So the final book in the epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, has arrived.
I don’t need to go into much detail, I think, about how long it has been in coming. And this isn’t a review, because I haven’t read it yet. I’m in no great hurry, although the excitement across the length and breadth of the worldwide web is infectious, and the spoilers are dangerous.
Instead, I thought the book itself – the series itself – deserved a little tip of the hat from me. Yes, it’s been a long time coming. The author died. The cover artist died. Fucking Hell, I damn near died. But the story went on, the tale of a simple rural lad who, along with his friends, fled a dark rider who was menacing their village, escaped with the help of a staff-bearing wizard and a grim-faced ranger-class Heir To The Throne, and then began to stop being The Lord of the Rings and became something a little bit different instead.
A lot of people throw around the wanky-arse phrase, “this book changed my life” without really meaning it. What they generally mean is, “this book has a deep and intellectual reputation, so if I say it changed my life people will assume it changed me into someone deep and intellectual.”
Well, The Wheel of Time is not deep or intellectual. It’s long-winded and waffly and has pretensions of grandeur and is more than a little bit derivative, and it changed my life. Assume from that what you will.
But it didn’t just change my life. If you’re reading this, it also changed yours.
I took a bit of elementary if-then pseudo chaos theory, and applied it to most of the people I know, as represented by my Facebook friends list and those other people I was able to write down who aren’t Facebook junkies.
First and foremost, of course, there’s my amazing wife Janica, and our daughter Elsa.
Well, without these books I never would have met you, and if in that hypothetical alternate timeline we produced kids separately, none of them would be the Perfect Storm that is our little Overlord.
My family, of course, wouldn’t have changed.
This includes my brother James and cousin-once-removed Geoffrey from the Facebook fraternity, but obviously including all the others as well. I suppose it’s fair to say that if I’d stayed in Australia, I would have worn out my welcome at mum and dad’s sooner or later, and carried on in the 21st Century in much the manner I had in the latter years of the 20th.
Then there are my Wheel-of-Time-proof friends.
Leif, Zoe, Mickyplops and his sister Claire – I’ve known you guys forever so that’s not likely to change because I didn’t read a book.
Mister B, I still would have known you and I don’t doubt I would have known Gina too, and you guys still would have gotten together – although I seem to recall there was a lot of unsolicited and drunken advice from me about long-distance and internet relationships, with which I may not have been so forthcoming had it not been for my relationship with Janica. There’s where it gets complicated. It would be wrong to say you wouldn’t have made it work without us, but I guess it might be fair to say that we blazed a bit of a trail for you. Internet romance just wasn’t a Thing back then.
A similar hypothetical story applies to Mister B’s sister Jane, and her hubby Geoff, grand people. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting several times and I guess that would have happened in Perth rather than in Finland if it hadn’t been for these books. And you most certainly would have gotten together – your timelines were pretty independent of mine. Since we’ve only met you in Finland, when you stayed with us and went up north where you got engaged, well – who can say how much of that would have happened without us there? Chances are, you would have done exactly the same thing, but stayed in a hotel instead. Or gotten engaged in Iceland. So don’t worry, your parallel lives are intact, if a little lacklustre. I’m pretty sure that volcano didn’t erupt early in the alternate timeline.
As for Miss B and Mister C (I love the way my friends come together like a can of fuckin’ alphabet soup), we would still have met at university, I think I would have taken the same courses since my love of creative writing predated my discovery of The Wheel of Time. Mister C, we would still have enjoyed all those video nights, bullplop sessions, Creepy & Hatboy, the Church of Modern Misconceptions, and more, although without the massive crater that was our storming of alt.fan.robert-jordan, I couldn’t say what the landscape of our friendship would have looked like. The best of times and the blurst of times.
And Mrs. C, of course, Kyungsil – you still would have met – and married – Mister C, and I like to think I would have been at the wedding, and would probably have fitted neatly into that familiar wifely category “Long-Time Friend of Husband’s Who is Always Around and Sort of an Annoying Fifth Wheel in the Marriage and Who Eats Half Our Cakes All the Time”. Shit, for all I know my alternate-universe self followed you guys to Melbourne, and we pooled our resources to open that bookshop. Actually, that sounds kinda awesome. Sorry I screwed that up.
