Da Couch Tomato

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Owing to the drought in good movies right now, while waiting for Tropic Thunder to hit the local screens, I turn my attention once more to books. After all, a couch tomato also dabbles in literature.

Sorry to say that I am a fan of the fantasy genre, but somehow this book does not read like high fantasy. Of course I'm not denying the author Christopher Paolini's talent, but it's just raw talent. He has the seeds of a good story, but he does not tell it the way a fantasy story is supposed to be told.

The idea of Dragons and Riders may even be original, but insofar as the other elements of the story are concerned, they seem to have been culled directly from Joseph Campbell's archetypes. We have the protagonist youth, the journey, the wise old man-turned-mentor---and the list goes on. I believe the idea should have been extremely brilliant for it to override the rehashed narrative template Paolini used to structure his story.

One more problematic aspect of the book is the language. I've always been a sucker for language precision, in the sense that the dialogue should be accurate 1) according to the character's psychology, and 2) according to the time and place of the narrative. This story happens in a faraway mythical land, but the dialogue smacks of modern-day American English. Paolini still lacks the ability to create words that never existed before, like what Tolkien does, or even Dr. Seuss. And the universe he spins is too thin, too flimsy; not a solid believable universe, but something that seems to rely on the reader's previous knowledge of what a fantasy universe is like.

There was something pretty off about the writing and the language which I couldn't quite put my finger on. But then I later learned that Christopher Paolini was actually only fifteen or sixteen when he wrote this book, which explained a lot. Although I did not enjoy the book, I would have to admit that the boy's got raw talent plus rich parents, and now he also has several books in his name. And I'm stuck here reviewing his work. Bummer.

Original rating: Two and a half stars.


tina said...

one of my classmates read this novel and the sequel, and she says that the names of certain places seem like they've been ripped off of LOTR... when she showed me the map in eragon it looked suspiciously similar to the map of middle earth. she was right about the place names; a few of the places sounded like half-hearted mutations of middle earth locations, like isengard. :(

well, with enough practice that raw talent will get honed, and mimicry will give way to true originality. at least, i hope that that'll be the case for mr. paolini. ^^;

Anonymous said...

There really couldn't be a lot of original fantasy concepts out there anymore. Mostly what we get are the same elements in different synergies. One thing about Paolini's writings is the way he has minced and diced the concepts and his grasp for a multiverse at his age.

I like the review, especially the little bit of bio at the end. Great job.

If I might make a request, I'd like to see a review for The Dark Crystal.

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