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October 7, 2008 11:03 PM   Subscribe

Here there be dragons. On 8 October 2008, the #1 book on was Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, the third book of the Inheritance quartet. The books recount the adventures of Eragon and Saphira, the last Free Dragon, but they are hardly free from past influences. In medieval lore, dragons are man’s great foe, a monstrous version of the serpent from the garden of Eden. Raphael’s painting (c. 1506) of St. George and the Dragon evokes this idea, but dragons and their heraldic relatives, the wyverns, gained a more positive reputation over time. Look to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle for the inspiration behind Paolini's dragons, or try Dealing with Dragons, geared towards younger readers. There be dragons on bookshelves everywhere.
posted by woodway (45 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I tried to read Eragon and couldn't get through the first chapter. YMMV.
posted by lumensimus at 11:31 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Paolini's books are crap. At least the first two are; I don't know about Brisingr, and I'm not likely to bother to find out. The plot is a blatant rip off of Star Wars, only changed to fantasy and even more formulaic. The main character is a raging Marty Stu, who is awesome and amazing at everything he tries with little effort. The dialogue is insipid, the action is tired.

Paolini was something like 17 when the first one was written, and it shows. As I understand it, his parents' company published the first book, and just dumped advertising money into it until it started to succeed in spite of itself, at which point a real publishing company picked it up; a smart move for them, since all the hard work had already been done for them.

In general, I have a very high tolerance for shitty but entertaining fantasy-action books, but the Inheritance quartet blows past that. If Paolini hadn't had his parent's company and money at his disposal, he would have had to do what most authors do; write several of shitty books which would never see the light of day before writing a book good enough to be published. I do think he has the potential to be good enough to be published, but I also think the Inheritance books should have remained practice novels that never saw the light of day. I predict that he will hate them by the time he's thirty and has actually learned to write.

Unless he never does learn to write, in which case we can look forward to a future of thousands of murdered trees to foist Paolini's crap off on the public; the way the business works today, once you're a NYT Bestseller, you'll always be published. It's practically a self-perpetuating cycle, more's the pity.

On the other hand, I can't recommend Dealing with Dragons and its three sequels highly enough. They were my very favorite book series ever as a youngster, and they deserve far more acclaim then they've gotten.
posted by Caduceus at 11:45 PM on October 7, 2008 [8 favorites]

Screw Eragon, it's all about Temeraire. Napoleonic era dragon squadrons for the win!
posted by bettafish at 12:07 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eh, my 8-year-old loves these books. Their chief appeal seems to be a high page count and dragons.
posted by GuyZero at 1:19 AM on October 8, 2008

Publishers clearly think the thirst for dragon books is far from satiated. Gollancz will soon publish The Adamantine Palace, first in a trilogy of dragon books by new author Stephen Deas (a friend of mine).
posted by mr. strange at 1:21 AM on October 8, 2008

Napoleonic era dragon squadrons for the win!

Or dragon-bombers and troop transports in Turtledove's Darkness series. Again, the pages, lordy, the pages. Dude must be able to write in his sleep.
posted by GuyZero at 1:21 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

The self published Eragon ones sell well on eBay. I think the kid was homeschooled and he is the darling of the reborns.
posted by Bitter soylent at 1:44 AM on October 8, 2008

Reborns wouldn't read about dragons because dragons are demons from hell.
posted by PenDevil at 2:17 AM on October 8, 2008

The RiffTrax of the Eragon movie is wonderful. "E-Ragon. Get your ragons on-line, at E-Ragon!"
posted by JHarris at 2:24 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

In a similar vein to the RiffTrax, there's a long and entertaining review/recap of Eragon over at The Agony Booth.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:07 AM on October 8, 2008

the kids who comes to my bookstore also love Dragonology
posted by jammy at 3:57 AM on October 8, 2008

If you think that Tolkien was as good as it gets, you'll like this guy. If you think it gets better than you'll like Lawrence Watt-Evans.
posted by ewkpates at 4:00 AM on October 8, 2008

Temeraire > Eragon
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:18 AM on October 8, 2008

Oh, fuck, I was just recently on top of things, but now it's what? Dragons, bacons, and ninjas? Jesus.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:01 AM on October 8, 2008

What is it with tween/young adult fantasy and huge page counts? Stephenie Meyer writes 3000 pages of vampire drama annually. She has sold millions of copies, and I never even heard of her until last weekend.

