Hang on to your Oryctolagus cuniculus, kids, because it’s a Wheel of Time Reread Redux!
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 16: In the Mirror of Darkness
My commentary on Rand’s reaction to Selene in this chapter is one of the few of the early Reread posts I clearly remember writing, mostly because – well, here, let me quote the relevant part first:
I guess we’re supposed to divine that she’s just so unbelievably beautiful that none of the three men can get blood back up to their brains long enough to notice this.
Plausible? Dunno, I’m not a guy. Heterosexual males in the audience? Little project for you. Picture the most absolutely gorgeous woman you can think of; I mean drop-dead killer looks here. Then imagine you totally just got to rescue her with your leet skillz, and she is completely up in your Kool-aid as a result. Then suppose she told you some ridiculous and patently untrue story.
Would you notice? Or perhaps more importantly, would you care?
Oh, and for this exercise you may also want to remember that in this scenario you are eighteen. And a virgin. Just FYI.
I remember this because the observation I made here (that I myself might perhaps not have the clearest perspective on just how plausible Selene’s brain-scrambling effect would be on an inexperienced eighteen-year-old boy) is one that actually only came to me as I was in the process of being sarcastic about it in the first sentence.
In other words, I was initially totally prepared to scoff at the entire idea, but by the time I completely thought that reaction through, I actually ended up arguing the opposite point. Which was important (to me) for two main reasons.
For one, it served as a sharp reminder of something that I must try to keep in the forefront of my mind, both as a writer and as a person, which is that I cannot allow the facile assumption that every person (or character) thinks and feels the exact same way I do about things. Age, culture, social rank, personal background – all of these and many more things are factors in how a person behaves and reacts to the things that happen to them, and the inevitable differences in those factors can make the gap between one person’s reactions and another person’s reactions anywhere from slight to vast.
I can (and have, and will) continue to contemplate and debate over whether a given person’s (or character’s) behavior is acceptable, because recognizing that someone’s actions may have a rational (to them) source obviously does not automatically render all actions value-neutral. But it is crucial to remember, while debating such things, that no person’s behavior, no matter how personally inexplicable I find it, occurs in a vacuum (and ideally no character’s behavior does so either), and understanding a person’s (or character’s) personal context for their behavior is vitally important for making fair judgments on that behavior.
The other reason this revelation stuck with me is that it also reminded me that reasoned examination of why I myself think and feel a certain way about a thing could clarify and solidify my rationale for holding a given viewpoint, but it also could have the exact opposite effect. It could, in fact, lead me to conclude that my previous stance on a thing was partially or totally incorrect. And part of my own personal drive to better myself is to accept that admitting this is not hypocrisy or weakness, but a necessary component of being a fair and even-handed person, which is something I would definitely like to be.
…And in non-navelgazing news, again from the original commentary:
I’m fairly positive I didn’t immediately guess Selene was Lanfear when I first read this, but I sure as frickin’ hell knew she was all kinds of wrong straight off. I mean, come on — I could drive a grolm through the holes in that story.
(A), LOL. And (b), am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of weird that grolm appear here in the “if” version of Randland proper, but only apparently exist on the Seanchan continent in the “real” Randland? How did the “if” versions get there? Did they swim the Aryth Ocean after all the people and Trollocs died? How did they survive when apparently everything else down to the insects has died out? I have serious ecological concerns about this situation, people!
“But Kinslayer’s Dagger lies more than a hundred leagues south of the Erinin. A good bit more. Distances are hard to judge in this place, but… I think we will reach them before dark.” [Loial] did not have to say any more. They could not have covered over a hundred leagues in less than three days.
Without thinking, Rand muttered, “Maybe this place is like the Ways.” He heard Hurin moan, and instantly regretted not keeping a rein on his tongue.
“[Selene] says you were right about the Ways, Rand. The Aes Sedai, some of them, studied worlds like this, and that study was the basis of how they grew the Ways. She says there are worlds where it is time rather than distance that changes. Spend a day in one of those, and you might come back to find a year has passed in the real world, or twenty. Or it could be the other way round.”
