Chapter Fifty-Two: And All The World A Dream
Nasuaada is being tortured. Bad King Galbatorix is mind-raping her. He’s trying to break her mind by flooding it with shit that is obviously not real. Nasuaada is laughing, no really, the chapter begins with Nasuaada laughing her head off as Galby sends her on a bad acid trip.
When I said this chapter had potential, I meant it. The idea of the villain, The Villain of this story, trying to break someone’s mind is interesting and can be done well. Having one’s mind tampered with, while not a new idea, can be a very effective when done properly. Particularly when presented as a form of punishment or torture. It’s one thing to damage to body, but mental pain and the scars that are left behind are sometimes shown to be a worse fate.
On Deep Space Nine episode “Hard Time”, Chief O’Brien was falsely accused of espionage and the punishment consisted of a false memory being implanted in his mind. The memory was of a 20 year prison sentence that while fake, was extremely traumatic and left O’Brien paranoid and emotionally damaged. The course of the episode shows the deterioration and pain O’Brien suffers from this false memory, yes those 20 years never happened, but to O’Brien those 20 traumatic years were vivid and horrifyingly alive in his mind. Ultimately Captain Sisko has to temporarily relieve O’Brien of his duties so that he can recover.
This is a perfect example of how the idea of false memories and images can be used effectively as a means of punishment and torture. O’Brien’s mind had been broken by the memory implant, he suffered from it and we see his suffering and the effects of this false memory. To add to the impact of this episode is seeing the change in O’Brien himself. O’Brien was a major character on DS9, a favorite of mine in fact. We saw him at work, with his family, the friendship that grew between him and Dr. Bashir. We knew him as a character, a person, knew his personality and quirks. And so when we see the dramatic shift in personality, the change that comes over him within “Hard Time”, it really hits home how much this fake memory is hurting him.
And now we come to CP and how he handles this idea. See, the first problem here is the levity and lack of danger. For one thing, Ol’ Galby seems to be beaming obviously false images and memories into Nasuaada’s head. Why? I really can’t tell. I mean, he’s trying to confuse her, I guess. But I feel that what would be more confusing would be a memory that is close to be real. Make Nasuaada believe that she has escaped Galby’s clutches, show her images of her breaking out and going on to lead the Varden to victory, then living a happy and fulfilled life afterward. Then break her out of that memory, show her that it was false. Then try it again, in a different fashion. Have Nasuaada wake up back in the Varden camp, try and make her believe that her kidnapping and captivity with Galby was a bad dream.
These sorts of scenarios are remarkably effective because they have the potential to be true. Showing her drug-fueled dreamscapes might make her think that she’s gone insane. Showing her realities that are possible and then showing that they are false will make her doubt her sanity to begin with. She’ll begin to doubt whether she is within the dream world or reality, she’ll doubt her mind, her own memories. That is how you do it.
And CP does sort of attempt this. At one point Galby tries to trick Nasuada into thinking that she is in the future, having survived the war and now lives with Murtagh and their children, though at times she suffers ‘attacks.’ It’s a good attack on Galby’s part, it shows a possible future with Nasuada as someone whose mind can’t be trusted. This is a point in CP’s favor. Then we get a couple more illusions that had the potential to be true; a fellow captive named Rialla and a captured Eragon. However these latter illusions were ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’ and the effect is kind of lost as Nasuada recounts these events with no emotion whatsoever.
All of these illusions are also ruined in that Nasuada immediately figures out that they are illusions. See, we never see her genuinely doubt herself, she always knows that Galby is trying to trick her and none of it is real. So the whole point of the chapter, seeing Nasuada’s mind torture, fails because there really is no torture. She always figures out the illusion immediately, or shortly thereafter. The whole point of breaking a character’s mind with mental torture is to make them doubt their mind and sanity. To leave behind mental scars, rather than physical. But CP focuses on elaborate descriptions and Galby causing her pain, rather than doubt. Really, for a supposedly mastermind villain, Galby is quite stupid. You can cause her body pain in real life, that’s not the point of mental torture. And as the pain is an illusion, an obvious illusion, none of it truly hurts Nasuada. In fact at one point Nasuada talks about how ‘entertaining’ one of Galby’s illusions was.
