Amazon is hoping their new series The Wheel of Time, based on the books by Robert Jordan, will be the next Game of Thrones. Science fiction editor John Joseph Adams was captivated by the show.
“I thought it was great,” Adams says in Episode 507 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I have no particular affinity for the books, so I didn’t care about the adaptation part of it—I didn’t care if they changed things. I was watching it basically as a fresh viewer, and honestly I love it.”
The Wheel of Time is one of Amazon’s more popular shows, and has received mostly positive reviews, but some fans are underwhelmed with the adaptation. Fantasy author Douglas Cohen thought The Wheel of Time made too many changes to the books. “I really don’t think much of the writing, I don’t think much of the acting,” he says. “I understand that changes happen when you translate one medium into another, but I don’t think that they did the best possible job with translating the books to the show.”
Science fiction author Abby Goldsmith agrees. She thought the relationships in the show didn’t ring true to the characters she knows from the books. “The strength of the series is the interpersonal character dynamics,” she says. “That’s what it’s really about. It’s almost like a soap opera. It’s really about the people, the heroes. And the show, to me, just threw that all away, completely ignored that.”
But Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley thinks the show will probably appeal to most fantasy fans, as long as they keep their expectations in check. “If you’re into the epic fantasy genre, and you want to watch a TV show or a movie in that genre, there are so few examples to begin with that are any good, and I feel like this is pretty good compared to what else is out there,” he says.
Listen to the complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Douglas Cohen, and Abby Goldsmith in Episode 507 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Douglas Cohen on the Wheel of Time books:
I finished the series even though I wasn’t that big of a fan by the end. In general these days I feel like life is too short to waste on bad books or bad TV shows, so if I don’t like something, I’ll turn it off, I’ll stop reading. Wheel of Time was my one exception to that rule. I said, “I loved these books for so long, I have to get to the last book, I have to get to the last battle. I have to read that.” And I just kept going. There were times I gritted my teeth just hating the books. I’m like, “I don’t care. I will get to the end.” And that’s kind of how I felt watching the show. I have that same need to watch it, even though I don’t like it. And there’s nothing else that does that to me.
David Barr Kirtley on The Wheel of Time Season 1:
I thought the first two episodes were really pretty enjoyable, then the next two episodes I had more mixed feelings about. The characters are out in the wilderness, and they get split up, and I felt like too many of the conversations were basically feeding backstory or lore to the audience, and I was getting a little bored with them. But then once they get to the White Tower, and there’s all this political infighting and factionalism within the Aes Sedai, I thought that was actually really interesting. And from there on I thought the show was pretty cool. I wouldn’t say it was the most amazing show ever, but like I said, given what’s on offer for epic fantasy, I thought it was a reasonably good example.
Abby Goldsmith on characterization:
The friendship between Rand and Mat was really strong in the books. I loved it. Book 1 really went into that, where Rand and Mat were kind of on their own little adventure together, where they had no money and they’re just playing music for their supper, out in the wilderness, exploring the world and trying to get back in touch with their friends. The friendship was strong, and it was there, and you don’t see it in the show at all. And Egwene and Perrin as well. Perrin is a very protective, guardian type of character—the show did not show that. He seems kind of like this whiny, mopey guy in the show. I wouldn’t want to hang out with him.
John Joseph Adams on gender:
One criticism I have isn’t particularly of the show, it’s just because of the source material in general, but the whole thing seems kind of gender essentialist in a way. “Women can do this thing, and men can’t do this thing.” It’s all really gender-oriented. I’m sure back in the day it was very progressive having these women characters who are amazing wizards, and men can’t be amazing wizards because they can’t handle it. … [But] where are nonbinary people or trans people in this world?