I don’t think it quite makes sense that some “if” worlds have compressed or expanded… er, time-space?… states? Because shouldn’t those compressed or expanded worlds be so completely out of phase with the “real” world that they would rapidly fail to reflect it at all, if they ever did?
*shrug* But then, compared to the fact that I’m not sure that the entire concept of the “if” worlds even fits into WOT cosmology in the first place, I guess the time-space compression/expansion detail is just one more log on the fire. And, you know, a very handy plot-advancing device too, so okay.
Rand drummed his fingers on the high pommel of his saddle for a moment, thinking. “We have to stick as close to the trail as we can,” he said finally. “We don’t seem to be getting any closer to Fain as it is, and I don’t want to lose more time, if we can avoid it. If we see any people, or anything out of the ordinary, then we’ll circle around until we pick it up again. But until then, we keep on.”
“As you say, my Lord.” The sniffer sounded odd, and he gave Rand a quick, sidelong look. “As you say.”
Rand frowned for a moment before he understood, and then it was his turn to sigh. Lords did not explain to those who followed them, only to other lords. I didn’t ask him to take me for a bloody lord. But he did, a small voice seemed to answer him, and you let him. You made the choice; now the duty is yours.
“Take the trail, Hurin,” Rand said.
With a flash of relieved grin, the sniffer heeled his horse onward.
I dunno, I think I would much prefer a lord who actually bothers to explain his reasoning for whatever probably-insanely-dangerous thing he wants me to do. But then, I have been informed that I would be absolutely awful at taking orders under almost any circumstances (I once idly speculated to my sister about how I would do in the military and was subjected to a five-minute laughing fit in response), so that probably explains it.
Chapter 17: Choices
I think I toyed, at various points, with deciding to get irritated that of COURSE, the main female villain’s motivation re: the protagonist was about love and/or lust and/or blah blah Fatal Attraction whatever. And admittedly, it really is a tired trope, the stereotype that women (evil or otherwise) are motivated by relationship concerns (specifically, of course, meaning “a relationship with a man”) above all others.
However, on balance I felt (or feel now, if I didn’t before) that it wasn’t nearly as valid a complaint re: WOT specifically as it might be for other stories. And this is because of the simple fact that WOT does not have a scarcity of resources to balance Lanfear out as a character. In other words, unlike so many other stories, WOT contains a wealth of complex female characters, both good and evil, all with their own individual, diverse and varied motivations and concerns, some of which are about love and relationships and many more of which have nothing whatsoever to do with those things – just as their male counterparts do. Ergo, Lanfear’s bunny-boiler status, while trope-y, is not nearly as offensive as it could be, because it is allowed to be merely her own particular psychosis thing, rather than a characteristic that by default gets unintentionally mapped onto all female antagonists just because she happens to be the only game in town.
In other words, so many of the problems concerning female characters and the egregious stereotyping/one-note Charlie-ing of them would be solved if only there were simply more female characters to go around. I’m just saying.
Also, I note with amusement (and a little bit of censure) that after having had my revelation about walking in other people’s shoes re: lustful plothole ignoring in the previous chapter, I went right back to making fun of it in the commentary to this chapter, which seems a little inconsistent of past-me. But then, I did say I still get to judge people for doing stupid shit even if I understand why they did it, so maybe it’s not so inconsistent after all. Go me!
But back to “if” worlds, the implausibility thereof:
[Selene:] “Those worlds truly are mirrors in a way, especially the ones where there are no people. Some of them reflect only great events in the true world, but some have a shadow of that reflection even before the event occurs. The passage of the Horn of Valere would certainly be a great event. Reflections of what will be are fainter than reflections of what is or what was, just as Hurin says the trail he followed was faint.”
Well, this obviously makes no more sense than any of the rest of it. However, it is pleasingly internally consistent with the rest of the non-sense-making nature of the “if” worlds and their wacky timey-wimey shenanigans, so I’m fairly content to let it go overall.
The light drifted toward him, it seemed, surrounded him, and he… embraced… it.
I thought he had to seize it? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And that’s what I got for this one, y’all! Come back next Tuesday for Moar!