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The Belgariad...what's wrong with it?
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To be more precise, The Belgariad is the Family Channel version of a Sam Peckinpah movie. Everything you ever wanted is handed to you on a platter unless you've been arbitrarily designated as a Bad Guy, in which case you will be horribly oppressed by the other Bad Guys, and your only hope of rescue is to be gruesomely slaughtered by the so-called Good Guys. (One of whom will be in a snit for weeks afterwards because he got a hangnail whilst exterminating you, which is more 'heroic' suffering than he's had to do in years.)

What I object to is not that Eddings' characters lack flaws; it is that they lack any noteworthy human characteristics, beginning with a conscience. He doesn't draw characters in black and white; he draws them all much the same, and then staples black and white hats on their heads. And it's open season on anybody in a black hat, and the worst crimes of the white-hatted will be rewarded with sugar-plums and immortality. Adolescent wish-fulfilment untempered by even the least twinge of ethical awareness.

Belgarath himself, as you might expect, gave away the whole show. Somewhere or other he said that he didn't like to think of his battles in terms of good vs. evil, when it was so much simpler to think of us vs. them.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Khaliban wrote:

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


oh...

Khaliban wrote:

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.


this is a matter of preference. I'm not asking you to give up any of your preferences. Story may be driven with conflict, but the conflict is not the only thing driving the story; such as theme, metaphor, simbolism, and action.

Khaliban wrote:

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


heh, this is an overexaggeration. although, for me, its hard to know that all i have to eat in the morning is cereal Laughing it seems to me that you're pulling all the bad aspects of the book and laying it out before us without looking at the good ones. (which, i guess, is what a critic does, but as i said before, criticism isn't enough) sure, there are complaints about the food which Aunt Pol makes, but there's a lot behind it: She doesn't have enough materials for food, they're traveling all the time, and the fact that there is complaints makes them all the more human.

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


i agree, though i said before that there IS a balance between credulity and surreal. there IS gritty realism, if one takes the time to find it.

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


what's a better excuse? that eddings just wanted to piss everyone off with the way he wrote? an author or any author's goal is to create creduilty and laudability, edding's style does a good balance, as i said.

And of course a story must have conflict. good vs. evil is the most basic conflict in a fantasy. if anyone tells me that the Belgariad and the Mallorean don't have conflict, they need to reread it because, yes, there is a conflict, whether small or large.

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


Well, this argument is beginning to slow down. Despite the many arguments, i'm still not convinced--but maybe that's just because i'm stubborn. Wink some people are critics, and some people aren't --isn't that what it comes down to? Some people can't help but see the wrong in a book, while others just sit back, relax and let the author lead them away on a leash. In my opinion (no offence) but the critics need to lighten up a little. A book is a book. critics narrow their vision until they only see what they want to see instead of looking into the Story itself which is much more magical than reading about imperfection.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't read any Eddings (though I have one on my bookcase, in the "to read" pile) but from the descriptions it sounds like I'd find it enjoyable, but nothing special. I'm quite happy to read books like that. Those that blow me away are few and far between.

Ideally I need complexity and strife in the characters, because that's what moves and engages me. And when done well, the varied shades of the characters either cause or are caused by the well-crafted and interesting plot, so all needs are fulfilled. The plot and the characters don't exist independently - weakness in either of those elements will reduce the other.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2005 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm.. some very good thoughts on Eddings but I truly enjoyed the Belgariad and the Mallorian both when I read them years ago when they first came out. Then about 2 years ago I re-read them and enjoyed them again. And yes I dont think anyone could not notice how the Mallorian was so much like the Belgariad.
I think it has more to do with it being 'easy reading" and even with the flaws in character development I found myself getting lost in the story and wanting to know what happened (even if it was predictable) The comedy, the banter between the characters, the way the women seemed to be conspiring at all times to make sure the right guy ended up with the right gal, the ancientness of Belgarath and Polgara and the rest of Aldurs Deciples and how they related to each other, made for some fun reading.

After I read those I went on to read The Elenium and The Tamuli and enjoyed those as well. Maybe Im just a shallow reader but usually unless a book really is a stinker I can enjoy it. When I read Im not looking for all the intricacies of the Characters, how 'grey' they are...or how painful the win will be. Im just looking to lose myself in an adventure that the author has written.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Master Matthias wrote:
some people are critics, and some people aren't --isn't that what it comes down to? Some people can't help but see the wrong in a book, while others just sit back, relax and let the author lead them away on a leash. In my opinion (no offence) but the critics need to lighten up a little. A book is a book. critics narrow their vision until they only see what they want to see instead of looking into the Story itself which is much more magical than reading about imperfection.


I don't object at all to being led away by an author; it's the leash I object to. But that's a side issue.

