I'm really nervous about "The Wheel of Time" TV Series

I started reading Wheel of Time novels in about 1991...I was doing my GCSE's, and one of the highlights of Stourport High Street at the time was a WH.Smith (buried between arcades, discount stores and Fish'n'Chip shops). It was the first, proper, serious fantasy stuff I read, and while I didn't know it at the time, it was already known as an epic (I remember seeing Book 3 in Hardback with a fairly epic cover of some dude grabbing a sword of fire), and backtracked to Book 1, which looked significantly more sedate, with a woman riding side-saddle. This was a time when book covers meant a helluva lot in terms of me picking books.

I should mention each of these books is about 1,000 pages. They took up a lot of space on the shelves!

I loved it, and it's very safe to say that my taste in literature was very much shaped by it...however, much like another hefty series of tombs that shaped my early literary life, the author (Robert Jordan), died before completing his masterpiece. Just before this was when I had to undergo the (still) traumatic horror of what Frank Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson did to Dune...as a result I couldn't bring myself to continue reading the last 3 books. And shit was just about to kick off after a very prolonged mid-season lull (Robert Jordan could turn a mid-season lull into 100 hours of reading). I read Book 11 after he died, and I distinctly remember being depressed reading it, as I realised I would never know the true ending as he envisioned it. It was known even then that he'd handed over the reins to a close friend (Brandon Sanderson...he's a bit more young-adult, and I sort of hope he's not consulting on the TV series).

So now there is going to be a TV Series on Amazon Prime. I'll be able to watch it, or more lightly rip it to Plex and watch it when I can muster the courage. Their plan is 10 seasons, and it's going to be the next "Game of Thrones"...which doesn't bode well, as that has a similar history ; a series of books written by an author, with the finale written by someone completely different. They will have to change Wheel of Time for TV. They simply can't put in 4.5 million words of story (for reference Game of Thrones Seasons 1-6 was based on ~1.7 million words of book). There are also some themes within the book that are probably un-acceptable in 2021...mainly around sexism.

So what do I do? Well, the plan is;
1) Re-read the books, and finish them. Ok, realistically that is not going to happen...realistically that would take a year I reckon, and that would be focused reading, rather than an hour before bed as I tend to do. instead, I'm going to try audiobooks (only20 days if I listen to them continuously). as I write this, I'm uploading them to my Plex server. I'll try and listen to them while working/cycling etc etc. It will still take a long time, but hopefully not as punishing. I actually got rid of the books when I moved here (a good chunk of them went in a car-boot sale, the rest were donated to charity).

2) Once I've re-read the first 2 books, I'll watch the TV series (unless the series projects beyond that timeframe).

I have to hope it's a Dune 2021 (the film is ace BTW, which is rare for me to say about any Book-to-Film conversion), not a Dune 1984. Amazon have done some super-dark fantasy (recommend Carnival Row, though maybe not if kids are watching with you), so I have some hope. Some.


I've not read much and haven't attacked the Wheel of Time at all. I do feel for you, though. I'm a bit gutted by The Expanse - which does hold up to the books and I had to stop watching it because the characters that were strongly held in my mind were in conflict with the ones on the telly.

Sadly, I noticed the WH Smiths in Stourport has closed for good. I looked it up to imagine little-Pete scurrying in there.

I'm keen to see Dune - just need an excuse to get down to the cinema.

brainwipe's picture

I thought they did pretty well with The Expanse, it would have been too easy to try and re-cast it as Firefly, which wouldn't have worked in the hard sci-fi it develops into. In particular, I thought they nailed Detective Miller in the early seasons, and generally representing spacers for the more asteroid/space-station based sections (which lessen as the story goes on). Given it is a (fairly) low budget production, they did very well... I have an issue with the books generally, how how easily humanity handles the huge changes that occur in such a short period of time, but that makes it easier to translate to TV.

I think most TV shows/films will have a challenge with age-compression of cast...not a new issue (I mean, how many of the school-kids in Beverly Hills 90210 were played by actors under 25?). Looking at The Expanse Holden was played by an actor too young, but then they have to handle the accelerated timescales that literature can achieve that causes big disconnects in TV (the Expanse novels cover well over a decade of actual time, Wheel of Time is very similar). I think the only films that have halfway managed to keep the actors at the same age as the characters is the Harry Potter series, and that must have been a real mission of filming (releasing 7(8) films in 10 years, against a "real" timeline of 7 years of school).

The Wheel of Time is mainly a teenage ensemble cast (though they have moved the ages from 14-15 as a start to 20'ish, which will make the first part slightly weird as it covers a coming-of-age in a small village). More interesting will be old characters, such as Thom Merrilin (bard/gleeman/entertainer). The other "old" character is Moraine, who is being played by Rosamund Pike. She is described as ageless, and I think she fits the bill well (in a similar vein to how Cate Blanchett has been used for the last 2 decades).