It had been rather dashing and exciting, and she had been tempted to find out how the sequence of events would resolve itself, but by then he felt she had played along with Galbatorix’s false show for long enough. Pg. 528
The words of a woman being tortured.
Second problem is the character herself, and this is an issue that has started with the first book of this God-awful series. As I mentioned before part of the impact and awesome’ness of the DS9 episode centered around the character of O’Brien. We already knew him, we knew something was wrong; we saw the shift in personality and saw the change. It’s different with Nasuaada though. She, like all characters in the Inheritance Vomit-fest, is incomplete. A 2D, cardboard cutout. I really don’t know much about her, after four books the character of Nasuaada is sadly lacking. Thus her torture comes off as being almost cold and clinical. There is no attachment to the character, no warmth, no connection. We can’t relate to her and so her suffering has no impact.
And as I pointed out before, she isn’t really suffering to begin with. We get purple-prose saturated descriptions of her torture, of the dreamscapes she wanders through, and none if it hits an emotional chord. It’s all description and embellishment, like CP is covering what should be a raw, emotional torture scene with a three foot layer of sugary frosting. There is no real emotion; sure we get melodramatic descriptions of THE PAIN. But of emotion? Well, look at the beginning of the chapter. She’s fucking laughing. Even Nasuaada doesn’t take this seriously and it makes me not want to take this whole situation seriously as well.
And still she laughed. Pg. 522
Watching them crawl toward her, Nasuaada began to chuckle Is this all he can think of? I have stranger dreams nearly every night. Pg. 523
She laughed again. Now Galbatorix was just trying to punish her. Pg. 526
I mean, really? She spends almost the entire chapter laughing. I get that CP is trying to show how brave she is (cue Nala “I laugh in the face of danger.”). But at the same time, there is no sense of danger, or suffering for that matter. This relates to a well-known problem of CP in that he’s afraid to truly hurt his characters, at least permanently. Eragon’s scar is removed completely, Arya’s marks of torture vanish and she was able to conveniently prevent rape from happening. Now Nasuada gets a pass in that her torture isn’t really torture. She will have no scars from this, either emotional or physical. Nothing will really affect her character here, this chapter might as well not exist as it has no impact on the character or story. Really, the only person who sort gets some character development is Murtagh, as we see him risking his life to help Nasuada. And I almost feel as if this is an accident, as this chapter is supposed to be about Nasuada, not Murtagh.
The almost whimsical chapter title doesn’t help either. It seems to be a more fitting title for a nursery rhyme rather than a torture chapter.
There really isn’t much more to add here. This chapter just disappoints me and these books disappoint me. I think that deep down; CP does have some writing talent. You see it in these bits and flashes throughout the books, moments when you think that ‘hey, this kid isn’t so bad after all.’ But then he ruins it, drowns it in purple prose and filler, chokes it death with thesaurus abuse and poor character development. If I could sum up this series with one word it would be ‘disappointment.’ This chapter had potential, it had a chance, and it flopped. We could have had a moment like in DS9 “Hard Time.” The moment where we see O’Brien breaking down, at the edge of his sanity, screaming out in pain and confusion at his best friend, Bashir;
“I’m not your friend! The O’Brien that was your friend died in that cell!”
Instead we get this;
She started to laugh again, and she continued to laugh even as Galbatorix forced her to confront horror after horror in an attempt to find the particular combination of pain and fear that would break her. She laughed because she knew her will was stronger than his imagination… Pg. 531
One person suffered from genuine torture and pain, the other didn’t. Can you guess which?
Chapter Fifty Three: A Question of Character
Sorry about the delay, but we’ve had a pretty hectic week. I think we can all agree, whether you were pro-Romney or pro-Obama, it is relief to not have to deal with those damn political ads filling up every little bit of media.
