding them. The first book follows that group as they are pursued by Trollocs as they try to journey to Tar Valon where they can be protected.

The series goes on in various directions from there, most of which I can’t really talk about without getting into heavy spoiler territory. This is and always will be one of my favorite series, and it’s definitely getting my vote for the Hugo Award for Best Novel this year.

The Good Parts

  • Imaginative worldbuilding with a variety of detailed cultures
  • A cool and detailed magic system
  • The first book stands well alone as a standalone read
  • Most of the books in the series are memorable in their own right
  • Colorful and interesting cast of villains
  • If you like the story, there’s certainly a lot of it

The Bad Parts

  • The Crossroads of Twilight
  • The Crossroads of Twilight
  • A few of the other books relatively unmemorable
  • Some of the characters fall into the same personality cliches repeatedly (I still love them but it’s hard not to see)
  • Seriously, The Crossroads of Twilight. Yes it deserves to be on this list three times. It’s really that bad.
  • Some of the advancements in magical abilities are unexplained spontaneous jumps that don’t seem to fit into the worldbuilding
  • Some inconsistencies with how magic is explained in the first book with how it’s used in the rest of the series.
  • Sometimes the italicized internal monologuing gets excessive.

The Series’ Effect on My Life

I first came across The Wheel of Time when I was in about seventh grade. I was at a Barnes & Noble waiting for my mom to pick me up. To kill some time I went to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section and grabbed the book from the endcap with the most appealing cover, which happened to be book seven or eight of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. From there I went into the aisle and found book one of the series: The Eye of the World. I sat down and started reading and it drew me right in with the young man Rand al’Thor and his father Tam walking through a bitter cold wind and glimpsing a mysterious stranger. I was sorely disappointed when my mom got there and we had to go without the book.

At the time I lived in a tiny town with a pathetic closet of a library that mostly contained romance novels, and a school library that was no better. So without money I didn’t have a quick way to access it. I had a little side job delivering advertising newsletters for small amounts of money, so I spent those meager paychecks buying the books in The Wheel of Time series.

That was during a time of my life where I felt very isolated, having no car and living a couple miles outside the closest town which only had a population about 500 people. I’d moved there when I was ten, by which time the social cliques were very well cemented, and in the eight years that I lived there I never really felt part of any group. Reading and video games got me through a lot of that time, keeping me entertained enough to stay sane and The Wheel of Time was a big part of that as the next several books came out through the high school years, and each time a new book came out I would re-read the series again in preparation.

In college, things were much better, but there were still some rough times. One of the worst kind of times were nights in the dorm sophomore year when I lived in a room next to a sorry excuse for a human being who played music and video games at all time of night with the subwoofer planted against the wall with no consideration of other people’s sleep. Talking to him accomplished nothing. Talking to the dorm master accomplished nothing. There was one particular night where he was playing Counterstrike until 3am with the machine guns and grenades pounding the walls. I had to get up at 5am to work at a gas station the next morning. I managed to get through that night without killing anyone and without having a nervous breakdown, and I owe that at least in part to a meditation technique that our main protagonist Rand al’Thor learns in the very first book. I used that technique and even though I was awake for most of the night, just kind of watching the clock and lying still, I still felt rested enough the next day.

And, The Wheel of Time has even molded some of my strategies for life. One of the elements of the series that I found very compelling was ji’e’toh, the systematic system of honorable behavior followed by the warlike clans of the Aiel. There are many details of it, but one of the things that I took from the system was that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, sometimes you want to do things that will have consequences you’d rather avoid. But what is generally best is just to do what you need to do and then willingly pay the price required for it. It may not seem profound at the surface, but I’ve found that a lot of everyday problems can be broken down to that level: just asking what you need to do, and asking what you need to pay to do it.

Bottom line: it’s got my top vote for the Hugo Award, and it probably would no matter what other books it was running against. Any other year, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice would probably be my favorite, but The Wheel of Time has had a huge impact on me.

2014 Hugo Noms!

written by David Steffen

It’s award season again! If you’re eligible to vote for the Hugos, you have until the end of March to decide on your picks. I wanted to share my picks, as I always do, in plenty of time so that if anyone wants to investigate my choices to see for themselves they’ll have plenty of time.

Quite a few of the categories I don’t have anything to nominate because I don’t seek out entries in them, so I left those out. And for any category that I have eligible work I mentioned them alongside my own picks.

The entries in each category are listed in no particular order.

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Premier novel by Leckie. Great premise, difficult point of view, great space opera. I reviewed it here.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The 14th and final book of Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series.