The WH Smith storefront has not changed in 35 years! Doesn't even look like it's been re-painted. I've just taken a virtual trip down Stourport High Street, and it's strange what has survived.
Mantons Jewellers is still there
So it Bentleys, a sort-of independent Clintons
Blunt Shoes is at least 40 years as well
Flamingo Amusements was where I finished my first ever arcade game (Michael Jacksons Moonwalker)
The worst amusement park in the world is still there (this used to be Shipleys HQ)
This is the chippie we used to use

Otherwise it's closed shops, charity shops and bookies. A good place to leave.

babychaos's picture

I think I read the first few books of Wheeeeeeeeeel of fortune time and though it was ok but never really connected with it something about it annoyed me not quite sure what so never read any of the other books. Maybe a reimagined tv version would be good.

Adaptations are always tricky making the same story fit in a completely different medium with very different strengths and weaknesses is an art. I saw a lot of polarized opinions on the adaptation of Asimov's Foundation stories the books basically don't really have any characters (it's typical scifi of that era where the people in it are mostly cardboard cutouts only there to move some plot along) it's a big idea book which wouldn't work as a tv series so they've made a lot of changes and inserted a bunch of characters not in the books making more an "inspired by" than a "based on" adaptation for good or ill. I know the more recent adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Guards books got panned for deciding to go with a grim dark steampunk urban fantasy version of the story and making substantial alterations to several of the characters meaning if you changed the names it would be unrecognizable as an adaptation.

I've been disappointed by adaptations in the past for instance the film version of The Dark Tower was truly terrible and not even Idris Elba could save it although it was always a tricky task to adapt that massive series of doorstop books that feature enough fourth wall breaking nonsense that Stephen King himself turns up in later books writing the books the world of the books is taking place in inside those same books :S

They suggest they may be adapting the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, one of my favorite book series of late, and while I would love to see it I also sort of dread what they would do to it.

There've been good adaptations the lord of the rings films come to mind with their excellent decision to cut all those bloody songs out

Where's an editor when you need one should have red pen'd all that guff out of the books in the first draft! Tom Bombadil can go die in a fire!

Evilmatt's picture

I tried reading Foundation when I was a teen and not being a very good reader meant that I struggled through it.

Totally agree with LOTR being a great adaptation - especially the Hobbit. We read The Hobbit to Felix a few years back and it was a dreadful book. He loves books but he thought it was wank too. Films did a good job.

Another good adaptation that comes to mind is Game Of Thrones. I've paused my struggle through that saga; the series was great (not seen last series - I know there are people who say it's awful).

brainwipe's picture

I think the Murderbot stories would convert quite well...they are fairly short, self-contained stories in the most-part. My biggest personal issue is that I envision Murderbot as one of the Futurama Kill-Bots. I'd say the biggest risk would be trying to over-extend it, or add in some trendy grim-dark instead of the internal humour that is key to it.

I never really got on with Asimov. I read a handful of his stories when I was young (I think The Naked Sun is the one that sits in my mind), but it was fairly heavy going. It was the same time as I was able to read stuff from people like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, and that obviously was far more enjoyable and relatable (being 30-40 years newer!)

(speaking of Neal Stephenson, another adaptation I'm terrified of would be Snow Crash...it's been bandied about for years, but often considered a bit of a "Dune" in terms of challenges)

The Lord of the Rings film adaptation was really good, though I really didn't like the Hobbit films. I didn't like the book either, but the film just went off on one, and tried to convert the Hobbit into LotR, and went OTT on the "action" sequences.

Game of Thrones, I think the last season basically removed it from everyones mind...it was soooo bad. You can't even blame the source material, as there was none, turns out George RR Martin prefers writing game background than doing the last 2 novels. He's probably in a sticky situation now...if the end of the TV series was his planned ending to the novels then he's clearly going to have to re-write them. If it wasn't the ending, he will have to explain why he didn't give the correct ending to D&D for the TV series. Maybe better to quietly never do them, and leave some notes to someone else to write them in 20 years instead.

I suppose my most conflicted adaptation is Jurassic Park. When I first saw the film I was hugely dissapointed...the book was (at the time) one of my favourites. The film went off on a special-effects-fest, and paid only lip-service to some of the core concepts of the book. Over the years I've come to enjoy the film, and can accept that it's "based on" the book, rather than an adaptation, more an alternate vision, and one that has stood up well to time (which cannot be said of all films from the 90's). The sequels are dog-shit of course (both book and film...Michael Crichton realised that writing trashy film scripts paid more than being an author).

babychaos's picture

I'm seeing a lot of "meh" reviews of this now it's out

Evilmatt's picture

I'm about halfway through the second audiobook (if you have Plex, I strongly recommend Chronicle Audiobook Player, as well as a fairly good website that provides downloadable m4b files) and I'd forgotten just how much information and detail is in there. If they are doing 7-10 seasons they'll need to cover roughly 1½-2 books per season (approximately 50 hours of reading at x1.2 speed)

That can only mean they will have to chop out loads. That will frustrate the fans of the books, while newcomers will probably be overwhelmed. In terms of style there is a lot of focus on descriptives and history/lore lessons, compared to GoT, which had a heavier focus on conversation and action.

I've been avoiding any in-depth reviews, I've seen a couple of titles, and I'd go with "mixed"...the story has a long lead-in (obviously, it's bloody huge), so it may get more focus as the first season goes on.

babychaos's picture