Eragon Book Review

Eragon is the first book in Chrstopher Paolini’s Inheritance series. It was officially published in 2003 (the first edition was published in 2002). It is based around a teenage boy, Eragon, and the dragon egg he finds in his small village in the fantasy land of Alagaësia. Warning that this post may contain spoilers.

I’m just going to get straight into the nitty-gritty of this review. This novel has a lot of flaws; and I really mean a lot. The first part of this review will probably be a half-review half-rant, but bear with me, because I will get to the positives of the novel eventually.

A lot of the time, it feels as though Paolini is trying so desperately to give the novel a Tolkien-like feel of epic fantasy and adventure, that it falls flat on its face. Location names like Urû’baen, Father Dûr and Gil’ead just feel, for want of better word, try-hard. You don’t need excessive punctuation to make a word sound like it’s not from the Earth we know. It wouldn’t bother me as much if it weren’t for the fact that almost every character, location, and even gates are given names like these. Put three or more into a sentence, which occurs more often than is needed, and the voice in my head just speaks gibberish for half the sentence because I can’t be bothered trying to pronounce words when I can’t even remember what they’re referring to. Yet the fact that I don’t remember what they’re referring to (and usually skim over them) doesn’t make the plot any more difficult t understand than it should.

This is another problem with the language, A large number of new names are difficult enough to remember as it is, but when these names don’t even have any vague resemblance to words in modern English, remembering their pronunciation and what they are the names of becomes a tiresome and difficult task. The unusual language in itself just seems so unnecessary and I honestly can’t take it seriously considering its whole point (I can only assume) is to make the adventure feel more grand and important.

One of the serious major flaws in the novel was almost the complete lack of distinguishable characters. Normally, I wouldn’t mind too much because women in fantasy novels are usually pretty scarce, but in Eragon it was startlingly obvious. I can remember only six female characters in the 500 page novel who were given a name and actually appeared (as opposed to being in a flashback). Of those, only three of them were given any discernible characterisation, and only one of these two was actually human (one was an elf and the other a dragon, who I don’t even know should be counted). Forget about the Bechdel Test, this novel didn’t even have a single conversation between two named women. I realise Paolini was only 15 when he wrote the novel, but this is no excuse for having such a complete lack of women in a novel that has no difficulty in creating a wide variety of male characters.

Then, there’s the actual writing. Most of the time it’s pretty good except in two situations; when there’s something exciting or emotional occurring, and when a new area is entered. I’ll talk about the latter first. Long story short, Paoilini sucks at descriptions. This wasn’t overly noticeable at first until late in the novel (mostly because there weren’t very intricate new locations) but when Paolini described a new location it is one of the most boring things I have ever read. Some of the time, I couldn’t even be bothered scanning the description, but instead skipped whole paragraphs in a desperate attempt to reach the plot. True, I’m not a fan of lengthy descriptions in novels, but even the page-long descriptors in classic novels like The Lord of the Rings and Sherlock Holmes held my interest to some extent. Yet the long descriptions of hallways and rooms that we only see once in dull a dull and monotonous manner really just made me want to put the book down and stop reading.

Now, the former; the writing in scenes when there’s something exciting or emotional occurring. The writing is pretty good when it come to the day-to-day activities (usually the more dull parts of a novel) but the moment there’s a big battle or something, I find that the novel reaches it’s most boring points. It’s almost as if I don’t care anymore. Although, this could be because in almost every major fight scene to date Eragon ends up being predictably knocked out partway through. Then there’s the emotional scenes. About halfway through, a character we’ve known from the very beginning and had grown on the reader to an extent, dies. This is the second major death in the novel and the first which involves a character we’ve known for a while.Can I just say, I cry extremely easily. Those 30 second Worksafe ads you see on TV make me cry every single time. Yet this novel? Nothing. Even less than that, I didn’t even feel remotely sad. During the pages of grief and mourning all I could think was “get over it”. Maybe I just wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters? But a good writer should make me emotionally invested. And Paolini just didn’t.

You’ve probably noticed by now that I keep using one word in particular; unnecessary. There is just so much unnecessary blabber hiding the actually interesting plot that I almost considered not reading to the end.

With all this negativity, it may seem as though the novel has no positive points at all, however it does. Although small moments in the plot may be overly cliché and predictable, overall I don’t have much of an idea where the story is going. I want to keep reading and I want to know what happens next. That’s one of the main things I look for in a novel.

The vocabulary throughout the Eragon is also extraordinary. I often found myself surprised that a book written by a 15-year-old could have such sophisticated language. Yet even though the language is quite complex at times, it doesn’t to any extent make the novel more difficult to read.

