Amph ~The Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini~ Discussing its literary merits

Discussion in 'Community' started by Coruscant, Nov 2, 2006.

  1. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    Mr. Paolini published his first fantasy novel, Eragon, in 2002 with the help of his parents' company- Paolini International, LLC. Soon, the novel was picked up by Knopf and the book entered a second edition in August 2003. Two years later, the sequel, Eldest, was released to the masses. Paolini became a NYT bestseller at the age of 19. He has been hyped as a child prodigy due to graduating high school at the age of 15. However, he was homeschooled and graduated through a correspondence course.

    Mr. Paolini has received a great fanbase, as evidence by the citadel of Inheritance's presence on the internet- Shurtugal.com. However, there has also been a flipside of more critical and disapproving readers of the series, shown by Anti-Shurtugal.com.


    My experience with the series...

    Many enjoyed Eragon, among them my ~70-year old uncle who has read novels and especially fantasy and science fiction all his life. He got me to read the novel and so I read the beginning describing Eragon's upbringing and daily lifestyle. I was dismayed. At my uncle's questioning, I had said there was something greatly lacking about what I had read of the book so far. I went on to say that it felt shallow and uninspired. My one line review for the book (when I did finish) was, "What you read is what you get." I meant this to say that there was nothing behind those words on the page, there was no depth, nothing to be explored. In retrospect, I found the most inspired element of the book to be the minor character Angela and her werecat.

    Nonetheless, when the second book was published, I purchased it immediately. I never finished it (but plan to return to it over the course of this thread). My uncle, however, did finish it. And in the process, the Inheritance series lost another fan. He was displeased and disappointed with Mr. Paolini. With Eldest, the series lost many fans but still gained some new. You either love it or hate it, it is beginning to appear.

    In this thread, I wish to discuss Inheritance's literary merits with the insightful members of the JC- fans and bashers alike. My three main gripes with Mr. Paolini and his series are as follows:

    Writing

    Being the son of well-connected parents in the business of publishing, Mr. Paolini could not have undergone the full extent of the journey necessary for a writer to hone his or her skills- a journey which usually goes beyond the teen years. I believe that had Mr. Paolini not had the parents he did, he would've experienced that same insecurity and humility which could only lead to far more healthier results at the end of the path (publication).

    Characterization

    The character of Eragon is a disaster, written as a channel for Gary Stu wish fulfillment. Additionally, the relationship between Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, is a missed opportunity. While Paolini writes that the dragon and his rider are equals, too often it seems like Saphira takes a subservient position to her rider for the sake of plot.

    Inspiration

    Inheritance is perhaps the most uninspired storytelling franchise out there. It is nowhere near the levels of LotR, Narnia, HP, SW, etc... Instead, it imitates and copies the aforementioned works, especially SW and LotR. Mr. Paolini has stated that he merely wanted to write a story following the traditional Hero Journey, and that's alright. He has succeeded in doing that. However, he has accomplished it through imitation and copying. He is by no means original in how he reinvents the journey. The journey and its steps do not have to be original, but serve as a framework around which its elements are reinvented to give a new spin to an ages-old story. It's not the what, it's the how that bugs me. />
  2. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    Okay . . . so you're saying this fella has imitated others, got acclaimed for it, managed publication past thousands of annual applicants via possible parents grease, and above all, writes the most cliche of all fantasy elements, the dragon.

    I have a Saphira character, minor nobody as she was. I will keep the name, to remind me of the foundation needed to rise towers.
  3. farraday Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2000
    star 7
    I kind of agree, but perhaps not to the same bitter extent.

    Everything about the series seems standard. While I have and continue to enjoy books movies etc with those same standard elements, with the Inheritance trilogy it just seems, too obvious. The machinery seems to blatant and I can't bring myself to ignore it.

    It seems almost that there was a laundry list of fantasy elements though are simply checked off. Being a Star Wars fan the parallels were just too obvious to miss and too many to ignore. By the time I was working my way though the second book I was wondering when Yoda would show up, then he did.