 

Best Novelette

Monday’s Monk by Jason Sanford (Asimov’s)

Best Short Story

The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly (Clarkesworld)

The Murmurous Paleoscope by Dixon Chance (Three-Lobed Burning Eye)

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! by Keffy R.M. Kehrli (Lightspeed)

Hollow as the World by Ferrett Steinmetz (Drabblecast)

The Boy and the Box by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)

For Your Consideration:
I Will Remain in After Death Anthology
Could They But Speak at Perihelion
Reckoning at Stupefying Stories
Meat at Pseudopod
Coin Op at Daily Science Fiction
Escalation at Imaginaire

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Ender’s Game

Warm Bodies

Game of Thrones Season 3

 

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones)

And Now His Watch Has Ended (Game of Thrones)

Walk of Punishment (Game of Thrones)

Second Sons (Game of Thrones)

Valar Doheris (Game of Thrones)

 

Best Editor (Short Form)

Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld)

John Joseph Adams (of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and anthologies)

Tina Connolly (of Toasted Cake)

Norm Sherman (of Drabblecast and Escape Pod)

Shawn Garrett (of Pseudopod)

 

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Daily Science Fiction

Lightspeed

Escape Pod

Drabblecast

Best Fanzine

SF Signal

My work for you to consider:
Diabolical Plots
I do consider Diabolical Plots a zine. Consider, too, that this was the first year Diabolical Plots also provide the Submission Grinder. The Submission Grinder itself doesn’t fit any of the categories, I think, but Diabolical Plots does.

 

Best Fancast

Toasted Cake

Pseudopod

Dunesteef

Podcastle

Cast of Wonders

 

Best Fan Writer

Ken Liu

Ferrett Steinmetz

Juliette Wade

Cat Rambo

Anne Ivy

For your consideration:

David Steffen
Frank Dutkiewicz
Carl Slaughter

 

Review: A Memory of Light

written by David Steffen

(I’ve done my best to keep this spoiler-free as long as you’ve read the previous 13 books)

It’s the end of a saga twenty-three years in the making, the conclusion to the Wheel of Time series. I picked up book one of the series when I was in eighth grade. I was at a Barnes & Noble with no money and time to kill, so I picked the book on the SF/fantasy endcap with the coolest looking cover. The one on the endcap was book 8 in the Wheel of Time series, so I found book one, “The Eye of the World” and sat down in one of their cushy chairs to read for a half hour until my ride showed up.

By the time I’d finished the prologue and first chapter, I knew I had to read the series. I stuck with the series as I went, getting each book as it came out. And now, a decade and a half later in January 2013, the final book has been published.

Robert Jordan is the creator of the series, and he wrote the first eleven books of the series. In 2007 he came down with a blood disorder and passed away. He left copious notes behind, and eventually Brandon Sanderson to finish the series. Brandon has done an extraordinary job with his work on the series. I can’t tell what parts he wrote and what parts Jordan wrote, and I didn’t notice any shift in the tone, the style, or the characters.

This final book is all about the leadup to the Last Battle, and the Last Battle itself, which everything in the previous thirteen books has led up to. All of the nations have been gathered by Rand with the intent to unite them. It is finally revealed what identity Demandred has taken since escaping the Bore. The armies of Light face off against the forces of the Dark One. Slayer, the creature that had once been Padan Fain, the six remaining Forsaken, hordes of Trollocs, all against Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene and the White Tower, Fortuona and the Seanchan.

The book was solid throughout. The prologue started out with a huge reveal that ties into details revealed ten books ago. There’s plenty of variation in action, and the stakes have never been higher. In the previous thirteen books, Robert Jordan had shown that he was very reluctant to kill off any major characters who fight for the Light–that is one of the major criticisms that could be leveled against the series since it does lower the tension quite a bit. But this is the last book, and it is the Last Battle, and all bets are off. Any character can die, and some of them do.

Rand’s fight against the Dark One is a very interesting one which goes to places I wouldn’t have expected. The Dark One gets some unexpected character here that I wouldn’t have seen coming, some glimpse of his motives in the grand scheme of things. In some ways he’s not entirely evil though his acts generally are. That was a pleasant surprise since, for the most part, the Dark One has been a stereotypical Satan kind of character.

