Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dear Author, “What’s wrong with you?”

Inheritance, Book 4, Christopher  Paolini
I have just finished reading the fouth and final book in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance / Eragon series. Finally. And boy, was it a chore! It is an extremely popular series and loads of people all round the world apparently love it. I don’t. I read the final book simply as an obligation.

There are several other wildly successful and loved books which I barely can tolerate and some I outright dislike. I know saying such things aloud is blasphemy (grins) but I think I would dedicate this post to such books / book series. The books are in no particular order and some may even have started out promisingly before crumbling into a heap of illogic, no resolutions and plain ol’ ‘get-it-over-already’.

  • Twilight Series, Stephanie Meyer: Okay, don’t shoot me. Part I of the final book’s movie version, “Breaking Dawn” released earlier this week and is apparently generating mass hysteria and wild-eyed frenzy all over the world. I, for one, have difficulty understanding the lure. The first book starts off with an interesting plot. Girl moves to a new place, new school. Girl is attracted to a mysterious, good-looking class mate. Boy likes her back though he has a strange way of showing it. Turns out he is a vampire – a vegetarian vampire, if you will – and he tries to resist her because he wants to protect her from his kind. But it’s true love for Bella Swan and she is willing to sacrifice everything for him. After an abduction and rescue from another psychotic vampire, all’s well in their world. Okay, the girl – I can’t call her heroine, she has to display some guts for that – is plain insipid, whiny and clingy. Edward – the vampire hero - is intriguing and noble, the shining knights kind sans the armour. But it’s all a little different, so I like it. Then the horror starts in the second book. All of a sudden, you have vampire royalty threatening to kill our oh-so-delectable heroine. The werewolves come to party but there is just one problem – they are arch enemies of vampires. And then there’s Jacob, Bella’s best friend, who turns out to be a werewolf and in love with Bella. Guess, what happens next. In one truly cringeworthy and incredulous scene, Bella is camped out in snowy mountains with both the vampire and the werewolf – they are united in their goal to protect little Ms. Damsel-in-perpetual-danger. I can’t precisely remember why. And because she is freezing and her boyfriend Edward being vampire is cold to touch, she sleeps – literally – with Jacob to get warm and here’s the whopper, with Edward’s permission. He is a saint, ain’t he? But the final cake is taken by *spoiler ahead* when Jacob finds himself mated for life with Edward and Bella’s daughter literally the moment she is born and just like that the triangle becomes a weird set of parallel lines! “spoiler ends* 
  • The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho: I read quite often how celebs cite this book as their favourite. A fabulous read which in a way opens their eyes to the truth of life. Me? I found it difficult to finish, despite its slim size and simple language. Because it moralizes. Preaches. And I hate that kind of tone. It reminds me of Moral Science lessons in school and I couldn’t stand the subject. At the end of every chapter, there is almost a moral of the story kind of lesson. It does have its moments though. I especially liked the concept of how the entire universe conspires to help you attain the one thing you truly desire. The story is simple but pretentious – a feat that I have not seen many authors accomplish and I am not too sure that I like it.
  •  Eragon / Inheritance Series, Christopher Paolini: I just couldn't get over how ambitious it tried to be while finding its inspiration in two exceptional and unparalleled worlds that Rowling and J.R.R Tolkien created. The quest to defeat an all pervasive evil ruler - Galbatorix - with the help of various magical species from elves to dwarves and dragons (the last alone were a new addition to this world) seems like a pale imitation of the epic battle that Aragorn (see how even the name is similar), Frondo, Gandalf and others wage against Sauron in Lord of the Rings. In fact, there is a hint of Hunger Games also in the last throes of the book.  And Eragon is no epic hero. The secondary characters like Roran, Nasauda and Murtagh are more interesting. In fact, it is one of my peeves that Paolini leaves so much unresolved when it comes to these people.  Eragon is insipid and is only a circumstantial hero. He would have been very ordinary if a dragon had not hatched for him. He whines quite a lot. He has no true ties except with Saphira, his dragon. He pines for Arya, the elf but never has the courage to speak to her freely. Roran, on the other hand, is a self-made hero. Here is a man, a hero who wins his battles through sheer courage, ingenuity and wit, without magic. A true master of his fate. This holds true of Nasauda too. A young girl, barely older than Eragon, she leads an epic army into a war against the greatest evil. She has no magic in her. But she is gritty, a great strategist and an astute leader. She has her moments of vanity and regret but they quickly pass. And Muratgh! I wish Paolini had taken more time and effort to sketch that particular strain. Even Galbatorix - when we finally - see him comes across as quite ordinary for a villain competing with the likes of Voldemort or Sauron. Trust me when I say that the climax was quite anti-climactic. Plus, the book could have been half in length. 
  •  Books by Chetan Bhagat: I have read two and have no intention of reading others. At least, not because I want to. It could be because my sister has bought one and for the lack of anything better I do so. I have read One Night at Call Centre and Three Mistakes of my Life. If I were to write about all the things I dislike about his books, I would never stop. But for starters how about the stories themselves, which are like bad Bollywood potboilers in English. Phone call from God, anyone? And what about romancing best friend’s sister and sleeping with her on the terrace? That’s certainly original. Then there’s the writing style and language. Which is not too bad, if you were a seventh standard student writing in school magazine. Then it would have shown potential. I know a lot of people like his books especially because the language is everyday, simple English but I would direct them to the inimitable R. K. Narayan to see how the same tool can be used to greater and beautiful effect. 
  • A House for Mr. Biswas, V. S. Naipual: No! I can see you gasping in horror. It is a classic. Critically acclaimed. A literary gem. Sorry, I didn’t like it. I felt no empathy for Mr. Biswas or his miserable little quest for a house. And not because his life has no grandeur of an epic or the shine, no matter how brittle, of a posh sophisticated society. Simply because, his character seems like one drawn out torture with no little moments of happiness at all. If you have read the great Hindi author Premchand, you would see what I am talking about. he also writes about the common man – the farmer, the daily labourer, the shepherd – but there are moments in his stories, even when they end tragically, where the characters see hope and for a shining instant, all’s well with the world. Naipual’s book lacks that. 

