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The Belgariad...what's wrong with it?
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:53 am    Post subject: The Belgariad...what's wrong with it? Reply with quote

Don't know if anyone's heard of it, but i've heard some rather nasty criticism from other sites and i'd just like to know why some people say bad things about it. I thought it was the greatest things i've ever red up until then--and when i found out that it continued on into the Mallorean series, i felt like i was in heaven because i hate stopping when i don't want to.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I enjoyed it. I can understand some of the criticisms, but in the end it's just an adventure. My main issue with Eddings is that he re-uses the same story formula, character-types and even maps.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the epic tradition, power comes at a price; personal, emotional, familial, what have you; but a price must be paid. Your family slaughtered in front of you or twenty years away from your wife or tricked into eating your own children or third-degree burns over 98% of your body requiring you to be encased in a painful, mechanized shell, and so on, are some of the prices that have been paid. No one in the Belgariad pays anything. No one in the Belgariad does anything. Everything is done for them. Compare the body count of heroes in the Belgariad (two with one of them resurected) to the body count of heroes in Covenant or Mordant's Need or a Song of Ice and Fire and you will get some idea.

An omnipotent spirit of prophecy handing immortality and near-godhood to you for walking from one end of the world to the other is not my idea of compelling fiction.

I want the good-guys to win, but I want them to earn their victory. The minimum price, obviously, is subjective. People who hate the Belgariad have a high price threshold. People who love the Belgariad have a very low threshold. It is not an argument that could ever be resolved.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

that's strange, i never looked at it that way.

i'm the kind of person who gets led by a leash most of the time when i read fantasy books--i just look for the good Story. When i started reading the Belgariad, it had enough mystery and intrigue to keep me going, so i didn't stop--and the prospect of sorcery was a first for me (this was after i had finished some of the Redwall series)

Khaliban...don't you think your sort of generalizing there? people who hate the Belgariad might not always have a high or low threshold, as you said. It all depends on the minds of the readers who read. In my case, I probably didn't know any better, so i was just let Eddings lead me along without so much as a protest if there were ever something wrong with his fiction story. Like i said, it was a good story and so i sort of followed that to the end.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Never been a fan of Eddings, never read one of his series to conclusion, but it's been so long since I even tried that I doubt I could put a finger on why.

(I did like The High Hunt by him, but that's not a fantasy, and he achieved a dark and gritty reality in it that which may account for my liking it.)

I'm usually a fairly undemanding reader as well. They're stories, and that's what I'm looking for.

I like Khaliban's assertion, I must say but I think that what he and Master Matthias are saying is essentially the same: It's in the mind of the reader, and it may come down to what the reader expects from his story.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
Never been a fan of Eddings, never read one of his series to conclusion, but it's been so long since I even tried that I doubt I could put a finger on why.


Just my opinion, but I don't think you missed anything, Av. No need to lose sleep over not finishing a series of his. I did finish The Belgariad and The Mallorean, and if anything worthwhile came out of that endeavor (especially in regards to The Mallorean), it was to show me how not to write fantasy, if ever I were to attempt it. I fully admit that I enjoyed The Belgariad -- the first time around. But the second time? Excruciating. I had just enough willpower to finish the first book, but I gave up on the rest.

As for the sequel series, The Mallorean...this is where I realized Eddings was simply milking the series as a cash cow and didn't give much thought to a quality story. Or at least not enough to make me view him as a "giant" of modern fantasy as some folks apparently do. I didn't particularly like The Mallorean even the first (and only) time. The first book actually started out promisingly with a good setup (that I just barely remember)...but then, the rest of the book and the series is like deja vu: it's the Belgariad all over again. Like LM said, Eddings re-uses story formulas and character-types. Yes, I'm sure other authors do as well, but the way Eddings does it is so obvious that it becomes irritating.

Avatar wrote:
(I did like The High Hunt by him, but that's not a fantasy, and he achieved a dark and gritty reality in it that which may account for my liking it.)