Donovan, we still would have met and may well not have fallen out of touch, who knows?
Jimmy, chances are I still would have gotten cancer, and Facebook still would have happened, so I may still have found my way to your virtual doorstep. Weird but true.
Then there’s the Bandsmen.
Mal, The Don, The Young Don, The Younger Don, Finger, Monty, Robbo, Shambles, Dirty, Reclining, Jigger, Peter, Big Phil, Guido, Aiton, Ritchie, Bailey, Plums … yeah, I still would have known you guys. It’s entirely likely that I would have eaten / drunk / screwed my way into an early grave before the cancer even showed up, but I would have known you.
There were also newer Bandsmen that I didn’t really get the chance to know well. Louis, Mike and Mykie, Alder (who I knew at least semi-well from school anyway), Aaron. You’re in the enviable position of missing out on possibly being better and closer friends with me because I left the country. Sorry about that.
And of course more amusing cases like Michelle, aka. Mrs. Shambles – well, fair to say that if I hadn’t become absent, the heart may not have grown fonder and I would have remained a bad influence on your man until you packed him up and took him to America.
Some of you I met through the Bandsmen and would probably still know, to some degree or other. Sam, Julie, “Pincho”, Stewbaggs. I have good, if alcohol-fogged, memories and I like to think they are not unique to this leg of Pratchett’s Trousers of Time.
Once we pass through the crisp candy shell of my old-time acquaintances, however, we strike a thick vein of Monkeys.
Robert E, Contro, Debs and Stitch, Morgoth’s Curse, bruce, Stargen, He Who Is Shannon, Morelin, Ollie, Little Lord Fauntlevich, my unexpected brother-from-another-mother Aaron Sanders, Squiggle, Laurence, Org, Eff Wun, Aviendha, Mgraves, Jussi, KMA, TheKro (and through him, Dalene), Wubbles, Alan, Robert, Whitaker, Cass, Cassie, Lorna, Shelob, Vamps, Satters, Marcus Hägert (who I consider an honorary Monkey) and many, many, many more (and that’s just the Cs!). Without these books, I never would have met you, and most of you never would have met each other.
Shannon and Morelin in particular, don’t be forgetting, you met in the Monkeyhouse same as Janica and myself. You owe The Wheel of Time big.
I have a whole family, in Finland.
My dear anoppi Åsa and appi Martti, my sister-in-law Bella and brother-in-law Freddo; my gran-in-law Lillo; my vast array of uncles-and-aunts-in-law (Aukku, Tarja, Outi, Anna, Tompi, Mårtski, Tarja again); dear cousins-in-law Chris, Sebastian, Sofie, Jani, Markus, Jarno, Karoliina, Sami, Sari and Pete, Anni, Wille; somewhat-more-esoteric in-laws such as Rafa, Tete, Snutte, Roger and all offspring, Timo, Ylva, Sofia and Alexander Laurila, Victoria, Johanna, Karola, Anton and Alexander, Gitta and Tutti, Antti Saastamoinen, more others than I could possibly name. I never would have known any of you, and that’s sad. You would have had an Australian-shaped hole in your lives and never even known it, which is sad too. And Janica probably would have had to settle for some vastly inferior local produce in the man department, which is just downright fucking tragic.
Jani would still have his lovely wife Heta and boy Luka (with more on the way) in the no-me version of reality, although he (and others, like Sapa and Aleksi and Bella and Janica herself) would most certainly have to find somebody else to whup soundly in their Warhammer battles. In that alternate timeline, perhaps I would have taken up Warhammer in Australia, so it would be Mister C whupping that version of me. Rest assured, in every variation of the probability matrix, I am being whupped.
Markus and Riikka, y’all would have met but chances are you never would have gotten a bagpiper for granny’s birthday party. So there.
Other somehow-sort-of-partial-semi-in-laws – Dan Helenius, Hullu-Linda Helenius, Johanna Nyholm, Inkku, Erika, Ville Tiainen, Turolf – and all those near-family friends I’ve made as a result – Fredrik, Kia, Jani, Erika and Jani again, Elina and Jussi, Constantin, Alexandra, Lena and Lasse, Robert, Wilma, Sandra, Sophie and Hena, Cride, Janina, Linda, Lena Härmälä, Jari Kiviaura, Maija, Sami Lökström, Kiko, Lauri Lålhå Alho … sorry folks, because The Wheel of Time was never written, you never met me.