    I don't think I'll be reading the third book.
  4. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    Interesting. What kind of SW parallels are we talking about? . . . But does SW not copy from elsewhere anyway? And is it even fair to say something is indirectly copied? After all, someone used a laser gun in their book, and we've all done it since, for eg.
  5. MarcusP2 Games and Community Reaper

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 10, 2004
    star 6
    See here: www.anti-shurtugal.com/starwars.htm

    Never read the book, but from that it seems to be a pretty much straight lift from SW. I'm sure Coruscant can tell you more.
  6. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    Eragon was okay, though there was too much that was quite obviously borrowed (Star Wars, LOTR, etc.). Eldest I really didn't like. Didn't help that I was completely spoiled for it, but like Coruscant said, Eragon seems a lot like a Gary Stu. Nevertheless, I'm allowing myself to be dragged to the movie in December, and I'll probably read the third book. Hopefully, now that he's gotten a little experience, he'll be a better author.
  7. farraday Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2000
    star 7
    There are always similarities with archetypes.

    I mean you can't swing a sword in fantasy without hitting some mystically important orphan, ancient mentors are a dime a dozen, and lost objects of supreme importance are littered under every stone.

    However the way they're all presented in Eragon you can almost see the scrolling text against a star field.

    The part I enjoyed most actually was Eragon's adopted brother whose name escapes me at the moment. If his story is hopelessly derivative I'm presently unaware of the source.

  8. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    Started with an 'M.' He was my favorite character as well, though his completely shift at the end of Edlest was confusing in the extreme.
  9. Zebra3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2004
    star 5
    You know, my oldest sister has been bugging me to read this book for a while now. She loved it. I never really had any desire to but now this thread has got me curious. I think I'll pick it up to see what the big deal is.
  10. Tatooine_native Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 6, 2003
    star 1
    I think the brother's name is Roran.

    I too noticed the similarities between LOTR and SW when I read the books. Yet to me I don't see it necessarily as a weakness in his story. I enjoyed the first two books, and I liked the world he set up, particularly the rules of magic and his relationsip with Saphira.

    One thing I do wonder about is how prevalent the ideas are within the genre, and how acceptable it is to borrow elements. On amazon.com, in a review of Eragom, the amazon.com review says, "...the book shows the influence of [...] the generally agreed-upon nature of dwarves, elves, dragons, and heroic warfare with magic swords."

    Where did this 'generally agreed-upon nature' come from? Tolkien also had elves called the Fair Folk, and dwarves who tunnel underground; Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain has dwarves who live underground and are called the Fair Folk.

    Who started this? Tolkien? Older folk tales? Would using these elements in a story mean that you are copying from older works or are just working within standard knowledge?

  11. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    I can't be here for long, but quickly on the subject of the movie I do want to say that I hope it is good. I hope. I want it to be better than the book. Who knows... they may make a good adaptation off a lukewarm source. :p

    edit: I understand the point about the "generally-agreed-etc..." but, I mean... Paolini's elves came across the sea on silver ships. Similar much? There is an island that is basically a clone of Valinor, as well. If you cloned a kid named "Nick", you wouldn't call the clone "Nick", of course. It would lead to confusion. But you would name it "Mick". No more confusion, but it's in essence the same exact thing.

    edit 2: just checked the books (LotR atlas and Eragon)... nvm. :oops: Valinor is where the Elves come from. I believe there's another landmass where the Elves come from in Paolini's universe. The island, however, was Numenor. Paolini's is Vroengard. Vroengard has six points, Numenor has five. The strong men came from Numenor, the dragon riders, IIRC, from Vroengard.

    So, back to my point, and this is concerning the archetypes... let's say we wanted to make a "tragic hero" combined with "leader" archetype. This archetypical individual has the leader before him assassinated, and his wrongdoings are unveiled by his own wife with the help of the real Hero. But we just cloned President Charles Logan, from the television series "24", in a literary sense. We can change the name in a halfhearted attempt to fool our audience.

    That's what Paolini has done.