Previously in Inheritance…
Nasuada, leader of the Varden, captured! Roran smashes cities! Murtagh has a change of heart! Brom is still dead! And Eragon is still a moron!
When we last left our brave heroes, they had journeyed across the sea to find the secret to defeating the evil king Galbatorix. Eragon and Saphira must open the Vault of Souls to receive the deus ex machina that will allow them to defeat Galbatorix and restore peace Umlaut-Land! But uh oh! Looks like Eragon and Saphira forget the Super Secret Password to the Vault of Souls!
Will they ever figure out how to open the Vault? Will they find a way to destroy Galbatorix? Will Eragon finally get to bang hot elf Arya? Find out next in INHERITANCE!!!!!
Sorry, I had to lighten the mood a bit, because laughter is what keeps me sane as I do this. At any rate, the little opening here proves a point. The pacing of Inheritance is simply terrible. It’s not just the filler and the CP’s love of using a hundred words when ten would suffice, it’s the fact that CP also seems to devote an inordinate amount of time and pages to the most inane moments of Inheritance. The more important details that should get more attention are often neglected.
Let’s compare this chapter and the last. Last chapter focused on Nasuada’s torture. It was roughly 9 ½ pages. This next chapter features Eragon and Saphira trying to figure out their true names. It is about 16 pages. See, we had a 9 page chapter about an evil king trying to mentally torture one of the main characters. Now we have a 16 page chapter where Eragon and Saphira will sit around and think really, really hard about what their true names are. I’m not kidding. I think this is part of the reason the last chapter flops, in that CP didn’t want to spend all that much time on the mental torture, and instead cheats by cutting corners and having Nasuada telling the readers what has happened after the fact. Rather than showing us, which would have had more impact, but also would have taken longer. And God forbid CP spend too much time away from his most favorite part of these books: Eragon.
So now CP is going to describe in loving and excruciating detail, Eragon’s quest for his true name. Which isn’t really that exciting. Seriously, the chapter opens with Eragon slipping in mud and falling on his ass. I guess Eragon’s super man-elf reflexes only work when it is convenient, unless CP is trying to hint that Eragon’s kryptonite is mud. Eragon: he can cure cancer, fall through midair to attack one dragon, punch straight through one guy’s armor and chest, yet mud makes him slip.
Eragon and Saphira had decided to hang around the Rider island (I refuse to use CP’s stupid names when I can help it), in hopes of opening the Vault of Souls/deus ex machina. Because you know, it’s not like they have anything else to do. They are hedging their bets on the notion that Solem-‘rumpabump’-bum isn’t lying to them. Which we know he isn’t, CP wouldn’t allow one of his good ‘cool’ creatures to be liars. So they stay and sit around, talking to one another, trying to figure out what their name is.
Let me just say that I don’t have a problem with the idea of ‘true names’ in literature. I don’t believe CP really stole this particular bit from le Guin, as the idea of magical soul names is a very, very old trope. It pops up in a lot of various fantasy pieces, it’s nothing new. My beef with CP is how he’s handling the whole thing, mainly with this one chapter.
In the beginning, three books ago, CP introduced the concept of true names into Umlaut-Land. Everything has a true name in the ancient language, if you know said true name you can control someone with it. Nothing new there. CP goes on to add that his special race of Sues, the Elves, are born knowing their true name. Which is kinda of a cop out, not to mention, what exactly does this mean for the Elves? I mean, a true name is supposed to be the essence of who you are, it is essentially a label and description for your soul. Now imagine being born knowing exactly who you are, down to the core, and growing up with this knowledge. Self-discovery, self-reflection essentially don’t exist for the Elves as they are already born knowing who they are. I think a better writer could have done something awesome with this, instead this is just another Sue trait.
Boring old humans/muggles have to work for their true names. Maybe an Elf might tell them, (because Elves love humans), but for the most part it is hinted that discovering someone’s true name is basically a quest. You have to earn it. So Eragon, of course, pulls out Sloan’s true name from his ass. And now he’s going to do it again with his own.
