Recently I waxed eloquent to a friend about why I disliked Eragon, by Christopher Paolini. But she likes it, and I think I offended her. I didn’t mean to.
So I got to thinking–WHY did I dislike the book so much? I read the first book when it came out, and my sister and I thought it was the worst book we’d ever read. So I started remembering where I was in my life, and what I was comparing Eragon to.
Without further ado,
Why I dislike Eragon by Paolini
Eragon came out in 2002. In 2002, I was deeply involved in the Sonic the Hedgehog fandom. This website was an active fandom hub, I spent hours on my forums, and all my friends were debating the game and furiously writing their own fanfiction adapts. I was writing and posting up my own adapt of Sonic Adventure 2, and its sequel, Flux (an excessively dark story about the end of the world and a bait-and-switch antagonist).
Among other things, I’d also written a fanfic based on World War II where a dictator swarms the world with his Borg-like robots and the heroes are hopelessly outgunned. It was epic fantasy in every sense of the word.
Let me summarize what SA2 is about, without the character licensing:
A mad scientist breaks into a military facility and frees a creature calling itself the Ultimate Lifeform. It’s genetic experiment. It’s invincible. It has crazy powers. It’s a complete antihero. And all it wants to do is blow stuff the heck up.
The heroes set out to stop the madman and the experiment. Their quest is mixed up with the world’s magic and the gems that control it–hidden launch pads hidden inside pyramids, monsters, secret agents, and a space colony that carries a world-destroying superweapon locked away inside it.
As the heroes delve deeper into the strange stories surrounding the colony, they realize the genetic experiment actually has quite a tragic past. After all, being an experiment is hard on anybody. They talk him around to saving the world, but his last secrets come to light and things have already been set in motion that will destroy the world anyway. The experiment sacrifices himself to save everybody.
And that’s just the game. Think of what it’d be like as a book! And a bunch of us set out to do just that.
Around about the same time, I was dabbling with an original story about a guy who meets a griffin and they go on a valiant quest together, fighting bad guys and fantasy races, finally battling the bad guy in an epic swordfight on his airship as he’s attacking with his armies. It wasn’t up to my usual standards, and I scrapped it.
Then we read Eragon, and it was sub-par fanfiction of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Dragonriders of Pern. (And the title is one letter removed from Eregion, the region in Lord of the Rings containing the Shire.) As a fanfiction writer with high standards for fanfic, it galled me. And it was more or less the same story I’d just written and scrapped.
I was hanging around epic writers and thinkers like Shax Davis, who wrote one fanfic tackling different religions, and another tackling different schools of political thought. Reading published books that were anything less was an affront of my teenaged tastes.
So, I’m sorry if my viewpoint offends people. It’s quite all right to like Eragon. But I was steeped in a fantasy culture with extremely high standards at the time, and it didn’t measure up. I guess it just goes to show that our opinions of the media around us are informed by where we are in our lives. I guess it’s also why one person will hate a book and another person will love it. Different opinions and life experiences. 🙂