Yes, and this was what made The Mallorean exasperating and disappointing for me. Because in the first book, Eddings did precisely achieve a dark and gritty reality, in passages where he describes the grim, inexorable spread of a plague caused by one infected sailor stumbling into town. I remember those being brilliant passages. So Eddings is quite capable of outstanding writing, but the rest of the Mallorean is sadly missing that, IMO. I wanted more of those mesmerizing moments of darkness and death, and less of Garion and his cloying entourage. Less of Garion always looking to "Aunt Pol" for instruction, and less of Polgara always making some sanctimonious speech to Garion or whoever happens to displease her. Less of Belgarath always taking Garion aside for a "man-to-man" talk. Is Garion possibly an imbecile, in the medically relevant definition of the word? The guy has basically zero character development--because he has no brain! And then there's Princess Ce'Nedra: the Undisputed Whiniest Character in the Whole Friggin' Fantasy Universe. Those of you who think Linden Avery is whiney have obviously never met Ce'Nedra. Linden has got nothing on her.

Er, I better stop before I suffer a hemorrhage. Anyway, I was saying I wished for more darkness from Eddings and less silly romp, and I did get my wish: when I came upon The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. It gave me all the darkness I could handle, and man, it was good! Donaldson or Eddings. Gee, what a tough choice.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL Good post MM. Yeah, I don't worry about it, the little I did read was enough to not make me want to read more...in fact, I don't think I ever even read a whole book of his, barring that non-fantasy novel.

Don't exactly know why though, didn't read enough to feel the pain of a formula. Maybe it was just character exasperation, although I managed Jordan all right. Wink

Have you, (or anyone) ever read Adrian Cole's Omaran Saga?

A Place Among the Fallen
Throne of Fools
The King of Light and Shadows
The Gods in Anger


Those were pretty damn good, yet seem very obscure. I think it took me 15 years to get hold of all four (2nd hand of course Wink ). If you see them, try them out. Best feature is a character named Simon Wargallow, perhaps the closest fantasy figure to Kings Roland of Gilead that I've ever seen.

Aah, off topic, sorry. Wink

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar, you caught my eye with the Roland comment. I've considered Cole for many years - now I will have to actively seek him out. Very Happy

As for Eddings, I think of him as a sellout. Matrixman made most of the points I would have made, but to reiterate, I read and enjoyed The Belgariad when it was first published in 1982 and 1983. At the time, it was a rather entertaining epic fantasy, before the "kitchen boy turns out to be royalty and saves the world" concept became so over-used. I liked the humor in particular and I thought the character of Silk was too cool for school.

These were mass market paperbacks. It's obvious to me that when Eddings became successful and the books became popular, Del Rey saw they had a cash cow and they decided to have Eddings basically write THE EXACT SAME STORY AGAIN, call it The Malloreon, and publish them in expensive hardcovers.

I went along for two books, got infuriated, and I haven't touched Eddings since. Not only was the story and quest and characters virtually identical to The Belgariad, but I finally began to get heartily sick of the relationship between Belgarath and Polgara, too. Both of them are so all-powerful and view everything with such sarcasm and indifference, where is the suspense? Where is the danger? Humor only carries a reader so far. Eventually, if the heroes don't have a worthy antagonist, something which can actually destroy them, the story becomes quite meaningless.

Eddings' Belgariad is fine as a "beginner's guide" to epic fantasy. Afterwards, move on to something with more substance and don't further enrich this author by buying his same story over and over again.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Loved Eddings when I was younger and just starting to get into fantasy, but don't think so much of his work nowadays.

I'd say he's a good writer, but suffers from a damning lack of originality. If all you want from fantasy is a fun little adventure, Eddings will fit the bill, but don't expect anything groundbreaking as far as his fantasy work goes.