In the end, I’d like to say that although Eragon needs a large amount of improvement in the aspect of female characters and unnecessary bits and pieces, considering that Paolini is so young. Do I recommend it? Probably not, but I will have to finish the rest of the series before I give a definitive decision.

Rating; 2/5 stars

Picture Sources

Book cover:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eragon

Western Australia Shark Cull Rant

For all those who don’t know, a disgraceful policy has just recently been passed through the Western Australian state government a little of a month ago. All Great White, Tiger and Bull Sharks over three metres in length within a kilometre of several beaches will be culled. The worst part? They are going to be baited. That’s right, baits are going to be placed on hooked, drum lines to bring the sharks in so they can be killed by professional

Premier (and cull instigator) Colin Barnett with one of the hooks used to bait sharks

fisherman. The reason is because there have been more shark attacks in recent years than there used to be, but scientists say that the cull will not help.

Bond University wrote a paper on Likely effectiveness of netting or other capture programs as a shark hazard mitigation strategy in Western Australia. They found that the bait-and-capture method is not specific to large shark species. In fact, it also targets marine mammals, marine turtles, and sharks and rays that are not implicated in unprovoked attacks on humans, many of these species are already under huge threat of extinction. Shark control activities will also put dolphins at risk which play an important tourism role in Western Australia. In addition, the likely cost of the program is expected to exceed over $1 million a year. The study suggests that shark enclosures should be used instead due to the environmental  impacts of shark control activities.

Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen said that they would be dumping the bodies of the dead sharks out to sea, which would only bring in more shark and make matters worse.

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is a global organisation who, among other things, lists the level of risk that each animal species is at. Species that are not at risk of extinction are listed as ‘least concern’. So how many of the sharks that the WA government plans to cull at at risk? Not one, not two, but all three of species. The Tiger and Bull Shark quality as ‘near threatened’ which means that they are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future. Something that a shark cull is likely to push them towards. But what about the Great White Shark? According to the IUCN it is listed as ‘vulnerable’, and is therefore facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. And here we have the Western Australian government ignoring all evidence putting three shark species at greater risk of being wiped from our planet.

Why does it matter anyway? Surely a few less sharks in the world can’t be a bad thing? Actually, it is. As top predators, sharks play an extremely important role in the ecosystem. A top (or apex) predator is a species that resides at the top of the food chain, and doesn’t have any natural predators. Once you remove the top predator from any ecosystem, things generally go bad. An example of when this was done was when wolves were removed from Yellowstone National Park. First the deer numbers started increasing, because there were nothing to hunt them, and they eventually became so highly numbered that they ate themselves out of house and home. This, of course, impacted on other animals too, the ones that needed that vegetation to eat and live in. The small mammals started to disappear as well, and eventually, so did the beavers. Once the beavers left the rivers in the park started moving much faster than they used to, and thus not depositing any nutrients in the park. It was at this point that it was decided that wolves needed to be introduced into the park to fix the problem. Now, imagine this but with sharks, on a much larger scale.

And the thing is, people don’t want it. People are trying to make it stop. In fact over 4000 people protested against the cull on a Perth beach recently. Even shark attack survivors such Paul de Gelder (who lost an arm and a leg to a Bull Shark in 2009) have protested against the cull. If you want to fight against this ridiculous reaction, then you can sign Greenpeace’s petition here, and share it to spread the word.

If that hasn’t got you convinced, here are ten facts awesome facts about sharks that might change your mind:

  1. Sharks can go through 30,000 teeth in a lifetime
  2. Sharks inhabited the earth 200 million years before the dinosaurs
  3. Sharks don’t have any bones, they have cartilage instead
  4. 100 million sharks are killed a year by human
  5. Scientists study shark cartilage as a cure for cancer, because sharks rarely develop cancer
  6. Most sharks must swim constantly or they’ll die of oxygen deprivation
  7. Sharks have an acute sense of hearing
  8. Shark skin feels like sandpaper
  9. Some shark species can live up to 150 years
  10. Sharks may use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate the ocean

 

Information References

Bond University Paper: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/occasional_publications/fop108.pdf

IUCN data: http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Picture References

Shark Photos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_white_shark

Bait Hook Photo: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/shark-attack-survivor-slams-stupid-shark-cull-20140116-30vsq.html

The Sign of Three (Sherlock season 3 Episode 2) TV Show Review

The middle episode in the previous episodes has usually been my least favourite of the three, so I was expected the same of this episode as well. However, The Sign of Three turned out a lot better than I thought it would. The first paragraph will be a spoiler-free review for those who are still waiting to see the episode, until I say “SPOILERS BELOW” where it will be filled with many a-spoiler.

