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Roger E. Eichorn's Blog: Fantasy, Philosophy, and whatever else I feel like writing about
Scheduled for release in the United States on July 12, R. Scott Bakker’s The Great Ordeal is the third installment in The Aspect-Emperor series, which is a continuation, set nineteen years later, of Bakker’s earlier Prince of Nothing trilogy. Bakker, as well as his fans, refer to the story as a whole as The Second Apocalypse, though the title is (as of now) unofficial.
The Prince of Nothing
- Book 1: The Darkness That Comes Before
- Book 2: The Warrior-Prophet
- Book 3: The Thousandfold Thought
- Book 1: The Judging Eye
- Book 2: The White-Luck Warrior
- Book 3: The Great Ordeal
It is important to bear in mind that the two series are indeed a single monumental narrative. Readers would be nearly as ill-advised to begin with the first book of The Aspect-Emperor as to begin with The Great Ordeal. Too much has already happened—a fact underscored, perhaps to excess, in the laborious “previously on…” section that opens the book. This recap, entitled “What has come before,” clocks in at over 11,000 words. It is, to put it mildly, exhaustive—as well as potentially exhausting. Still, even readers coming directly to The Great Ordeal from its lead-in, The White-Luck Warrior, are likely to benefit from the recap’s distillation of the many-faceted story, though perhaps not enough to justify its length.
Each of Bakker’s fantasy novels (after the first one) begins with a similarly extensive recap, but the practice is especially needful now, given that five years have passed since the appearance of The White-Luck Warrior. (Compare that to the two-year gap between The White-Luck Warrior and the previous volume, The Judging Eye, or the three-year gap between that book and the final volume of The Prince of Nothing trilogy. Remarkably, however, even given the five-year wait for The Great Ordeal, Bakker has managed to produce his entire series so far in the time it took George R.R. Martin to follow up with Tyrion Lannister after the events of A Storm of Swords! ) From what I understand, the delay was due partly to artistic considerations (that is, Bakker’s determination to get the story right) and partly to complications with his publishers.
Thankfully, none of that matters now, since The Great Ordeal has at last arrived.
The blog was down for about six months or so, partly because I just wasn’t producing posts (I still haven’t even finished my “Compositional History”!), but also because, to my great consternation, I ended up scrapping what I’d written and starting over again.
The goal of the opening chapters has got to be accessibility, and the way I’d started the book was simply too demanding: it virtually required that readers get through the first hundred pages in one sitting! I think the new version is far superior — not only in terms of accessibility, but also in terms of quality.
Interestingly, everything started coming together when I revisited some of the stand-out chapters from the original version of Three Roses, which was finished in 2001-02. That version of the book (whose story corresponds with Book Six of the series as currently envisioned) as a whole was a mess, but certain parts of it were (if I do say so myself) astonishingly good. I hadn’t read, and had hardly even thought about, any of that old-old material in over a dozen years. Revisiting it proved to be something of a revelation.
How awesome is it when you find great writing from which you can steal with utter impunity? After all, I’m only stealing from myself!
More on this when I finally write the final entry in my “Compositional History,” which will be soon.
On another topic, I’ve had the great good fortune to read the latest volume of Scott Bakker‘s series, The Great Ordeal. It’s set to be released soon. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve got to say: Chapters 12 and 13 left me breathless, both of them. They’re deep, harrowing, and thrilling, all at once. The book is a monumental achievement, and yet I have the feeling it’s only beginning, that the real shit’s gonna go down in the next book, The Unholy Consult.
Check out the trailer for Bakker’s series.
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then.
– Blaise Pascal, Pensees 205