Really, I criticize Eddings from the point of view of a writer who is trying to sell work in the same field, which now is much more crowded and competitive than it was when he broke in. While a series like The Belgariad could certainly be published today, it would not sell one-tenth as well as it did then. In 1982, when Pawn of Prophecy came out, it was still possible for a reasonably dedicated fan to read every single fantasy novel published. And humorous fantasy was still quite rare at the time. The light-hearted banter with which Eddings' characters whiled away their adventures was new and refreshing then. Nowadays it's commonplace. Eddings' recent books haven't sold particularly well, as I understand, and even at that most of his sales are probably to his die-hard fans.

In short, I can't get away with writing the kind of stuff Eddings writes, because I haven't got his reputation to make it sell. By criticizing it, I remind myself of some of the pitfalls I have to avoid in my own work.

The Story is indeed magical, but it takes better magic than that to make a wizard nowadays.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent posting here! It took me all too long to stumble into this thread.

From one to whom one Eddings was more than enough...
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Master Matthias wrote:
Khaliban wrote:

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.


this is a matter of preference. I'm not asking you to give up any of your preferences. Story may be driven with conflict, but the conflict is not the only thing driving the story; such as theme, metaphor, simbolism, and action.


Sorry man, but have to disagree with you there. Things like theme and symbolism can greatly improve a story, but without conflict there is no story, because nothing happens.

In The Belgariad you have the conflict between the Prophecy of Light and the Prophecy of Dark, between Belgarath and Polgara, between Garion et al and Torak et al. The problem is that all these conflicts are taken as already fought and won.

In reading The Belgariad, I was never afraid that Leldorin would die from the wounds he suffered fighting the algroths, or that Garion would die after being poisoned by Salmisra, or that Belgarath would suffer long-term consequences of falling ill after defeating Ctuchik, or that Garion would be killed by Torak.

The conflict wasn't real because there was no danger in it and so it became a page-filler rather than a way to improve or advance the story. Eddings almost had it when Garion and Polgara were fighting about Garion accepting that he was a sorceror and he went nuts at her and she wents nuts back. That was real conflict. But then Garion just shrugged his shoulders and gave in. No internal struggle, and no facing any consequences for what he said and did. Almost as if that sort of interpersonal conflict made Eddings nervous.

Master Matthias wrote:
t'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.


Maybe, but I don't see the point of going on a journey with a character you don't like, or don't relate to, or think is stupid and unrealistic. Besides, I think story is damaged by poor characters. It's often their motivations etc that move the story on, and if the characters are unrelaistic then their motivations will likely be as well, thus weakening the overall work.

I didn't mind Eddings work, but it's nothing more than bubblegum for the mind - the reading equivalent of watching day-time soaps.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

THe enjoyment in reading Eddings..in my oppinion is the charactors.

Agreed, not much growth into them (if any for some of them); but he did think up some good charactors. It's one of the only fantasy series I've read where I laughed out loud at certain spots.

Same as his novel Redemption of Athalus...it's funny, his idea of redemption doesn't even come into the same ballpark as Donaldson's; and the story was exprememly predictable (and I mean extremely)--but the charactors were quite enjoyable.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm with Soulbiter on this one I think. I loved the Belgariad, and re-read it many times. The Malloreon I enjoyed because I wanted to read more about the characters.

Then I read , I think it was the Elenium, and realised he had used exactly the same characters, just mixed up their physiques and personalities. Too long ago now for me to quote.

But as for the Belgariad and Malloreon...

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that the best and worst of the Belgariad/Mallorean books is summed up in the words of Mandorallen (an almost invincible knight, for those who haven't read it), while he is being restrained from attacking a vastly more powerful group of enemies.

Something along the lines of:

"What?! They cannot number more than an hundred! Our cause is just and we shall inevitably prevail!"

That was really funny at the time I first read it. But it basically summed up what the ending was going to be like as well.

I actually thought that Eddings came up with some good concepts (Rak Cthol, and the battle there between Ctuchik and Belgarath for example, two hard-bitten old recalcitrants finally going at it hammer-and-tongs after hating each other for millenia).

He just falls in love with his characters WAY too much (including the stereo-typed nationalities), and is too reluctant to part with them or deviate overly from his original impression of them. Rolling Eyes

The only exception to that that I can think of is Belmakor in the "Belgarath the Sorceror" follow-up. But that's only because he was created after-the-fact. Since he wasn't going to be in the Belgariad he had to die somehow.

And yes, it is far too family-fare oriented.

I think perhaps Eddings must have spent far too much time during the '70s watching cheezy TV shows like "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island".

While SRD was taking some really bad acid or sumfin... Shocked Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I own all the books of the Belgariad, the Mallorean, and the Elenium. I enjoyed reading them in high school and college, even though my first fantasy series ever was The Chronicles of TC (read in jr high).

They are different stories entirely, though I enjoyed both, just for different reasons.