Anyway, dragons are cool, and it is possible that there are things in Eragon that appeal to the target audience but not grown-ups, and I'm OK with that. Shitty film though. My dragon-obsessed 5-yr-old couldn't sit through it; QED.
posted by Mister_A at 5:25 AM on October 8, 2008

I read Eragon last year and my copy was misprinted - it was missing about 50 pages. I was tempted to send it back to the publisher and ask them if they would remove the rest for me.
posted by plinth at 5:40 AM on October 8, 2008 [7 favorites]

A bit back I read some overview of Eragon and I was pretty stunned what a direct swipe it was from Star Wars. I'm kinda surprised George hasn't sued/there's not been more fuss about it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:46 AM on October 8, 2008

No discussion about dragon novels is complete without mentioning Kenneth Eng's "masterwork," Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate.

Dragons with swords and guns. YMWNV.
posted by Dr-Baa at 5:57 AM on October 8, 2008

Eragon was terrible. Somebody gave it to my son when it first came out and neither of us could even get through it. Instead, I recommend Jo Walton for excruciatingly proper dragons who worry about etiquette.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:47 AM on October 8, 2008

I was pressed to read Eragon by a well-meaning fool. "Here, you like that fantasy stuff, you'll love this." It was so wretched I couldn't make it past the first chapter. Cadeceus states it perfectly.

You want dragons? George RR Martin's series "A Song of Ice and Fire" has a trio of dragons in it but more important, more double-crossing, back-stabbing, twisted beyond belief plot lines that hold together like battleship chains. It is decidedly for adults and takes no prisoners. Which is probably why HBO bought the option. Now if George would only get the new book out...
posted by Ber at 6:52 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can't say anything about the quality, but reading the synopsis at Powells (dragon riders, psychic connection) makes them sound highly derivative of Anne McCaffrey.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:05 AM on October 8, 2008

Dragons? Anne McCaffrey! Telepathic, friendly dragons, that pop 'between' to get from one place to another, in a moment ("the time it takes to cough 3 times", IIRC).
posted by Goofyy at 7:10 AM on October 8, 2008

I actually met Christopher Paolini once at the Seattle Bookfest years ago, back before all this Eragon weirdness took off. Every time I see something about his new releases, I think "oh, the Shy Skinny Kid at the Bookfest wrote another story..."

Of course, that Shy Skinny Kid is now an empire. Stupid empires of Shy Skinnies!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:23 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Written for a younger audience or not, Dealing with Dragons and its sequels are orders of magnitude better than Eragon.
posted by version control at 8:02 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I read Dragonriders of Pern as a young lad; that was some good stuff. Thanks for the reminder.
posted by Mister_A at 8:05 AM on October 8, 2008

Why is that Temeraire edition on Amazon $75? Is it rare/first/signed? Also, this is young adult/teen, right? Looks interesting.
posted by Mister_A at 8:09 AM on October 8, 2008

Shit, A Song of Ice and Fire has dragons? I gave up too soon. But lord knows when I'm going to have time to sit down and write notes for two weeks on them so I can figure out what's going on.

In the meantime, I think I might check out this Temeraire thing.

On the other hand, I read Turtledove's Darkness. Don't recommend that one, either. Disregarding anything else, it had more uncaught typos than any other series of books I've ever picked up.

Hell, it had more typos than some unedited fiction series I've read on the web.
posted by Caduceus at 8:28 AM on October 8, 2008

Reborns wouldn't read about dragons because dragons are demons from hell.
posted by PenDevil at 2:17 AM on October 8 [+] [!]

Silly - they existed at the same time as man and the regular borns called them dinosaurs.
posted by Bitter soylent at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2008

The $75 edition of Temeraire linked above is the limited-edition hardcover from Subterranean Press. The paperback is more affordable. I don't think it's actually YA, but it's not a difficult read. I finished the first one in an afternoon, and while it was fun, pacey, Hornblower-with-dragons, I wasn't hooked. YMMV, as I know lot of people that love them.

