Monday, April 27, 2009

The Imaginary World Of Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini published the first novel of his Inheritance Cycle, ‘Eragon,’ when he was just 17. Should this information force us to take his writing less seriously? Now, this is a tricky question. What age has to do with talent? Nothing. But experience does. I came to believe this strongly while reading the third book of the cycle ‘Brisingr’. It’s a fatter, more complex book than 'Eragon' and 'Eldest,' and Paolini does full justice to it. Almost. As I was reading to book — there were times it was painful to carry on — it was inordinately long without much action, or dealing with issues which we are not interested in, I was wondering, if Paolini had more experience as a novelist, would he have been able to do justice to his measureless imagination.

Whether you like the book or not, in terms of the way the story is told, you have to admit that this young man has imagination. Tolkien took years to perfect the history of Middle Earth. Paolini does almost the same for Alagaesia in his three novels in a short spun of time. You agree. Paolini’s Alagaesia not as vast and as detailed as Tolkien, but the young man is working on it, and he is good, especially in introducing minor characters and using names. But, what he lacks is depth, the way Tolkien could evoke a scenery and the mind of a character in a few well-chosen words. For this Paolini will need more experience.
But, within the scheme of things, Paolini has the complete command over the story he wants to tell. The best part is that the young writer loves the story he is narrating. So, the task he undertakes is not arduous, but one of joyous adventure. Thus, in the third book, he spends seemingly unnecessary time in the council of dwarfs to choose the next king. But the way these passages are described, you know that the writer is enjoying the task.

Paolini is developing the myth in each passing novel, each passing chapter, and it shows; sometimes it is forced and something it is even incongruous. In the first novel, we learn that when a bond is established between a rider and his dragon, they become the sort of a single entity. If a dragon is killed, the rider can still survive (example Brom), but if the rider is killed, the dragon must die too. Hence, there are very few dragons left in Alagaesia. In the third novel, this myth is conveniently forgotten to give way to a larger myth, the heart of the dragon, the heart-of-hearts.

Though Paolini owes much to Tolkien in terms of canvas, in its fantasy theme, it is more closer to 'Star Wars' then 'The Lord of the Rings.' Though there has been a tendency to compare the young hero Eragon with Harry Potter, there is no apparent similarities here, except that both the stories deal with magic. The quest here is similar to the quest of Luke Skywalker, an outsider finding himself in the middle of an age-old conflict and as well as finding unsavoury facts about his ‘inheritance.’ In the first book, Eragon is an orphan. In the second book, we come to know that he is the son of an evil commander Morzan. In the third book, we came to know that actually Brom, his unlikely mentor, was his father. But, everything is not revealed as well. We are informed that his mother Selena is dead. But I have this nagging suspicion that she will make a dramatic appearance in the last book.

Talking about magic, Paolini’s explanation of using magic is much more realistic than the use of magic in the Harry Potter universe. Paolini logically explains how magic is created and most of the times, he convinces us, the way he convinces us that dragons can think and talk. Safira is a character on her own.

However, what the young writer needs is focus. ‘Brisingr’ needed not to be that long; the loving details of several minor characters could have been deleted. This is where experience is counted above sheer talent.

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