That’s it for now. There are some others that I could talk about but I see the length of my post and realize that it is a potential sleeping drug. :-) 

But I would love to hear about books that you did not like and then we can compare notes.

Until then, ciao.


  1. I like the Twilight series - there was some kind of morbid fascination it held for me.. how much more weird can the author make it.. the imprinting bit was clearly the last straw!! But having said that, it couldnt put the book(s) down.. wanting to know what more lateral thinking will the author do!!! :)

    I read the Eragon series, I havent reached Inheritance yet. Is it that bad?

    And am completely with you on Alchemist!!!!

  2. @ Moonshine: I get what you are trying to say about Twilight. I have heard some other people say the same. As far Inheritance is concerned, I had forgotten half the characters and twists in the series by the time this book came out. I did not like it because I found Eragon too weak a character to be the hero of an epic. Like I said other characters were more interesting and Paolini leaves their stories kind of unfinished. I think you will see what I mean once you read it. :-)

  3. Came here from Moonshine's blog.Been reading you for a while. Just had to comment today since you have written about books. Completely agree with you on Twilight and Alchemist. Twilight was just weird - though like Moonshine said I too kept with the series just to see what 'weird' thing would happen next!

    As far as Chetan Bhagat is concerned, I think the 2 books you read are most definitely his worst. Five point someone was passable when I read it entering college but I never attempted reading his other books.

  4. @ Shruti: Thanks for stopping by. :-)

  5. I wonder what you think of the Millenium series? :)
    - Scarlett

    ps: Your blog won't let me comment using my Blogger ID

  6. @ Anonymous / Scarlett: Millennium series would also have been a part of this list. I think i missed out on it. The first book was in parts very captivating till it degraded into some senseless Conspiracy theory with Lisbeth vs. Rest of the World kind of drama playing out!
    BTW, there must be something wrong with Blogger
    :-O I have always seen your comments with your name,

  7. I quite liked Millenium series! It was quite fast paced and I couldnt put it down as well. I like sequels actually.. makes me happy that there is something to look forward to!

    BTW the sequel to Dork is out!! :)

  8. @ Moonshine: I like sequels too :-) ...but for Millennium series somehow it went wrong for me, with a very interesting first book to "hello, what just happened here" kind of final book :-O

  9. Sequel to Dork is out??!!! Must pick it up during my trip home!!

    BTW, Secret of the Nagas - belongs right on this list.

    - Scarlett

  10. @ Scarlett: You read Secret of Nagas?? I couldn't summon any active interest in it - not because of the storyline but because of the writing style. Amish seemed to have been trying too hard to sound cool when talking about myths / legends, with all his "Man"s, and "Shit"s.

  11. Well. I liked Immortals of Meluha. The writing style & language were really jarring and try hard, but I liked the story and the spin on mythology. So I was looking forward to Secret of the Nagas, and although the language is better in this one, there's no story at all!! The book just never picks up pace.

    - Scarlett

  12. Agree with you on most counts.

    The first book in the Twilight series was engaging because it was about this gawky new girl in town and the high school heartthrob who is also a vampire! But the second book onward it just became about vampires vs. werewolves which led to a downward spiral.

    It was still better than the Millennium series which feels like a mishmash of events to me. Still not able to finish the third book. The first book was interesting and I wanted to know what made Lisbeth the way she was. But the second book just offered some unsatisfactory answers and of course Lisbeth became one of the many bedded by Blomkvist.

    Reading Immortals of Meluha was a bad decision on my part. Books by Indian authors are to be read with caution. They sprout by the dozen every other week and are almost always deficient in linguistic ability or coherent plots.

    As for Chetan Bhagat, I agree with Shruti that you have actually read 2 of his worst books. Five point someone was a decent read especially when one was in B-school.

    And I am always so glad to find anyone who doesn't think The Alchemist is so hot! I never could understand why that book made it so big.