The two older non-fantasy books I've read by him ("The Losers" and "High Hunt") are both rather good though, IMHO. Personally, I'd also recommend his "Elenium" and "Tamuli" trilogies over the "Belgariad/Malloreon" series. They still suffer from the same originality problem, but I found them to be a bit more interesting. Your mileage may vary.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like Eddings - for light fluffy funny fantasy. It got immeasurable chuckles out of the Belgariad and the Malloreon. I've also read Polgara and Belgarath. I just don't look for depth from Eddings. I think he gets into trouble when he tries to take himself too seriously!

Lastly ...

Matrixman wrote:


... And then there's Princess Ce'Nedra: the Undisputed Whiniest Character in the Whole Friggin' Fantasy Universe. Those of you who think Linden Avery is whiney have obviously never met Ce'Nedra. Linden has got nothing on her...

.


Laughing Laughing Laughing I agree completely!! I had forgotten about that little whiney wretch! Makes you almost like Linden.

[I said ALMOST Jay!!]
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Master Matthias wrote:
Khaliban...don't you think your sort of generalizing there? people who hate the Belgariad might not always have a high or low threshold, as you said. It all depends on the minds of the readers who read. In my case, I probably didn't know any better, so i was just let Eddings lead me along without so much as a protest if there were ever something wrong with his fiction story. Like i said, it was a good story and so i sort of followed that to the end.


True enough. Most people have a range of values. I'll have to review other debates to see the range of reasons. I, for one, don't like to be carried along. I like to be challenged. I found the Belgariad extremly predictable (good always wins). That's not a challenge to me.

It creates an interesting question, why do you read fantasy?
Do you rate your pain threshold high or low? Wide or narrow range?
What do you expect from a fantasy series?
What do you hope for?
What do you hope against?

You could build a whole temperament sorter on this. Now I'm going to think about this all day.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kaliban wrote:
An omnipotent spirit of prophecy handing immortality and near-godhood to you for walking from one end of the world to the other is not my idea of compelling fiction.
Wow sounds just like Zindell's Ea Cycle, except for the intense changes, super high levels of thought and the fact that everybody dies (more kidding than spoiling, sort of Confused Razz ).

Eddings always reminds me of a cute board game, or Adventure Quest...or the land where the crippled kid in Otherland gets his "Thongor, type" VR personality from.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Khaliban wrote:

It creates an interesting question, why do you read fantasy?
Do you rate your pain threshold high or low? Wide or narrow range?
What do you expect from a fantasy series?
What do you hope for?
What do you hope against?

You could build a whole temperament sorter on this. Now I'm going to think about this all day.


I read fantasy because of the Story--whether it has some sort of 'repeating' in the second series or no. I like the story if it keeps my attention. As i read both the Belgariad and the Mallorean, all i saw was the continuation of a long Story.

My pain threshold...well, i guess if you mean by what limit can i take myself to in a book without freaking out and throwing it to the ground out of pure self-loathing for actually picking UP the book, i would say that i have a very high threshold--only if the writing does not hinder the storyline, i'm fine with it.

From a good fantasy series, i can expect two things:
1. a good, compelling story (duh) with great mystery, intrigue and a long, seemingly endless train of events. (i don't like it when something ends and there could be more to it)
2. writing that makes the piece of work laudable rather than demeaning and does not hinder the over all progression of the train of events. (basically, writing that's fluid enough so i can actually read the story enjoyably. I had to train myself to enjoy SRD's works.)

I just hope that the author speaks his mind, making the reader (me) comfortable in his telling of the tale. a little sarcasm, or wry humor here and there that makes me laugh can be very enjoyable. I am not a critic, especially to series such as the Belgariad and the Mallorean that actually entertained me with a good plot. Eddings was able to create likeable and unlikeable characters, and i respect him for that.

although, like i said, i'm completely in the the grasp of the author when i read their book. i don't concentrate on criticism when i've got a great story to read.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Master Matthias wrote:
i don't concentrate on criticism when i've got a great story to read.