The Sign of Three was written by a Sherlock writer who we hear very little about; Stephen Thompson as well as Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Thompson was the same person who wrote my least favourite episode The Blind Banker but also my favourite pre season three episode The Reichenbach Fall, an episode whose credit is mostly given to the two co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. Thompson’s previous middle episode being my least favourite, I was a little worried about how The Sign of Three but it turned out that I had no reason to be. Being slower-paced than The Empty Hearse it was still exciting, emotion-filled, but most of all, hilarious. This episode was single-handedly the funniest episode of Sherlock aired to date, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once while watching. Of course, it ticked both boxes because it made me cry as well, making it a well-rounded and brilliant episode which is typical of Sherlock.

SPOILERS AHEAD (this includes the images as well)

What can I say, other than this was the wedding of the year. I didn’t expect to be based around the wedding, I expected the wedding to just play a small part in the story, but I was wrong. The story wrapped itself neatly and subtlety around the wedding of John Watson and Mary morstan in a way that showed off the brilliant cinematography that was used in the episode. And I really loved the way they did that. The way they moulded smaller stories of cases and stag nights and conversations into the very essence of the wedding. The wedding was the main event, but that fact did not take away from all of the little stories that came together in The Sign of Three.

Now, for what I thought of the actual story. I felt like not much actually happened. There was a recap of some old cases, a stag night, a wedding and an attempted murder, but nothing really seemed to chang. I’m not necessarily saying this as a negative, I just found it interesting how, although so much appeared to happen in the episode, at the end of the day not much happened at all. A wedding began, and a wedding ended, with not many altogether life-changing events occurring.

But then, of course, they were the more subtle things that the episode implied. The Sign of Threeof course, meaning that the family of John and Mary was going to have a baby added. I feel like the whole episode was telling us one thing that can be summed up in one of Sherlock’s quotes;

“You hardly gonna need me around now you got a real baby on the way”

The whole episode seems to be about how John marrying Mary is going to split them up. Mrs Hudson talking about what happened to her and her best friend, Mycroft saying it’s the end of an era and Sherlock leaving a wedding early. “I mean, who leaves early at a wedding?” I don’t know what it is, but I feel like these last two episodes are leading up to something bad happening. No one has died, nothing bad has really happened. They’re been cheerful and funny and exciting, but what will the next episode be like? That’s pretty much what The Sign of Three has left me feeling; what’s going to happen next?

One of my favourite things about this episode was Sherlock’s best man speech. I don’t know what I expected, really, but what was actually shown just made my heart soar. It was rude and abrasive, and yet touching and sweet in a way that only Sherlock Holmes could do. It made me laugh and it made me cry. I especially commend Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting nearing the end of the speech when he had to pretend he was giving he pre-written prepared speech, when instead he was actually trying to solve an attempted murder. I thought it was incredible how he made it seem like he was in two places at once, working on the case, and putting on a show.

Then of course there were the drunk scenes. I don’t think there’s much more I need to say about them except that they were hilariously amazing.

On that point, I noticed a new technique that has been employed this season, less so in the previous episode but a lot in this one. I found this method quite revolutionary, rather like the one that was used in Sherlock‘s first episode, with the text messages and deductions appearing as writing in the air. The technique I’m talking about is the way in which the background changes between what’s actually happening and what’s happening inside Sherlock Holmes’ head. I just think it’s incredible the way they did it, and I personally have never seen it done so flawlessly before. At first they used it to almost surprise us, but afterwards it was used so seamlessly that you barely even noticed, just enough to make it interesting.

The cinematography was absolutely stunning. I don’t think there was have been a single screen-capture that couldn’t be printed and hung in a frame. One of the things I’ve always admired about Sherlock was the cinematography, and this episode certainly showed it off.

The music was good, but to be honest I didn’t find it as incredible as it was in previous episodes. It just didn’t take the limelight in The Sign of Three, but in staying that it still set the scene in the perfect way background music is supposed to, it just didn’t have it

Favourite character/actor: Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Least favourite character/actor: Major James Sholto (Alistair Petrie)

Favourite scene: Sherlock’s best-man speech

Least favourite scene: When Mrs Hudson gives Sherlock tea

Rating; 4.5/5 stars

Picture Sources

All pictures/gifs: http://bbcone.tumblr.com

The Empty Hearse (Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1) TV Show Review

Can I just say, IT’S BACK! After two whole years of waiting, the first episode of the third season of the BBC’s award winning series Sherlock has finally aired. The first paragraph will be a spoiler-free review for those who are still waiting to see the episode, until I say “SPOILERS BELOW” where it will be filled with many a-spoiler.

