Saturday, November 3, 2007

Don't Count All Your Eggs Before They're Hatched, One of Them Might Be Stolen! ( A review of the Inheritence conflict and my personal feelings)

Good day readers,

No introduction here, the title says it all.

Eragon...oh boy....Eragon....this topic is a powder keg waiting to go off. If you have a lot of friends that are die-hard fantasy lovers, you had best read this article, and others, to know what you're getting yourself into. This novel has caused one of the biggest firestorms among sword and sorcery readers today. For those of you who have read the book, you may like this, and for those who haven't, pay attention.

Eragon is a fantasy novel, the first in a trilogy called Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini. Paolini was home schooled, graduating at age 15. In multiple interviews, he stated that Eragon was not only a way to keep himself entertained while isolated at his Montana home, but also the tale of his boyhood daydreams. Eragon was first published through the Paolini family's private press, and the following year was spent promoting. In a stroke of good fortune, the book was picked up by the young son of Carl Hiaasan, an author employed under Random House. His son liked the book so much Carl brought it to his editor's attention. Shortly afterwards, it was accepted, and Random House got the rights to the entire trilogy. Eragon shot up to the top of the best-seller list like a backwards bolt of lightning, managing to knock Harry Potter of its place at the #1 slot.

Sounds like an amazing story, right? A classic rags-to-riches (for lack of a better term) tale that we all dream of? Well, so far we've only talked about the book, not the story contained within its pages.

The basic plot is this: a 15 year old farm boy named Eragon finds a mysterious egg, a dragon egg that the entire Empire is looking for. The egg hatches and Eragon names the dragon Sapphira. He happens to be living with his uncle, since his parents died long ago. The Empire's men kill the uncle in search of the egg, forcing Eragon to flee his home accompanied by an old hermit/warrior named Brom, who trains Eragon to fight as they run. Now, I'm only skimming the VERY surface of the novel, but does this all sound familiar? Of course it does! Here's the chart that many critics use to label the book:

Eragon=Luke Skywalker

Brom=Obi Wan Kenobi

Arya= Princess Leah (Except Arya is mean)

Sapphira=R2D2/C3PO/plans of Death Star

Garrow=Uncle Owen

Inheritance=Star Wars/Lord of the Rings

This is not MY brilliant idea or revelation. This is what thousands of people have seen for themselves. Personally, I didn't catch any of this crap when I first read the book at age 15. By that point in my life, I was trying to finish my own work and figured that a good way to sharpen the ol' mind was to read popular fantasy, thus getting a feel for the market. I'm not an avid reader, but I got through Eragon pretty quickly. Only after I finished its sequel, Eldest, did I begin to find out what was going on.

The list of things that Inheritence gets blasted for is endless: bad prose, bad character development, plagiarism, lack of consistency, lack of originality, etc. It's true that there are multiple flaws in every writer's work, even legends like C.S. Louis, Stephen King, Robert Jordan, and so on. For every few million who help get a best-seller where it is, there are ALWAYS those who have either never heard of it, or just aren't interested. For Eragon, however, it is a whole new thing. For every few million who buy and like the book, there are several thousand who are doing everything they can to kill it! I haven't seen a crucible this big since those religious people went after Harry Potter! But why try to burn Eragon at the stake? He isn't a witch.....I think.

What do I think? Well I enjoyed the novel. Sure there are plenty of things that I would have changed, like as the frequent use of the word 'aye'. Eragon uses this word almost every single time when he really means 'yes'. Normally I wouldn't be annoyed by this, but he's the ONLY character in the WHOLE book who says it! That's right, not even the dwarves of all people say it, and drawrs are supposed to be like Scotsmen: good ol' boys that drink loads of ale and kick butt for a living (lucky jerks). Wait.....did anyone notice that I called the dwarves 'drawrs'? See, that's what happens when you try to get involved in something like this. The two clashing sides swirl in your head like screeching infants until your brain goes numb and you start to hallucinate! To the normal, logical human being this whole thing is too weird to describe! How could someone hate a book so much?

No one can deny that SOMEBODY liked Eragon, because otherwise, a titan like Random House wouldn't have taken it to begin with. It's obvious that the editors and the readers are thinking on very different levels. It doesn't matter which side of this debate you pick, because everyone knows the similarities between Paolini, Lucas and Tolkien. To the die-hard, cannot stand, absolutely detest, anit-Eragon people, here's my question: Star Wars and LOTR has revolutionize literature/movies in every possible way. Who hasn't been inspired by them? And if Lucas hasn't filed suit, or Tolkien's family pressed charges, then why are you making such a fuss? Paolini's a new writer, why not wait and see how his other books do after Inheritance? He might improve.

Now, for all of those who love the series: if there was someone who made millions of dollars and received praises from crowds of adoring fans because they stole another person's ideas, wouldn't you want to know?
This is one reason I took such pains to eliminate all possible cliches from my work: because no debut author should have to endure the torment that Paolini has taken in such great stride. However, any author who frauds off of great artists ought to be exposed, but doing so is very difficult. Plagiarism is a tricky business, and if you've ever taken an advanced English class where they make you learn MLA (Maniacal Losers Academics as I call it) you know what I mean. There are so many small, tedious rules and guidelines that you have to take the work in question word by word. Surprisingly, there are lots who seem to want the job.

By far, the biggest disappointment for fans and haters of the series alike was the Eragon movie released in December of 2006. It starred Ed Speleers as Eragon, Jeremy Irons as Brom (one of my favorite actors) Robert Carlyle as Durza, and John Malkovich as King Galbatorix. It only garnered a 16% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, the 10th lowest of the year. I saw the film myself, and I have one word for it....ARRRGGHHH!

HUGE sections of the book had been chopped out, and even the most basic plot elements were screwed around. Eragon was 17 in the film even though the novel describes him as 15 years old, having a birthday somewhere in the middle of the story. Did they even read the book? How could they not get THAT right? It was incredibly fast-paced, events that set up the other two books are just non-existent which eliminates the possibility of a sequel, my favorite roles (Brom and Durza, played by Irons and Carlyle) got the best lines in the film but they both die, and speaking of stars, poor Malkovich! Galbatorix was only mentioned in the book, NEVER seen in any part what so ever, (heck, even Eldest didn't even show him!) but in the movie he has, at the most, TEN minutes of screen time divided up into three short scenes. My dear friend Michale once commented on the role, "He's all like, 'I suffer without my we have to do that again I showed too much emotion'". He's right too, despite his short time in the film, Malkovich could have at least TRIED to be convincing.

Another disappointment for me was the fact that Peter Buchman wrote the screenplay. This guy is best known for Jurassic Park III, a film that I greatly enjoyed. Now, I'm willing to go easy on him....IF this is his first attempt at fantasy. Even BEFORE the film came out, every fan I talked to wanted Peter Jackson to do it. A quesiton I always ask myself about bad book-based movies is this: They know that millions of fans want the movie to be as good or better than the book, why can't they take the extra time to allow the author to get involved? What ever happened to all that talk about someone's vision?
With fans all over the world still waiting for book number three, both sides are probably getting ready for a showdown. Let's try to stay out of the crossfire, but by all means, get some popcorn ready because it's going to be a heck of a show.

Power to the pen and those who wield it without being cast alive into the blazing flames of senseless literary condemnation!

1 comment:

  1. True enough. Just a few thoughts:

    It's C.S. Lewis, not Louis.

    Robert Jordan is not a legend. He's never been a legend, and he never will be a legend. He may be popular, but a lot of lousy authors are popular. Like Paolini.