    A different storyteller would be inspired by the lore of Numenor, Valinor, the Elves coming across the sea... and put a new spin on it in the very least. Let's say there's an unpopulated but habitable planet. A group of strong men come to this plant from a moon destroyed by nuclear war. Then, eventually, a Vulcan-like race comes from a different planet and sets up camp too. That's far more inspired, because at least, in the very least, there's something new there. There's a different spin.

    A masterful storyteller (not synonymous with being a good writer, however, which is another issue I have with Mr. Paolini) would go even beyond that. He would make the Vulcan-like elves be the ones who have ruined their planet with nuclear war and send the strong men there as saviors, to put a truly new twist on what is basically, at core, the same story.

    To finish... I would be inspired by the rise and fall (specifically the fall ;)) of Charles Logan to create a character that is a tragic hero and leader, combined. But I would dress it differently, put on different make-up, wig it a new one, etc... and call him Oedipus! :p
  12. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    Book has elfs too? Celibate siths, it's more archetyped then I thought. So what has made it acclaimed? Looking like a case of holographing to me.

    For publicity reasons, the publisher has miraged someone young as talented, and hurled at teens, who would know the subterfugal difference? I have heard of this. It pays to research these authors well. I learned that the hard way with a few fantasy mispurchases. Good covers and interesting backcover synopsises belie the deceptively hidden teen-level of some books. I've always advocated one simple small in-flap label, "Young Adult," can make all the difference. ;)
  13. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    I think the brother's name is Roran.

    That's the cousin. The brother is Murtagh (or something).

    Yeah, he wasn't very good about changing names. He only slightly changed the Uru'kai (sp?) from LOTR, and you can tell that vhe based the evil king's troops off of the Orks and Uru'kai.
  14. StarWarsFreak444 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 28, 2005
    star 7
    I love Eragon!!! The books are awesome! i can't wait for the third book to come out. I think it's a lot better then the Harry Potter books.

    I think the movie will be awesome as well
  15. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    Okay, so why do you like the books? Why do you think they're better than the Harry Potter books?

    I am not looking for an argument, I am merely curious as to your line of reasoning.

  16. Zebra3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2004
    star 5
    Okay, I got the book and I'm liking it so far. The prose is rather stiff, however, but that doesn't bother me too much. What I do like is that there's a fair amount of backstory. I always like that in my books :)
  17. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7

    All right, after wiki-ing the damn thing and that anti-shurgal site, I've slurped a better understanding of what this is about. That it parallels Star Wars does not bother me so much as it incorporates a swarm of reprehensible cliches. Personally, having gotten the backdoor with the parents, if I had known this time of purchase I probably would not have gotten it. Why? It's downright cheating, and like my secondary and tertiary classmates, going into daddy's business or heiring mummy's money, whereas as I'm laddering life the unspoilt way.

    Elfs, dwarfs, dragons, gifted boy, family bereft chosen one, the master that dies---darths, just the fact he's a boy was enough to turn me off, the way a good gutted Hutt probably could.

    Objectively, I can't assess prose until I've sampled some mid-book chapters, which I'm not likely to, but even so, with publishering parental guidance, how much is the teen, how much otherwise? Published at fifteen . . . books are manuscripted a long time before publication. Indeed, the publisher may take a long time to find a good release slot for your work. Am I to assume---believe---this 13 or 14yo typed a full fledged novel without much help, past all that after-school homework, with all the dictional prose that that implies?

    It's just another cliche on the market---and what annoys me are those reviews who would single this out when there are scores more doing just that, and publishers are getting away with it, for their myriad and perhaps somewhat legit reasons.

    In any case, what does a child or teen care for such things? It's right up their snout, and it makes them happy, what is it to me? It's not being aimed at adult readership, is it, now? To deride something you need context, and who's to say Star Wars is so original?