Mari, we never met and I was never in the lucky position to purchase your artwork, giving Janica one of the largest collections of Mari Kasurinen originals outside the Lucas Ranch. Maybe Janica’s alternate husband would have bought her such cool stuff, but I don’t know, he was probably a tight-arse.
Then we come to the Roleplayers.
Saila, Aleksi, Nico, Ossi, Antti, Sara, Miki, Kristiina, Sanna, Mikko … without The Wheel of Time, would Janica have been so thoroughly into fantasy and the whole online and roleplaying world as to start your club at school, and continue it after your graduation? Possibly. Would her marital situation have allowed her to keep the family home and host gatherings? Again, possibly. I like to think my enjoyment and semi-participation has helped with that and any tier-two alternative Mister Janica would have been a bit more of a killjoy about the whole thing.
Linza, Mister Bloom, you met because of Janica and the roleplayers. I think there’s a good chance your alternate-timeline selves are still riding the ol’ monogamy toboggany, but maybe – just maybe – a little nod of respect in the direction of The Wheel of Time is in order for the two of you. Certainly, without these books you wouldn’t have me in your lives and we would all be the poorer for the lack.
Without Linza, I would not have come to know Mister Bailor, Mister Hawkins, and Ms. Walker. Without the other roleplayers I would not have met the rest of the Bahmanpour clan, or Mister Sara, nor would I have had the honour of knowing Mister Hassan Yaghmour. And without the semi-related institution of Point high school, I never would have met Vitali, Antti “Che” S, Tor, Matt, and the rest of the fine educators and former-educators of that great establishment.
And last but certainly not least, I give you the Sirs and Ma’ams of my professional life: the Lionbrides, the ex-Lionbrides, the Lionbrides-in-law and the semi-quasi-Lionbrides.
Auri, Mikko M, Mister Järf, Sari T, Mari K, Anu-Riikka, Katri, Anna T, Jukka Karén, Salla, Marko, Titta, Heli, Matti P, Sanna, Jarmo, Jaakko, Jari H, Niina P, Jukka Y, Hanne, Taru, Mervi, Suvi, Tuija, Tiina N, Liisa J, Johanna A-R, Anna S, Hannele, Anu H, Anu S, Natasa, Heidi, Mister Jääskeläinen, Juhana T, Emmi, Tiia and (apparently) all of Lionbridge Ireland, you have been my friends and my mentors and my colleagues, and imagination fails me when I try to picture what my life might have been like without you. Suffice it to say, that somewhere in an alternate reality-stream, you are submitting a piece of writing riddled with inconsistent articles and passive voice, and you fancy you hear a distant, echoing scream. That is me, and my pain, reverberating through the multiverse. Oh yes. Somewhere, you got away with that shit. Well, okay, maybe not Mari K. Again, my imagination fails to supply a hypothetical mirror universe where she falls afoul of my red pen.
Petri, Johanna L, Ritva, Esko, I would not have been there with you through the triumphs and trials and tribulations of Valimo.
Inari, Anna S, The Virk, well, I would have missed all that fun at Comptel.
Steve, Lars, Janne K, Hanna, Tiina, Juho, Marleena, Leena, Juha, John Kingston, Mari T and my dear chum Mister dreameling, you would probably have suffered through the puns and groaners and psychotic politics of the Kara meatgrinder, but you would have done it without me.
Mister and Mrs. Fahrenheit, Mikko K, Matti L, Pia and Tero, Tuomastee – there is no GRÜK in that bleak, bleak alternate universe. I know, there’s not much of a GRÜK in this one either, but fuck it all, it’s better than nothing.
Gerry, Katy, Nick, Brendan, my stalwart fellow native language specialists, first and last line of defence for the Queen’s English in this dark northern outpost of the lingua, where all the natives have better educations than we do, you would likely still be sharing pain after pain, and pint after pint … but not with me, my friends. Not with me.
And of course for Wendy and Jenny, for The Pas, The Poh and The Taj, there might well be whiskey and doughnuts in your parallel lives. But don’t bank on it.
So no, I’m in no hurry to read this book, and I won’t be reviewing it. The Wheel of Time is one story that’s told me, not the other way around.