I think of SRD as the more literary of the two authors - is it possible to talk in terms of fantasy street cred? - but both fill important niches in the fantasy story continuum.

To compare/contrast, let's toss the Dragonlance Chronicles (Weis/Hickman) in the mix. Dragonlance is just as formulaic as anything Eddings has written, yet Eddings is usually held in higher regard. Why is that?

Thinking about my first read of the Belgariad, which was in late high school, I remember enjoying the series hugely. But I also remember feeling slightly disappointed when Polgara "got her magic back" at the end after Durnik's resurrection. This 100% recovery makes complete sense within the 'happy-happy' status-quo fabric of the Eddings world, but I secretly wanted there to be a lasting mortal cost or backlash from killing a friggin' God!!

Maybe having read SRD first, my enjoyment of lighter fare has been lessened just a little because I want there to be a price for good winning in the end.

Still, I have enjoyed Eddings, Donaldson, and even Weis/Hickman as fantasy authors - just for different reasons. I have a huge preference for chocolate chip cookies, but that doesn't mean I want to limit myself to eating only them for every dessert for the rest of my life. Variety is the spice of life.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing that's odd; Eddings and Donaldson have roughly the same amount of published books.

Eddings may have published a few more, but his sales are certanly higher than Donaldson's. I'm pretty sure all of Eddings books have been Bestsellers--but he doesn't seem to have as much 'street-cred'

I mean there's nearly two thousand members on Kevinswatch...I've only found one eddings Mesage Board, and it has about five hundred members; and from what I've seen, they never talk about his books, other than saying that they are all the same!!
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come on though drew, what else is there to say about hem? Very Happy
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

variol son wrote:

Sorry man, but have to disagree with you there. Things like theme and symbolism can greatly improve a story, but without conflict there is no story, because nothing happens.

In The Belgariad you have the conflict between the Prophecy of Light and the Prophecy of Dark, between Belgarath and Polgara, between Garion et al and Torak et al. The problem is that all these conflicts are taken as already fought and won.

In reading The Belgariad, I was never afraid that Leldorin would die from the wounds he suffered fighting the algroths, or that Garion would die after being poisoned by Salmisra, or that Belgarath would suffer long-term consequences of falling ill after defeating Ctuchik, or that Garion would be killed by Torak.

The conflict wasn't real because there was no danger in it and so it became a page-filler rather than a way to improve or advance the story. Eddings almost had it when Garion and Polgara were fighting about Garion accepting that he was a sorceror and he went nuts at her and she wents nuts back. That was real conflict. But then Garion just shrugged his shoulders and gave in. No internal struggle, and no facing any consequences for what he said and did. Almost as if that sort of interpersonal conflict made Eddings nervous.


It's been a while since i've looked at this thread...sorry.

Okay, yeah...i think i brought this up before. I was kinda led around by the author during the entire series, mainly because is was the first actual "Series" that i've read from beginning to the end. Now, i've read SRD (among others) and my standards have been raised. The Belgarion and Mallorean are meant for younger (family type). I understand that now. a sort of "coming of age" story, for a "coming of age" reader. It's the memories i cherish.

I understand now why people think that there is no conflict because you can easily not be afraid for any of the characters and whatnot because they all seemed to be in any real 'danger'. However, i still liked the series and am very appreciative to Eddings for influencing me in more ways than one in my writing. At the time of my reading, i found the books very enjoyable.

And, if i remember correctly, Garion felt horrible for arguing with Aunt Pol about him being a sorcerer and all that. So horrible in fact, that he had a hard time apologizing. (i might be wrong, and may need to have to re-read again but i'm pretty sure that i'm right.)
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

variol son wrote:
Come on though drew, what else is there to say about hem? Very Happy


LOL--true, true.

In Edding's deffence, and possibly to start a conspiracy theroy...and to bring SRD into the disscussion:

THe Bel was publishd around the same time as the second Chrons...and we know from what Donaldson has said, that he really stuck it Lester DelRey during the publishing process; it seemslike the only thing DelRey was able to do was change the 2nd chrons from 4 books to 3.
SRD says in his interview that after he won the argument over the One Tree..Lester DelRey took it out on other authors.
In reading th Rivian Codex, Eddings states that he intened the Bel to be a trilogy, but LDR made it into 5 parts (?)--he was also nitpicking him, with things like "Aloria should be called Alornia".

Maybe it's possible that ol' Les was telling David, "I've already got one author writting Jane as the main charactor in a tazan book; so if you want me to publish these books, there going to writting MY way." Maybe when it was time for the Mal, he was told "the Bel worked, kep the main theme."

I mean, look at another big author published by DelRey, around the same time. Brooks' Shannara series('s), how many times has he written the same book?
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

drew wrote:
I mean, look at another big author published by DelRey, around the same time. Brooks' Shannara series('s), how many times has he written the same book?