I think we're beginning to cut it down to a good set of answers. I've trained myself to concentrate on criticism. From an article I read on writing, to become a writer, you must examine other writers, to learn from their successes and failures. The article warned me it would affect my ability to enjoy reading. This has been the case.

And I hate the heroes of the Belgariad. They are far too perfect in my opinion. I need grayness in characters to make them believable. And I really hate Polgara. That's probably a personal issue, but I really, really hate Polgara. More than any other character, hero or villain, in any other work of fiction.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Roland of Gilead wrote:
Avatar, you caught my eye with the Roland comment. I've considered Cole for many years - now I will have to actively seek him out. Very Happy


Hile Roland. Very Happy That series, The Omaran Saga, is the only work of his that I've read, and would be worth it for that character alone. (Who also appears only in that series.) I'm very interested in your take on my comparison, because I think that King's Roland is possibly the greatest fantasy character ever.

Some really excellent posting by Khaliban there, I think. Two things especially rang true for me:

Khaliban wrote:
(good always wins). That's not a challenge to me.


And

Khaliban wrote:
I need grayness in characters to make them believable.


Both could come from my feelings verbatim.

However, like Master Matthias, I very infrequently critique a novel while I'm reading it, unless it's patently and painfully bad. After a couple of reads though, I start to focus less on the tale than on how it's told, and only then do I usually start thinking critically about it.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2005 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some years ago, I encountered this little gem in a Usenet post. I quoted part of it in another thread several months ago, but wotthehey, I'll quote the whole thing in a thread specifically about Eddings:

Andrea Leistra wrote:
Why Eddings is a washed up joke of a writer...


Most of what I see as the main flaws have already been summed up. Predictable. The characters are defined as their nationality, as Hurin mentioned. Alorns drink and fight too much, Arends talk funny and are obsessed with fighting each other, blah blah blah. If such stereotyping occured in a book set in the real world there would be a huge outcry against it. Jordan, on the other hand, has only a few generalities based on nationality (Aiel) and makes a point of showing the exceptions. Everything in Eddings is black and white. Garion good, other guy bad. No shades of gray or baddies who aren't Ultimate Evil or allies with flaws. Just Good and Bad. Lastly, the Malloreon. This was one big repeat.

Eddings even pointed that out somewhere in one of the books. For Pete's sake, they encountered the same minor characters! Remarkably, the characters hadn't matured at all since the same points in the Belgariad...<G>. Now, for your reading pleasure, I will sum up...An Eddings Series. Any of the first three series. (I didn't read the Tamuli, but I heard that once again there was a quest for a blue rock).

A David Eddings Series

Once upon a time there was a innocent farmboy (I realize whats-his-name in the Elenium wasn't LITERALLY a farmboy, but he acted like one). This farmboy thought he knew a lot. In encounters filled with heavy foreshadowing, he realized that he didn't know much of anything. So he set off with a beautiful dark-haired sorceress who liked tea on a great quest for a magic blue rock. They acquire a vast supporting cast of cliches, who serve only to crack jokes (not needed to round out the plot or defeat baddies, since all the baddies die without hurting anyone anyway). Along the way they fought several battles with huge numbers of stupid baddies who they managed to defeat against vast odds. At long last, they find the shiny blue rock that is almost omnipotent. Farmboy uses the shiny blue rock a few times and realizes, oh no, he isn't done yet. He has to go on ANOTHER quest, this time to defeat Ultimate Evil with the shiny blue rock. So he sets off again with his supporting cast of cliches and off they go to face possible destruction of the world, laughing all the way. They soon find Ultimate Evil who they easily defeat without a scratch and go off so farmboy can marry a beautiful princess, still laughing.

Congratulations! Now you, too, can write an Eddings series! Just substitute names and stretch this easy-to follow formula out to about 1200 pages. Repeat formula until rich.