Firstly, for those who haven’t seen it, this is the mini-episode Many Happy Returns that is to be watched before The Empty Hearse:

The first episode of the series, called The Empty Hearse, was written by co-creator Mark Gatiss. It did not disappoint. It had everything a Sherlock fan could have asked for. Action, romance, deductions, amazing cinematography, and of course, brilliant acting by the show’s stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It was like a fanfiction reader’s dream! A brilliant assortment of references and actions that by no means diminished the essence of the show. The crack-shippers will be happy, and so will the more traditional Sherlock Holmes fans like myself. The music, if possible, was even better than in season two. It consisted of some of the older tracks, and well as some new tracks, and new takes on old tracks. As a whole, I really liked the episode and thoroughly look forward to the rest of the season.

SPOILERS AHEAD (this includes the images as well)

Now, a more in-depth review of the episode, for those who are lucky enough to have already seen it.

One of the things that I was looking forward to most in this episode was John’s reaction when he saw that Sherlock was indeed alive. I have to admit, it was a bit different from what I expected but the multiple beatings that John gave Sherlock were more than enough to make me happy. I actually really like how they didn’t make John forgive Sherlock straight away. He was angry, and rightly so. I love how his character was written after seeing Sherlock was alive. It just gave him so much more depth. I’ve always thought that John was portrayed as a sort of one-dimensional character. Not to say that his character doesn’t have depth, more that we rarely saw it. In The Empty Hearse however, we definitely saw it and it was brilliant. Martin Freeman, of course, did a great job of showing this new character development. I especially loved his acting in the train scene when he thought that the bomb was going to go off.

Speaking of character development, one word; ANDERSON. I don’t think a character has ever had such a quick and convincing turn-around that didn’t seem totally cliche. And it just seemed so natural. I never thought I’d ever feel so empathetic towards him. Another great character development was with Mycroft. We barely got to see any characterisation for him in the previous seasons, but in this one episode we really got to see him for who he is; a lonely man who feels like he has no equals.

Special mention of Amanda Abbington who did literally played the best Mary Morstan I have even seen. She made the character so likeable and I could genuinely see how Mary and John could get along together so well, and her friendship with Sherlock was one of the highlights of the episode.

I really, really liked all the shoutouts to the fandom. The Sherlolly kiss, the Sheriarty almost kiss… The way they did it was just absolutely perfect. In fact, the alternate theories were absolutely perfect. When I saw the bungee-jump one, I honestly thought that was what happened and became so confused that I hadn’t seen the bungee cord! The humour, was just amazing. It really helped lighten up an emotion-packed episode. Speaking of emotion-packed, it made me both laugh out loud and cry which gives the episode a big tick for me.

No fanfiction needed with scenes like this:

Then there’s the actual explanation of have Sherlock Holmes survived his multi-story fall, which I was pretty happy with. Although, it was way more extravagant than any of my theories. The only part I guessed right was the ball under his arm to stop his pulse.

The only real downfall I can find with the episode is that it sometimes felt like it was all over the place, switching back-and-forth from John’s to Sherlock’s point of view. However this could also be due to the stop-start nature of the player I was watching it on. *shakes fist at BBC iPlayer* But anyway, I found this to be a very minor setback.

Fun fact: The actors who played Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s parents, are actually the parents of Benedict Cumberbatch.

The music *sigh* was amazing. Like I said in my first paragraph, I thought it was even better than in the previous seasons. The most notable song was the one that played when the bungee-jump theory was being shown. It was an awesome mix of the usual Sherlock theme with electric guitars.

I highly recommend, that if you haven’t already, you give John Watson’s Blog a good read. It’s really very entertaining.

Favourite character/actor: Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Least favourite character/actor: This is actually impossible, because all of the credited actors were actually amazing

Favourite scene: The Sherlock survival theories

Least favourite scene: The bonfire scene

Rating; 4.5/5 stars

Picture Sources

All pictures/gifs: http://bbcone.tumblr.com

The Time of the Doctor (2013 Doctor Who Christmas Special) TV Show Review

As Lord Voldemort once said; “I confess myself… disappointed”. The 2013 Christmas Special The Time of the Doctor aired on the 25th of December and featured the nerve-racking regeneration of the 11th Doctor. Warning that this post WILL contain spoilers.