CP is going to drag it out, but the end is inevitable. Oh, and we get this delicious moment, where Eragon muses on how he wants to be the one who finds out his true name:
…because he did not want Glaedr or Saphira to figure it out for him. If he was to hear his whole being described in a word or phrase, then he wanted to arrive at that knowledge on his own, instead of having it thrust upon him. Pg. 534
So instead, Eragon will thrust such knowledge upon others, but he does not want for one to thrust upon him. Only Eragon is allowed to do the thrusting.
Oh, hey! We’ve gone about a page without over-wrought descriptions of the scenery. Time for to shove a bunch of adjectives into a paragraph. Come here thesaurus, it’s thrusting time.
Embedded within the transparent material were swirling blades of color that formed an abstract design of dizzying complexity. Pg. 534
Everything is ‘dizzyingly’ complex to you, Eragon.
Water dripped from the ends of vines to fall into shallow, misshapen puddles, and the sound of the droplets striking echoed throughout the building, a constant, irregular beat that Eragon thought would drive him mad if he had to listen to it for more than a few days. Pg. 534
Thank God you’ll figure out your true name before that happens. I guess this is the tension here, the risk of Eragon going insane before he finds out his true name. Because there is nothing else driving this chapter. They literally sit around doing nothing. I thought that snail chapter was bad, but I should’ve known that CP would outdo himself. He is the master of mind-numbing boredom after all.
CP lampshades the fact that it is kind of odd that Eragon was able to figure out Sloan’s true name, but doesn’t know Saphira’s. You know, the partner of his heart, the one he has known from the moment of birth and has shared minds with ever since. Yeah, the butcher in town that he hated and barely talked to was the person he knew more intimately. But this is only mentioned in passing, as an ‘oh that is weird oh well’ moment. These books tend to have a lot of those.
Shit gets real when Eragon and Saphira tell each other their flaws. Hey, did you know Eragon had flaws? OMG, I thought he was so perfect and wonderful. Again, we’re just lampshading here. I feel as if CP is aware of the criticisms and cries of ‘Sue’ and decided to throw in this. Look you guys, he has flaws, so he isn’t a Sue. Yet the way he handles it is so Sue-like.
It had been a humbling exercise. Pg. 535
Yes, Eragon, you are truly a saint to ‘humbly’ recognize your faults. Wanna bet that one of his failings was the whole Sloan incident? No? What about the way you slaughtered that one young man who had been forced to serve Galby and only wanted to return home? Oh wait, that was a good thing too? So we only get some vague mentions of arrogance and anger and ‘other shortcomings’ as being his faults. This is some deep introspection shit here.
Glaedr channels Yoda, there’s some more description of stuff I don’t care about. Eragon navel-gazes, more lampshading of these elusive faults and blindness that Eragon supposedly has. It’s raining, because there’s nothing CP likes more than describing the rain. Apprently the floor of their camp is made of glass, allowing for CP to really break out the adjectives here. Thrust that thesaurus hard, CP. Eragon decides to fast until he finds his true name, again the tension is mounting. Will Eragon go mad from the sound of rain before finding his true name? Or will he simply starve to death?
I’m starting to miss the snails.
And then Saphira discovers her name. It is as anti-climactic and dull as you can imagine. She glows and bit and CP waxes poetic about how grand and majestic her name is. Apparently her true name also describes her as the last female of her kind. Wait…what? Cause we’ve all read ahead and know what’s in the Vault O’Souls. We know that technically, she isn’t the last female…so her being the last female is a lie…how can her true name hold a lie…I’m giving this way more thought than CP did.
Anyway, her name is all sorts of beauty and adjectives, and they all orgasm over it. Now Eragon has to find out his true name, by himself. He decides to go on another stroll, and leaves his sword behind.
You cannot learn what you are made of if you rely on anyone or anything else to help you. Pg. 540
Shut up, Glaedr. I swear to God if you vomit out one more bit of fortune cookie wisdom I’m going to scream. No wonder the Riders fell so easily if this was one of their teachers.
