Friday, July 02, 2004

I borrowed Eragon by Christopher Paolini from my 12 year old cousin a while back. He tactfully (for a 12 year old) asked for it back last weekend, so I figured it was time for me to put it at the top of the list. Back when he gave it to me, I asked him what he'd thought of it. He told me, "you can tell the author was young when he wrote it. It's not great, but it was still pretty good."

My thoughts on it are a little more conflicted. On the one hand, I absolutely admire the author for writing a huge, intricate fantasy novel at such a young age. And I did finish the damn thing. Barely. But on the other hand... I lost track of how many times I yelled about how he stole from another book or movie while I was reading it. The obvious first comparison is, of course, with Lord of the Rings. The quest, the dwarfs, the elves, etc. But Paolini had also been reading his Anne McCaffrey. And his David Eddings. And his Robert Jordan. And had seen Star Wars (he yanks the "Uncle Owen? Aunt Veru?" scene almost wholesale). And had decided that Polonius' speech from Hamlet needed to be incorporated into a book about dragons. Yep, Hamlet. Don't believe me? Go read the part when Eragon's cousin is heading off to his new job and tell me that isn't paraphrased from Hamlet. And... well, you get the idea. So there is very little that is original in the book. The dialogue is pretty bad: frequently overwrought and/or flat. The characters are shallow and every single plot twist is forshadowed with all the subtlety of an anvil dropping on your head. Every time a new detail was introduced you could safely bet it would show up sometime before the end of the book. Characters would say something like, "I never guessed that would happen!" and I had to yell, "I DID, YOU MORON!" right back. (Yes, I talk to books. I am that crazy lady walking in the park while reading and muttering to herself.)

So how much of this is age and how much is just lack of skill? It's hard to tell. Not everyone can be JT Leroy, after all. Of course, I've also read worse fantasy books by adult authors, so it could just be he's relying on the familiar trappings of the genre to get started. Whatever it is, I don't know that I'll read the next books - it's planned to be at least a trilogy, I believe - because I don't really care enough about the characters or the story to bother. Unless he makes astonishing progress as a writer, I doubt I will be reading anything more of his.

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