    You have no idea how much it isn't. Vader, themes, Force, names---readers must learn to escape pod themselves from thinking SW and LOTR is a baseline to compare all other sci fi and fantasy to, just because a woman taking charge of a gaol escape shocked a male-dominated nation in a bygone era in a movie with futuristic special effects to anything else.
  18. Lord Vivec Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 17, 2006
    star 7
    you know,
    through my thinking and journey through reading, one doesn't need really many logical/literary reasons to like a book. They just do. To not like a book, thats where the literary factors come in. So to me it seems that its unfair to ask for any reasons why SWF444 likes Eragon. (This is completely my opinion derived through my expierences)

    I liked Eragon, and Eldest was better, not for any literary reason (This isn't English class), I just did.
  19. DreamingIce Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 8, 2005
    star 3
    Okay, there is a lot I want to say to defend some aspects of the series (and some which I will agree with you on) but I don't have enough time right this second...
  20. Zebra3 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2004
    star 5
    Okay, I finished Eragon and Eldest. No comments on whether or not he copied anything as I don't notice things like that, typically.

    Eragon-- Not a bad book. It has its flaws. Like I said, the prose is rather stiff. It's certainly nothing ground breaking. It's probably not even anything terribly memorable. But I sure had a lot of fun reading it. I don't have anything specific to point out for this book, just general impressions. I liked it and that's good enough for me.

    Eldest-- I liked this a little less than the first book (mostly because the bulk of the book was focused on Eragon). Eragon just bugged the hell out of me throughout the entire novel. I hated how he kept chasing after Arya. It was just felt.... wrong. He's 16 and he's chasing after someone who's 100 something and cries like a baby when she rejects him. Not a good way to make me sympathize with a character. I also didn't like how he started taking charge at the final battle. He's 16! What the hell does he know about leading people in battle? I also REALLY didn't like how he loved being transformed into an elf. I could go on about how I feel about that.... but I won't. The elves were very interesting and I was rather impressed that they don't believe in gods. Certainly controversial. All things considered, I found Eragon's whole journey uninteresting. Roran's was far more engaging. I loved seeing his character progress from a nobody to a determined leader of men. Nasuda was also a great character to read about. The whole lace thing was pretty funny. And poor Elva... I can't wait to see what happens to her. As for Murtaugh, I wished we saw more of him.

    All in all.... I'm getting the impression that my feelings towards this trilogy will be a bit like my feelings towards Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels: I like the story and the supporting characters but I absolutely hate the main character.
  21. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    The elves were very interesting and I was rather impressed that they don't believe in gods.

    Not that I'm intolerant of atheism, etc... but this is another gripe I have with the book. Like you said, it's controversial. Paolini wrote this exchange of dialogue between the god-believing dwarf and the atheist, vegetarian elf. And basically, he portrays the dwarf as being utterly ill-tempered and on the defensive about his beliefs while being challenged by a calm, in-control elf. It's not the fact that it's in the book that annoys me but the context. This conversation just came out of the blue. It was like Paolini wanted to get preachy about atheism all the sudden. In the process, he was just that- preachy and obnoxious. A much better writer would've gone about it subtly.

  22. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7
  23. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    All I know about these books are that the covers for them are spectacular. :p
  24. Coruscant Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2004
    star 6
    And the covers are as spectacular as the books get! [face_devil]

    Yeah, I'm nasty bitter, I know.

  25. severian28 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 1, 2004
    star 5
    The guys a good writer no matter what his connections are just like Jane Fonda and Nicholas Cage are good actors. Is the story completely unoriginal? Absolutely. But its well written. I mean Its not like theres THAT much out there in " mainstream " SF/F thats better then Paolinis' works thus far that deserves some kind of theatrical adaptation. I mean there isnt that much to begin with. Its rare that " A Scanner Darkly " gets made into a movie. Id love to see some heavier SF/F get adapted. George Martins' stuff is tremendous within the genre - truly tantamount to LotR or Narnia - but its barely crossed over and certainly not enough to justify the tremendous budget and R rating that it would need to have. Way too risky. Even if Eragorn bombs, and thats certainly a possibility, that type of SF/F will always be seen as the better bet in Hollywood.