The battle scenes of the last battle are epic and tense. The most badass characters in the series are there facing off against one another and you never know who’s going to die or when. Every day when I had to set the book down I was eager to pick it back up again to find out what happens next. The best part of the book, though, is watching how Perrin has developed. From the beginning of the series he has been my favorite character, especially his abilities that come from being a wolfbrother. In this book he finally reaches his full potential and he needs every ounce of that to fight against Slayer. His battles against Slayer in Tel’a’ran’rhiod are some of the most exciting reading I ever remember reading. It’s a great setting for a battle between two experienced fighters who have cultivated the flexibility of mind to be truly dangerous there.

Another one of my favorite characters plays a big role in this book, this one who had only been introduced in The Towers of Midnight (Book 13), Androl Genhald, an Asha’man Dedicated who is among the group loyal to Logain (rather than Mazrim Taim). Through his eyes we get to see some of the inside stories at the Black Tower, which has been closed to most other characters for half the series. Androl is, strictly speaking, one of the weakest of the Asha’man in raw strength, but he has a Talent that allows him to create gateways despite his weakness and in greater quantity and size than any other. You get to see Androl unleash this Talent, and he can be quite badass.

The one thing that I was disappointed with was the resolution of the plot thread with the creature that had once been Padan Fain. That is one of the longest plot threads in the series, starting in the first few chapters of the first book when the Darkfriend Padan Fain arrives in the Two Rivers and later in that book is distilled by the Dark One to hunt Rand like a hound, only to be corrupted by Mashadar, the mindless entity that haunts Shadar Logoth. His abilities have grown and grown throughout the series so that no one, not even the Dark One can match him. The books have talked up his abilities so much, I was wondering how they were going to resolve it at all. So I watched for him with great anticipation, at which point that thread was resolved a little too neatly, a little too easily.

So, well done Brandon Sanderson for finishing the series with high quality. I truly believe that Robert Jordan would have been proud of you, and quite happy with how it turned out.

 

Wheel of Time Re-read Review: Crossroads of Twilight

[Fair warning: The beginning of this article is a lengthy explanation of why I’m re-reading this book at this moment. If you don’t care, then skip down to the part below that says BEGIN REVIEW]

I’ve long proclaimed that Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time fantasy series is my favorite fantasy series of all time. The characters are great, the magic system is detailed and interesting, and the worldbuilding is just extraordinary. Jordan strikes just the right balance between style and substance, hitting a medium that flows easily but still reads in an appealing way.

But, since 2007, I have been dreading picking the series again. The reason for my dread is not anything that Robert Jordan did, but rather a change in my tastes, leaning towards the critical. I started writing fiction back then, and it has changed my reading preferences forever. Above all, I’ve learned that my most valued trait of any writing is conciseness. Is it the best length for the story it has to tell. This has made it VERY hard to read Stephen King novels! Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels are very long, and there are a lot of them (11 written by his hand before he died), so I’ve been worried that I will no longer be able to enjoy the books now that I’m so much more picky.

In September 2007, Robert Jordan died of a blood disease. I regret that I was never able to meet the man who created my favorite books. He’d known how the series would wrap up for a long time before the end, and since he saw the end coming he kept copious notes so that the Wheel of Time would not have to pass away prematurely with him. His publishers at Tor chose Brandon Sanderson to use the notes to complete the series. I’m not sure what to expect from Sanderson. I haven’t read anything else that he’s written so he’s a completely unknown entity to me. I got the newest WoT book, The Gathering Storm, for Christmas, so I will soon find out what I think of his writing. I will probably either love or hate him, depending on if I feel he is continuing Jordan’s legacy satisfactorily.

To be fair to Sanderson, I decided that it would be best if I re-read some of the Wheel of Time before reading the new one. After all, it is possible that I no longer care for Jordan’s writing style, and so it would be rather unfair to judge Sanderson against a nostalgic memory that isn’t all that accurate anymore. Sanderson is the guest of honor at MiniCon here in the Twin Cities, which I will be attending, so I want to have gotten started on The Gathering Storm before that time so I can decide whether I hate him. So I don’t have time to re-read many of the Wheel of Time books. I decided to re-read books 10 (Crossroads of Twilight) and 11 (Knife of Dreams), leaving me at least a little time to get started on The Gathering Storm before Easter weekend.

So, long story short, I’ve just finished Crossroads of Twilight, and here is my review!

BEGIN REVIEW

Spoilers ahead, and I don’t really feel like marking them out after this. So, if you don’t want to know, then don’t read it!