The only thing I can find to disagree with in that rant is that it cuts Robert Jordan a little too much slack. The perils of comparing something to an abysmally low standard



Anybody remember Victor/Victoria? There's a scene where Robert Preston is being fired from his job as compeer and house singer in a seedy gay nightclub.

Nightclub owner: If you ever set foot in this place again, I will have you thrown out!

Robert Preston: Don't make it sound like such a threat. Being thrown out of here is significantly better than being thrown out of a leper colony.



And reading thousands of pages of Robert Jordan drawing out a repetitive story ad nauseam is significantly better than reading thousands of pages of David Eddings, etc., etc. Razz
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

grayness can make characters believeable, but some sort of 'pefectness' depicts that the story is, in fact, a fantasy.

if i were to listen to the author droll on and on about what is WRONG with the character, then you start to feel that same grittiness you feel when you're in the real world. I'd rather be taken away rather than be forced to relive what i'm already living.

SRD does that alot with Covenant. He has so many flaws...he's not the sort of hero we could hope for a true Fantasy story, but SRD does a wonderful job developing TC, and he turns out to be likeable in the end. Apart from TC's flaws, the Land definitely makes up for it.

As for the Belgariad, the gritty "real world" realism is kept low. And not only does Eddings make a balance between the realism and the surreal aspects, he also takes unlikely heros and throwing them into dangerous situations, like TC and LA. I don't know about you, but a trek halfway across the world could not be done so easily (i know i'd be winded) heck, perhaps five hundred years ago, it seemed unlikely that anyone could sail across the ocean, let alone sail around the world.

My point is that maybe critique is not enough to merely read a book. Like you said Khaliban, it affects the ability to enjoy reading. That's what books are for, are they not? It's not necessarily a judging table when you sit down with a good, paperback book in your hands. Sure, if the reading gets too bad, then by all means, drop kick the reading material--it's the author's fault, and he/she doesn't deserve to be judged any more than that.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Master Matthias wrote:
some sort of 'pefectness' depicts that the story is, in fact, a fantasy.

...

SRD does that alot with Covenant. He has so many flaws...he's not the sort of hero we could hope for a true Fantasy story

I, like others, generally require some shades of grey in order to make a character seem like a real person. If I can't believe the characters, the story can be a chore.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2005 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i wasn't disagreeing with that.

it's just in my opinion, the credulity of a character is a lot less important than the story in which the Main Character resides, because it's the magic of the story that should matter to people, not the believability.

For example, the old disney classics (snow white, cinderella) they all had the magical feel about them, balanced between realism and surreal aspects. no one cared whether the characters were believable or not, it was just a good story. There are many books out there that are like this in which people just ignore because reading is a 'serious' matter. the belgariad was a good story in my opinion, and i still don't understand why people don't like it.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Master Matthias wrote:
i still don't understand why people don't like it.


When I asked for your pain threshold before, I didn't mean your maximum. I meant your minimum.

Story is driven by conflict. The Belgariad doesn't have enough conflict for some people. I want lots and lots of conflict. Mental, physical, emotional, psychological, magical, spiritual, secular and surreal. All of my favorite series had all of those in abundance along with real, gritty, imperfect anti-heroes.

A big conflict in the Mallorean is: "Oh no, we're having 'Cream of Wheat' for breakfast again!"

Eddings is too nice, too sweet, too ideal, too perfect to be believable.

I know. It's fantasy. That's not an excuse. An story must have conflict.

SNL, original cast, did a spoof of this type of writing. Three women get an apartment together and, in rapid succession, they are given absolutely everthing they could ever want. Perfect jobs, modelling contracts, rich husbands, everything. It was a parody of saccharine movies of the sixties, but the problem is the same. At the end of the sketch, Jane Curtin picks up a note that reads, "Whoever gets this note will be perfect at whatever job she tries, Signed God."

The Belgariad is Family Channel fare. It's just too nice.
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