I second the recommendation of Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw.
posted by penguinliz at 8:45 AM on October 8, 2008

Dealing with Dragons! Man, those books have been lurking at the back of my brain since middle school. I need to read them again. Thanks for reminding me, woodway.
posted by Mister Cheese at 9:15 AM on October 8, 2008

I read Eragon, noting it's huge flaws, but at the same time, thinking "Cool, a teenager wrote this". When Eldest came out, I picked it up, thinking "Let's see how this precocious author has progressed". IMHO, he regressed. The second was WORSE than the first, and I couldn't get through half of it. My kid wanted to see Eragon the movie, and it was abysmally bad. Yet, people are buying it. Guess that explains McCain only being 8 points behind Obama.
posted by prodigalsun at 9:25 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry, but these books are garbage. Caduceus nailed it.

The movie is even worse. After I watched it, I had to force my wife to sit through it, just because misery needed company. And they are making more of them. Joy.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:25 AM on October 8, 2008

Oh man, the movie. I can't believe I let my friends talk me into paying theater price for that one. It was easily one of the five worst movies I've ever seen. In fact, the only worse movie I can think of is Battlefield: Earth, and only because it wasn't as long.
posted by Caduceus at 9:33 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you guys like badly written dragon novels, you should check out badly written vampire novels. Thanks, Twilight. Now everyone thinks their Buffy fanfic could get published.
posted by graventy at 9:36 AM on October 8, 2008

I agree whole-heartedly with caduceus et al. When I saw the Amazon best-seller list last night, I had to refresh it a couple times to be sure I was really seeing Brisingr at the top of the list. They hyped the first one with the fact it was written by a 17-yr old "prodigy." But geez, this is the 3rd one, and there's no improvement. Um, yeah, I read it. In my defence, I was sick and needed a laugh.
posted by woodway at 9:40 AM on October 8, 2008

If you guys like badly written dragon novels, you should check out badly written vampire novels. Thanks, Twilight. Now everyone thinks their Buffy fanfic could get published.

I hear that the first book was actually well-written and interesting, because she spent a long time perfecting it before it got picked up for publication, and that the rest of them are churned out crap. I wouldn't know; I haven't read any of them, as I prefer my vampires being hunted down and exterminated, not literally fucked.

You should really blame Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books for the badly written vampire sex novels that are glutting the market at this point. Twilight was just a continuation of the trend.
posted by Caduceus at 9:53 AM on October 8, 2008

The Dealing with Dragons series really is marvelous. Funny and charming and with actual interesting characters... that set is something that I wish I could read for the first time again, if that makes any sense.
posted by marginaliana at 11:01 AM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Even though it was a D&D spinoff novel, I loved Dragonlance Chronicles when I was in 9th grade. It probably helped that I was first getting into D&D. It's probably the most well-written trilogy based on a game. Heh, which is saying a lot, I know.
posted by ignignokt at 11:26 AM on October 8, 2008

I think you all are wasting your time reading dragon novels. Instead you should be joining my Dragon Wars alliance so we can each kick some ass!

seriously. memail me.
posted by msalt at 11:53 AM on October 8, 2008

There be dragons on bookshelves everywhere.

And on my surcoat.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:42 PM on October 8, 2008

The thing with all these badly written vampire (and dragon) novels is that they seem to be right on target for their target audience(s). I was chaperoning a gang of smart, sassy* 13- and 14-year-old girls at a birthday party, and there were several of them that were completely obsessed with Twilight and the rest of Meyer's books. They LOVE these characters, they put them on T-shirts and stuff. It's amazing.

*I only use this word here to be irritatingly trite.
posted by Mister_A at 1:12 PM on October 8, 2008

Good dragons: Yes, Dealing with Dragons and sequels is amazing and wonderful.

Good vampires: Robin McKinley's Sunshine. Completely masterful. Try it!
posted by fuzzbean at 5:07 PM on October 8, 2008

And on my surcoat.

That's my first encounter of Trogdor... I've just realized there must be whole vistas of the internet that is unknown to me. How did this happen?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:20 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I was 14, I was reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Someone really needs to give a copy of that book to each of all these Eragon fans.
posted by JHarris at 10:48 PM on October 8, 2008

When I was 14, I was reading may way through all of Harry Harrisons' work oh and James Herbert's The Fog... which would probably explain a lot actually.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:31 AM on October 9, 2008

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