Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I'm waiting for the rest of The Inheirtance

I always feel arrogant dissecting a book, but here we go again anyway.

Christopher Paolini's Eragon was pleasant but a little cliched, and, while it is an amazing piece from such a young writer, an underlying immaturity bled through the story. Let me be specific: it was written by a teenager, it seems like it was written by a young (in terms of experience, not age) writer, but it doesn't necessarily seem like it was written by someone as young as Paolini actually was. If you got that, then you can get Kant.

Paolini possesses a wonderful understanding of language, and that enables him to construct full and beautiful descriptions of Eragon's world; however, a fabulous description, poorly timed, loses efficiacy. At times, it was like watching a film where the director went a little nutty with slow-motion movement and made all his action sequences slow-motion scenes.

Secondly, there was one area in which Paolini's understanding of language failed him: the tags for dialogue verged on the ridiculous. He obviously used a thesaurus in order to find a g-zillion variations for the word "said." I know you're not supposed to use the "said" after every character's statement, but that's because it can be distracting. On the other hand, avoiding "said" by using every known variation of the word "said" is distracting too. The dialogue just wasn't rich in the same way that the narrative portions of the book were.

Further, the dialogue was stitled at times because the scenes were too staged and predictable. The plot and charcters were almost too familiar. I'm actually a really big proponent of predictability in stories. Familiarity is comforting, and archetypal characters are easier to understand because we know them so well. For instance, I love Oedipus in Oedipus Rex. He's about as preditable as you can get, but his story is so engaging. Everytime I read it, I read it hoping the ending is going to be different (No. I am not insane), but, of course, the moment you read it's first paragraph you know it wont end well. It starts:

My children, latest-born wards of old Cadmus,
why do you sit before me like this with wreathed branches of suppliants, while
the city reeks with incense, [5] rings with prayers for health and cries of
woe? I thought it unbefitting, my children, to hear these things from the mouths
of others, and have come here myself, I, Oedipus
renowned by all. Tell me, then, venerable old man--since it is proper that you
[10] speak for these--in what mood you sit here, one of fear or of desire?
Be sure that I will gladly give you all my help. I would be hard-hearted indeed
if I did not pity such suppliants as these.

Why, then, did Eragon's predictability bother me? The dramatic irony in Eragon is false. I wont betray any of the stories "secrets". If you start the book, you'll be able to guess them soon enough. (Please forgive me if I'm really off my rocker. I read the book a while ago.) Because of the way that the story is written, the "hero" seems to know what his fate is, and anytime that the author asserts that he doesn't, the assertion seems disingenuous. Whereas in Oedipus, the "hero" genuinely doesn't know his fate, and even though you want him to, even though you feel like he should know, you fully understand and believe that he just doesn't see it (that's an "in joke" for people who know the Oedipus story) . There just doesn't seem to be a real inner turmoil for Eragon. Yes, he's trying to discover his fate, but he seems like he already knows what it is and isn't struggling against it. He's just along for the ride all over the Alagaesia country-side.

Yes, I know that comparing a Greek tragedy to a fantasy novel is like comparing apples and oranges. Oh well.

It was fun and easy to read, and I'm definitely interested in seeing where Paolini is headed. It was a solid start to what may be a great trilogy. Maybe I'm in a bad mood or just didn't read the book with the right frame of mind. I did enjoy the book, I just have an intuition that Paolini is capable of a lot more.