Brandon W. Sanderson, who wrote the latest book in the fantasy series “The Wheel of Time” after the death of its original author, appeared at The Coop last night to read from the new novel and to engage about 60 fans in a question and answer session.
The late Robert Jordan started the series in 1990 and authored the first 11 books before his death in 2007, but was unable to finish the final book. “The Gathering Storm,” the 12th installment in the epic fantasy tale, was released last week after a three-year hiatus in the publication of the series. It will take the top spot on The New York Times hardcover fiction best sellers list for the week of Nov. 15 with 40 million copies in print, topping Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol,” Sanderson’s representative Elena Stokes wrote in an e-mail.
Sanderson was chosen to finish the series by Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow. In an interview yesterday, Sanderson recalled the moment when he received the initial message from McDougal, describing his reaction as “dumbfounded stupefaction” upon being asked to finish a series he had begun reading when he was 15.
Sanderson said that Jordan had created an outline and drafted the final chapter, and he then worked on “tying up” the material without trying to imitate the style of Jordan’s prose.
“My goal has been to make the characters feel as much as themselves as possible,” Sanderson said, emphasizing that he had hoped to “blend” his writing with Jordan’s in spite of their stylistic differences.
Jordan had originally intended for the final book to span 2,500 pages. Instead, it has been divided into three books, each 700 to 800 pages long. The second and third parts of the novel will be released over the course of the next two years.
Sanderson said that readers have noticed parallels between the plot of “The Gathering Storm” and the “military and political climate” of the present day, but he said that any such similarities were unintentional. At the same time, he said, there is some merit in finding metaphors of current events in the book series.
“We seek to explore human experience through larger-than-life situations,” Sanderson said. “[Through fantasy and science fiction], we seek to discover the best and worst of humankind.”
He said he also hopes that contemplating the themes and conflicts in these novels will prepare his readers, especially college students, to deal with similar situations in the real world.
Lenora C. Murphy ’12, an avid fan of the series who was chosen to be a Storm Leader—what she called a “super volunteer”—for yesterday’s event, said she enjoyed the newest installment for its myriad characters and fast-paced plots.
“The minute I got it, I couldn’t put it down,” Murphy said.