Too true. I'll admit that I'll re-read most anything I've enjoyed once.

But Brooks' Shannara series was complete and utter...

I'm not sure if I read one or two of his books. I'm assuming two because otherwise how did I form the impression that it was all the same?

I really should sue him for the lost hours of my life. Like I want to sue Switzerland and Ukraine since the last World Cup. Absolute garbage.

But to to stray back on-topic, Eddings' books were better entertainment than many movies I've shelled out for.

Not life changing, but you can't expect that from every story.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I won't say that I didn't find Eddings work enjoyable to a point as I read it. It was just afterwards, when I thought about what I had just read, that I realized how horried some of it actually was.

Point 1 - Garion kills a god. A GOD! But nothing really happens, as a disembodied voice said it was ok.

Point 2 - One of the main characters in the second series becomes a god. Imagine what that will mean given the character's personality.

Oh, wait. The character has no personality. In fact, he seems to have been purposely written as quiet and retiring so that Eddings wouldn't have to give him a personality, which would have been difficult anyway considering that he didn't belong to a specific race and so didn't have a stereotypical personality built in. Eddings even avoiding him having to speak much at all by making sure he was always off fishing while everyone else worried about how to save the world.

Point 3 - No baddies. Oh sure, there was an insane god, his three disciples (one of them a former follower of a good god who betrayed his former master), a sorceress possessed by another disembodied voice, her chief acolyte who has freaky eyes, an evil priest, his evil priestess with scars carved into her face, a guy who summoned demons and two demon lords. But none of them actually threatened the goodies in any significant way.

The whole journey throught the known world fighting the forces of evil may as well have been a global Contiki Tour. Lord knows Garion's sex life and Silk's various business transactions took up far more space than was necessary.

Wait, the apostate did kill a guy. But then he was ressurected, so that doesn't count.

I could go on, but I have to go to a lecture now. I will say though that when I read Eddings work, I can easily put all these things and many others out of my mind and kinda enjoy the ride. It's just afterwards that I feel so cheated.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll tell you what bothered me the most in the Bel...and it goes along with what you're saying VS

The entire series, they kept talking about Drunik being the "Man with two Lives"or the "Man who will die Twice" or "The man who will Live Twice"--and then everyone was so surprised when he got killed.
-And shortly before he got killed...Garion practiced how to bring the dead back to life with that Colt.

If Eddings wanted Drunik the die and then get resurected...he should only have mentioned the whole "two lives" thing once...and in passing-not continually throughout the entire series.
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Immanentizing The Eschaton


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laughing I'm glad I never bothered trying to finish an entire series by this guy... Laughing

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

drew wrote:
I've only found one eddings Mesage Board, and it has about five hundred members; and from what I've seen, they never talk about his books, other than saying that they are all the same!!

That's amusing. Smile

Out of plain curiosity, I did visit that Eddings board once a while back, but wouldn't you know it, the site was down at the time. Maybe I'll try again some time. No, I wouldn't go there to flame the place. I may not care for Eddings anymore, but I respect the fans.

For a change of pace, I'd like to point out some things I did like about the Belgariad and the Mallorean (or at least things I can recall offhand -- I'm not gonna dig up the books!):

- the system of magic was interesting. I was intrigued by the idea that there was a fundamental difference between "destroying" something and "un-making" it. If you cast a spell that destroyed an object, no big deal: it still "existed," just changed to a different form. But if you tried to "unmake" an object - i.e., erase its existence from the universe utterly - the spell would rebound against you, and you would vanish with a bang. I thought that was a neat concept. I guess a problem might be: how do you mentally draw a distinction between destroying and un-making? Where does the difference lie? This is exactly what happened to Ctuchik (sp?) in his battle with Belgarath. In desperation, he ordered the Orb of Aldur to "be not!" and, um, he promptly regretted it. Pretty idiotic for such a seasoned sorcerer to try the one spell they teach you in Magic 101 never to try.

- The Orb itself was interesting: the Most Powerful Object in the Universe, which could only be safely handled by either Garion or a person of total innocence, free of any evil intent in his/her heart. Errand, the innocent boy who ends up carrying the Orb, was okay at the beginning, until Eddings turned him into another annoyingly cute character.

- I really liked the character of Silk, at least until Eddings began to lean so much on him. Uh-oh, scene's getting dull, time for some more clever banter between Silk and Barak...

- I liked that in the Mallorean we went to the other half of the world that we didn't see in the Belgariad. Nothing wrong with that. (That's why I loved the voyage in The One Tree.) It's just too bad that nothing really new happened in the Mallorean journey. Sure, Eddings gave us the other side of the world, but he didn't give us much to see. Whereas Donaldson in TOT opened up his world and gave us astounding new beings and mysteries of the Earth to think about.
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