“Hey, uh guys…we’re being attacked by another Rider who’s gone ape-shit.”
“Leave your swords. Weapons will not help you when you must fight what comes from within.”
Eragon goes running, throws rocks around, cavorts in the meadow with one of those giant snails. He then climbs a pillar, an immense pillar, and the climb is long and arduous. I’m imagining that as CP wrote this he had some epic scene in mind, grand music swelling in the background as Eragon pulls himself up the rock, like one of those Nike commercials. Anyway, given the detail that CP has put into this, I’m guessing that the rock is where Eragon will find his name.
How can I include everything I am in just a few words? Pg. 545
How about Jackass? One word, short, concise, has a nice ring. Eragon the Jackass. If you want we can throw in ‘thrusting’. Eragon the Thrusting Jackass. I didn’t even have to climb a rock to do it.
More navel-gazing, Eragon is no longer the man he used to be. Yeah, figure that out when he was turned into a man-elf. Dawn approaches, CP is really setting the stage here. Eragon is on a really tall rock, facing the horizon as the sun rises, and thus his true name will come to him. I…I just can’t imagine how CP could have crammed any more clichés in there.
For the sky is hollow and the world is round…Pg. 546
I’m wondering if this is another sci-fi shout-out from CP. There’s a Star Trek Original Series episode titled titled “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” Decent episode centered around McCoy ‘Bones.’ I could be reaching here, but either way it’s a stupid line. We get it; Eragon is so deep and intellectual. Christ, he’s like the fucking hipster of Umlaut-Land. I just imagine him saying to people, “Yeah, I knew the world was round before it became mainstream.”
Eragon reaches the grand epiphany that he wasn’t who he was. This is it, the climax of his epic journey of self-discovery. Eragon has changed and shit, and doesn’t want to go back to his old self. How deep.
The music swells into a crescendo, light fills the scene, and Eragon stands up and spreads his arms to the sky, laughing and crying. And CP cries over the majesty of his writing. This is the climax of this chapter, the moment of discovering his true name and all that he is, and there is nothing. Really. What we got was 16 pages packed with melodramatic clichés, purple-prose and filler. Look at this. Eragon climbs to the top of a rock and as the sun rises he discovers his true name. The focus is on the setting, the scene, rather than the inward journey that the hero is supposedly on. Even the navel-gazing doesn’t count as true introspection. Eragon spends most of that either lampshading stuff from critics (we know you are aware of us, CP) or he reminisces about stuff we already know and things that have already happen.
Then, as light spread through the ruined city, he hurried back toward the nesting house, eager to wake Saphira and tell her and Glaedr of his discovery. Pg. 547
What discovery? What did he really learn here? That he had changed and wasn’t the boy/man he used to be? Really, this is it? Something that has been repeated over and over again through the books. I really can’t count how many times a character has noted how Eragon has changed, or Eragon talking about how he has changed. This isn’t a mind-blowing epiphany here. God dammit, CP, you had naked Elf chicks do a magic dance that turned him into an uber man-elf, we get it. He’s changed.
So this is it. The chapter that should show us something new about the hero, the chapter that supposedly features a deep inward journey of introspection, the chapter that should shake up the hero’s preconceptions and beliefs…instead rehashes old shit that’s been done before. Nothing new happens here. And the sad thing of it is, Eragon really hasn’t changed. Sure he’s got a new body, fancy clothes and a sword, and a pretentious name. But the change CP is striving to write here, the change on the inside, hasn’t happened. Eragon is pretty much the same as he was in the beginning. Sure, CP tells us he’s changed, but we never see it. Yes, I can see Eragon standing on a rock, laughing and crying because he’s discovered his true name. But I can’t see the change that has led to this, and thus the moment that is so lovingly described in great detail by CP, is meaningless to me.
I’m just going to pretend that Eragon the Thrusting Jackass is his true name.