The rotation continues

October 25, 2010

Books Am persevering with a re-read (re-listen) of Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World (Book 1 of the still unfinished Wheel of Time series). The re-read started as a quick dip back to the very beginning of the series, out of curiosity, before starting on Book 7. I had not planned to read Book 1 all the way through again, but find I am enjoying it if anything more than the first time so maybe Book 7 can wait a little.

A good part of the reason I am enjoying Book 1 so much is that this time around I know what’s going on and can pick up on all the details and nuances; the careful way Jordan introduces new nuggets of information, links elements of the plot and foreshadows coming events. Much as I enjoy consuming books in audiobook form, it does seem to be that little bit harder to absorb all the details on a first listen so there is a sweep up benefit to be had from re-reading.

I think it is because with audiobooks you do not control the pace of reading to your instantaneous comprehension needs: the narrator narrates at his/her own pace. If you were reading a paper book (or even a Kindle or similar) you would slow down for passages which were packed with details you thought might be important later, or introduced strange character or place names. With an audiobook you have to take it all in as it comes. If you are listening at home or out with the dog you may be able to stop and wind back for a second listen, but if you are listening on the move in the car (as is often the case) that is not an option.

For example, on my first reading I failed to pick up on the string of subtle clues that indicated Rand was able to detect Moiraine’s use of Saidar and was himself starting to channel.  It turns out the first instance of the latter was when he wished Egwene’s horse Bela would find the pace to keep up with the party on their flight to Taren Ferry, fearing for Egwene’s safety, and unwittingly used Saidin to infuse Bela with energy. On a first reading this is not obvious until chapters later, but on a second reading we know enough to follow exactly what is going on at the time.

Another feature of audiobooks, particularly ones packed with unusual character and place names, is that you don’t know how they are spelled. It may sound a minor point, but it can be annoying. The effect is worse if the narrator is not 100% clear and consistent in pronunciation. You want to see what the word looks like so you can avoid nagging doubts about what he/she is actually saying. Invariably I go onto websites to look the names up (which is how I know the spellings of the character names I’ve referred to above) but doing so risks stumbling onto spoilers.

What I don’t yet know is what I will do when I finish my re-read of The Eye of the World. Do I go on to read Books 2 to 6 again?  It is tempting, because I now feel sure I will pick up on a myriad of small but key details that I missed first time.  But that would mean I could not move ahead with the series for months and months, and I am already 16 years behind everyone else (Book 6, Lord of Chaos, was published very close on 16 years ago).

Maybe I should interleave the read and unread … go on to Book 7, re-read Book 2, then Book 8, re-read Book 3, etc.



  1. Have now finished my re-read of TEotW and moved on to Book 7, A Crown of Swords.

    Very much enjoyed my re-read and got a lot out of it. A lot of detail was filled in which helps get a handle on the motivations and plots of the various characters and factions. Some story arcs are shorter but many of the machinations are spread over several books. I hit upon the Encyclopaedia WoT which is a wonderful resource. After each chapter of TEotW I would read the chapter summary, to check I had not missed any key points, and looked at the associated Notes. The risk of spoilers is quite low, reading the Notes to the first book. Very few refer to events in books I have yet to read. Still, care is needed and I don’t think I’ll get away with doing that with ACoS.

  2. Audiobook narrators also sometimes make amusing mistakes. Michael Kramer reads a passage in Book 1 where Mat starts to speak Moiraine’s name but hesitates so he only completes the “Moi…”. Kramer pronounces this as in the French word for “me” which sounds utterly daft.

    If he had been pronouncing Moiraine throughout as “Mwah – rain”, as would have been reasonable from the spelling, that would have been fine. But in fact he pronounces her full name “More – rain” as if the first “i” were absent.

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