If the fantasy series, based on Robert Jordan’s novels, isn’t to your taste, here’s your cure for insomnia
It’s the autumn of 2016 and you’re beginning to feel a little bit drowsy. Normally, most Saturday nights involve nothing more strenuous than Netflix binging, but this time you feel like you should really be in bed. That’s fine – it’s not like I mind, frankly – but you don’t want to feel like you’re exhausted just because you don’t particularly like Netflix binging. All good things come to an end, as they say, and when your bedtime schedule has consisted of drifting off to sleep after playing Solo: A Star Wars Story for three hours on a Tuesday night, nothing will rev you up for watching the latest season of Game of Thrones, which is obviously when you would like to read the second and third instalments of The Wheel of Time. Luckily, the excellent Robert Jordan series is back.
It’s more than 10 years since the first of the books was published, but it’s the one everyone knows about. These are stories about time travel. Specifically, the wheel of time, on which each set of characters travels at their own point in their lives, literally “braking” occasionally to make the sequence in which they do so entirely clear. Given how popular that sort of time travel-centric adventure (or sci-fi adventure) is right now, we need to talk about what it is, without sounding like a twat, because watching it on television is kind of pointless if you’re not prepared to let go of some time. Sorry.
Wheel of Time. Photograph: HBO
The three books in the series are like three movies in one. They’re definitely not all the same, but they’re not really different either – not that it makes any difference. That’s one of their key things, their consistency of tone and subject matter. It could be very straightforward and have an easier sell, but that would make them messier. If you just want to get invested in characters who change their hairstyles every so often and use phrases like “who me?”, “upzer”, “freaks” and “shall I remake the movie?” then go easy on yourself.
The plan is for all 10 books to be made into a series, and if you enjoy Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, you should also enjoy The Wheel of Time. For the uninitiated, the story of the wheel itself is simple enough. The doors on the wheel of time are in places they haven’t been before – strangely, this is a central theme of the series – and it’s up to each character to travel them first. You’ll need some knowledge of the time travel itself to understand how to best move forward with the story, and there’s a handy handbook that provides a list of all the reasons you’ll be travelling each step in its series. That is all you need to know, really.
Skyscraper. Photograph: HBO
So far, the Netflix adaptation has successfully managed to combine the various time travel elements of the series, some of them from separate novels, into a coherent whole. This means that it goes from a busy plot in the first book (Venture forth!) to one that doesn’t go anywhere in the second, but in the third, we wind up facing “the city that was not meant to be” and find ourselves inside it as it has come to stay. For fans of the source material, this is a really great thing.
All of the characters – all of them – who had previously been introduced have a longer arc as we progress in the story. We find out why everyone has a different name and we also begin to see who is the leader of the crusade that’s trying to take down the wheel of time, and this all seems to work. We can’t get enough. Especially not on Sunday afternoons after a boozy load of Star Wars films.