The good news is that I still enjoy Jordan’s writing style, his accessible characters, and the world they’re contained in. The bad news is that I found this book incredibly boring. I suspect (but am not entirely sure) that it’s just this book that I dislike and that I could still enjoy the other ones. There are several reasons why I simply had trouble getting into this one:

1. Too many POVs. By this point in the series there are so many separate groups of people, widely distributed from one another, most of them in a position of some power over a huge group of other people. The trouble is, there are just simply too many groups to be able to give any single one of them justice within a single book, even a book that’s nearly 700 pages. For the first 600 pages or so, the narrative takes turns going to each of these characters for two or three chapters in a row, then on to the next and the next. The trouble is that each time there’s a transition there’s a break in whatever tension had been built to that point and I start the next section in a null state. And when it became clear that most of these people would not even be returned to in this book, it was hard to care much what happened in their everyday lives. I understand that Jordan, by this time, had set up a wide cast of characters that we all care about, but he would be better served picking just 3 or 4 major characters and focusing on them for this book, and focusing more on other characters for other books. The way it was, it seemed that fairness and equal representation was more important than reader interest or conflict, and that really killed any tension that could’ve been created.

2. Aftermath syndrome. In the last book, Winter’s Heart, a hugely important event occurs. Rand and Nynaeve, along with a bunch of other helpers, manage to use incredibly powerful sa’angreal to do what has been thought impossible–cleanse saidin, the male half of the source. Since the Breaking of the World, the world has lived in fear of men who can channel because the taint on saidin eventually causes them to go mad. The modern version of Aes Sedai are only female out of necessity and an entire division of the White Tower (the Red Ajah) is dedicated entirely to neutralizing any man who can channel for the safety of all. This is a huge blessing for Rand and others who can channel, and though it will be hard to prove the claims of the cleansing of saidin on any large social scale, it will allow channeling men to live longer and be free from madness.

Anyway, the actually cleansing created a beacon of power of both saidar and saidin detectable from anywhere within the book’s world by anyone who can channel. This is understandably disconcerting for those who can channel because they would’ve thought that magnitude of Power usage would’ve been impossible. I understand why they’d be disconcerted. But one of the major annoyances of the book is that every one of these multitude of sections involved a rehashing of this concept. All of the sections took place more or less simultaneously, beginning just before this beacon appeared and lasting for a day or two after. So the mystery and the worry is rehashed so many times. Maybe this would interesting if we weren’t already aware of what the beacon was, but we already saw it in the last book! So it just gets tiresome.

3. No thread of standout importance. In most of the Wheel of Time books, there is a thread that is clearly meant to be the most important thread of that book. In book 1, the quest to find the Eye of the World. In book 3, the quest to catch up to Rand and Rand’s drive to go to the Stone of Tear. Many of the books end with a major fight with one of the Forsaken, or a major revelation such as Rand’s learnings in Rhuidean. In Crossroads of Twilight, none of the threads seemed significantly more important than the others. Each was just like a quick update on what that character’s up to, but in most cases it’s entirely clear that they’re in the same place they have been and will continue to be aftereward. Only in the very last chapter does any sense of change really take place and it’s so unforeshadowed and comes so completely out of nowhere that I never had any particular tension about it in the first place (More about that in #4).

4. No climax. Okay, yes, the book does end on a cliffhanger. Egwene sets off in a rowboat to use her mad cuendillar-making skills to block the harbors. She succeeds in blocking one of the harbors, but is captured and brought into the tower. Which is a great twist, and the quest that sparked it was both worthy and interesting. The trouble is that quest was not foreshadowed in any particular way. In her sections she thought from time to time about some unspecified plan she had, but never went into details. This bugs me to no end, because I like to really sink into a point of view when I read a story. I want to feel what the character’s feeling, but that’s impossible if she’s making huge overarching plans and keeping it as a secret from me. Finally in the last five pages, I figure out what she’s doing, and then she gets captured two pages later. Because I’ve read the book before, I knew her plan and knew the cliffhanger, and there was a hint or two but not enough to create significant tension for a first read. If I’d known her plan back when she started making it, then I could worry about how it would turn out, but revealing the plan and then having it fail at the same time doesn’t work well for me–I’m already disinterested! And because of my #1 complaint, Egwene had a very minor portion of the book, page-wise, so it didn’t make a great deal of sense to have her ending be the big ending.

I like when the beginning ties to the end in some significant way, but in this case there was no Chekhov’s gun to tie everything together. It ended up seeming more like a collection of uninteresting status updates on every character. Next I’m reading Knife of Dreams. I hope this one measures up more to my memory of the series! That’s Jordan’s last chance to get me warmed up to read the new Sanderson volume. Wish me luck!

-David Steffen