Friday, January 26, 2007

Book Report

I finished reading Eragon at the hospital. It was better than I expected. It followed the standard fantasy pattern. Young farmland hero becomes the only person who can save the land (this time via being chosen by the dragon to be the Rider). Said young hero is taken under the wing of an aged and knowledgeable master/wizard type who teaches him a few things about magic, yet partway through the book will leave (usually being killed - as were Gandalf and Obi Wan), which forces the young hero to muddle through and carry on the quest without any guidance, except for the aid of companions who gather round him (be it elves, wookies, droids, cargo smugglers, dwarves . . .) In Eragon's case, it is elves, dwarves, and the son of his enemy.

Nothing entirely new. However, I'm going to defend that very aspect by saying, "Who cares?" I, for one, like this format. It works. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. And as far as changing the bathwater, Christopher Paolini has enough fresh cultures and ideas to make Eragon worth reading. It is enjoyable.

The aspects of this book that I truly find admirable and soaring above the rest are 1) the fact that it is a 15 year old boy writing about a 15 year old boy. The thoughts and feelings that come through are fascinating. Incredible true-to-life characterization on that part. Aspiring writers should read the book just to glean insights on how to build a character well, alone.

The second aspect is Mr. Paolini's courage in having his character ask and ponder huge moralistic questions and then leaving them without having answered them. Because in truth, these were the type of questions that there really is no answer for. A good example comes when Eragon, Murtaugh and Saphira are evading an army of their enemies and are attacked by a smaller party of bandits. Murtaugh consisely kills the bandit leader while he is on his knees. Eragon argues that that seemed like murder. Saphira councels the result would have been the same had Murtaugh, being a superior swordsman, fought the bandit again and killed him, and that they couldn't let the bandit go and tell the approaching enemy army of their whereabouts. Eragon mulls it over for quite some time, but what I love about it is the author never intrudes and stamps his own moral answers into it. He allows it to be one of those questions in life that each individual and situation has to answer for itself.

I can cite some adult writers who haven't been able to constrain themselves on that point. One of my most favorite authors comes to mind, not to name names, but it starts with a "G" and ends with a "oodkind" When Richard was standing on that slab of rock on that mountain, lecturing, it was as though Richard took a step back and the author jumped right into his body. I've never felt author instrucion so blatantly in my life. Though Mr. G knows the Wizard's First Rule well, he had forgotten the Writer's First Rule, which is: Readers are not stupid. We got your point. When good people do nothing, they are really allowing evil to prevail. We got it. We got it the first time Richard pointed it out. We got it when Kahlan conveyed it. We got it when Nicci realized it at the statues. We got it again when Nicci lectured about it in the stables. We got it when Zedd restated it. Believe me, we did not need Richard to go on and on and on for three chapters or more on that mountain. I love G's books. I will read anything he writes, but I am begging him to please remember the Writer's First Rule. We got it. Terry Goodkind's page Christopher Paolini's page
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