Paternity leave reading for 3 a.m. crying jags. (Mine and hers.)---There, Brian. I read it. Are you happy?My friend Brian has been telling me to read The Wheel of Time for years. It always went like this: Brian: You should read The Wheel of Time. It's really good.Me: I've heard that it gets really, really bad. B: The first seven books are really outstanding.M: Yeah, I'm not going to read seven books without an ending.B: The first one is good but the second one is better.M: Mmm. I don't know.B: The first one stands alone really well! [Retrospective commentary: NO IT DOESN'T]M: OK, lemee borrow it.[Several months pass]M: Here is your book back.B: Oh, you read it?M: No.I really thought I was never, ever going to start this series. Everything I read about it screamed at me to run away. Tolkien pastiche. Incredibly long. Characters with stupid names. Lots of "world-building." The main villain is called "The Dark One." WTF, trollocs?I have nothing against multi-volume, word-bloated epic fantasy. Not really. (Well, kind of, but I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt: George R.R. Martin, that one Brandon Sanderson book I liked). But even the people who like The Wheel of Time also seem to apologize for doing so or outright resent it for what it became in the draggy middle. So why do I want to start reading it? If someone told me a show about a mysterious island was really entertaining and interesting for a while there, but then totally peed the ending down its leg, and really, that's a PRETTY BIG DEAL for a mystery show, even one that is purportedly focused on a bunch of unlikeable assholes characters first, would I immediately run home and start watching that show on Netflix streaming? No, because I'm the idiot who watched it all along, assuming I wasn't wasting my time. I think I am getting off track.So, I wasn't going to read this. But then I was off work for a few weeks on paternity leave, and my daughter was waking up five times a night, and I was unable to sleep even though, at that point, I didn't really have much to offer that she was interested in, and I had a copy of The Eye of the World that I absorbed for a quarter somewhere, and I've always had a thing for the goofy cover art. So I picked it up at 2 a.m. and read the prologue. And it was pretty much what I expected, what with the stupid names and bad dialogue. But it was also kind of... fun. Of course, I also knew (based on reading a bunch of reviews and blogs about this book series I never planned to read) that the next 150 pages were going to be, in the tradition of Hobbiton (Chapter One: Concerning Ensuring Joel Will Never Read Past the First Section of This Book) horrifically boring. So I almost put it back down.Then I remembered that my brother had the book in his Audible account, and that my phone lets you listen to books at double speed, meaning I'd get through the 30-hour production in roughly 15. That sounded about right -- the auditory equivalent of skimming (except I actually got really good at listening that quickly; you just kind of have to get in the zone).And it was exactly as I'd been led to believe: clumsy, repetitious prose (a few times I had to make sure the audio track wasn't repeating as the same dialogue and phrasing was repeated over and over). Meandering pacing and haphazard plotting (nothing happens nothing happens SOMETHING HAPPENS same thing happens five more times nothing happens rushed climax cliffhanger). Bland heroes (though in their defense, they are stupid teenagers). Blatant Tolkien rip-offery (OH MY GOD THE DAGGER IS OBVIOUSLY CURSED YOU IDIOTS). And my favorite, the pauses for self-indulgent infodumps (the "best" one comes in one of the last chapters and throws in so many weird names and covers so much time I have absolutely no idea what happened and why it mattered enough to put the climax on hold). The unsatisfying ending (the last chapters are rushed, drop in a few villains out of the blue only to defeat them a few pages later via a magical object that isn't mentioned until page 650 even though it's the freaking title).But. Um. I kind of liked it. The world is pretty interesting. I like the way Robert Jordan sketches out the history (even some of the infodumps are fun!). I like his magic system, and the powerful women who are feared and respected for tapping into it. I don't strictly care about the hero's journey at its core, but the weight -- the epicness -- of it all... Once the big, lumbering thing gets moving, it really has momentum.So here's where the real test comes. Do I read the second book? No, I do not.Do I listen to the second book at chipmunk speed?I really kind of want to. But doing that will only make me want to read book three, and, like poor Rand al'Thor accidentally touching the tainted power of saidin (dammit, Brian, see what you did?), that way lies madness and death.Maybe if Josh has an extra Audible credit.