In a few words, I think Moffat’s writing is starting to go downhill. After the less-than-brilliant 50th Anniversary Special I was hoping Moffat’s writing would make a bit of a comeback with less stress for this episode, but I was disappointed. I’ve never really been a fan of Moffat as head writer. When he was a writer under Russell T. Davies he wrote some brilliant episodes; BlinkThe Empty ChildThe Doctor Dances and The Girl in the Fireplace, but when he took over the show his episodes started going downhill.

Anyway, about The Time of the Doctor. It felt extremely rushed, and like every bad alien was trying to be crammed into it. The Weeping Angels, Dalek, Silence and Cyberman, even the Slitheen were mentioned! It was just too much! I mean, it probably would have been ok if they were just mentioned, but it was like each alien (except the Slitheen) needed to have a starring part in the episode. For the Silence it was when Clara saw them for the first time, which was completely unnecessary and didn’t really help the plot along at all. I mean, why were they even there purposely freaking her out? The Daleks had their ‘shining moment’ when they turned of all the church member into Daleks which, to be honest, was kind of lame. The Cyberman had their focus when the wooden Cyberman came down to Christmas. I have to admit that that was pretty cool, but the Doctor’s big speech to the Cyberman was just plain dull. Then there were the Weeping Angels which were not needed in any way except to have them in the episode. Way too many monsters meant way too much time wasted which could have been used on giving 11 a proper farewell.

The sexual inneuendos at the start between the Doctor and Mother Superious Tasha Lem were just irritating. They were not subtle, they were not needed and they were boring and, like most things in this episode, unnecessary. There wasn’t even any build-up to it. It was like “Here’s a new character we’ve never seen before, she’s a woman so let’s make her a love interest!”. No, just no.

I don’t know why, but when a sentence is quoted that’s been said in a previous episode, instead of it feeling like a callback or a cool little reference, it feels like it’s been shoved in your face. Like “Look guys, this was in a previous episode! Look we’re quoting ourselves! Look aren’t we cool!” kind of way. I like subtlety, but this episode didn’t have it.

I also saw the Doctor kind of slip out of character during this episode. Since when does he tell a really big lie straight to someones face, someone he cares about deeply, and then just walks away. It just seemed so unlike him, and to seem like he barely cared than he would never see Clara again. And for what? For a little town called Christmas, whose inhabitants he could have easily saved by bringing them in the TARDIS and taking them somewhere else. Why would he care so much about a little town he’s never even been to before so much that he would spend hundreds of years there knowing that after he died the whole planet would just be destroyed anyway?

And then there are the plot holes, the Doctor knew he would regenerate again because in the 50th Anniversary there were 13 of his regenerations. Had he conveniently forgotten that? And surely Clara would have known that as well, seeing as she went into the Doctor’s time stream and saw every one of his regenerations, past and future?

Peter Capaldi is the Doctor!

I feel like Moffat keeps trying to make it ‘epic’. “Look how many aliens there are! Look at all the deep speeches! Look at all the meaningful scenes! I even put the Time Lords in!” But enough is enough. You don’t need heaps of big speeches that ended up meaning nothing, or every alien, or the Time Lords! You just need it to be well-paced. Take your time. Make things ‘epic’ subtlety, in a way that a casual watcher of the show wouldn’t fully understand. Take your time to build up emotion. Give your audience an emotional connection so that even if this is their first episode, they’ll still want to cry. Focus on the story.

Wow, that’s quite a bit of angry ranting, so here’s some of the things I did like. I liked the fact that 11 accepted his regeneration. It almost made it happy, like it will be change for the better. Like it was time for 11 to go. I also liked that 11 died of old age, he died waiting… I like that he saw Amy, even if the hallucination was a bit weird, and her quote “Raggedy man, goodnight”. I loved his last words “I will always remember when the Doctor was me”. Peter Capaldi’s entrance was a little odd to say the least, it was very quick. I have a feeling he will be quite a whimsical Doctor. The whole episode actually did keep my attention, as rushed as it was I never really felt like I wanted to stop watching it. For most of the time, it kept my interest.

The acting, like usual, was brilliant. Matt’s acting when he grew older was just fantastic, it almost made me feel like he was a different person. Jenna’s acting was also superb, I could really see her pain when the Doctor sent her away for the second time, and when she was pleading to the Time Lords, and when 11 was regenerating. Just brilliant. Also, a shout out to Clara’s grandma who is awesome in every way. You go grandma!

Of course, the music by Murray Gold was also amazing just as it usually is. I especially liked the song that played when Clara was entering the TARDIS after she thought 11 had already regenerated. It was very dark and one of the few times that I actually felt some suspense in the episode. Because that music isn’t yet available, here’s Clara’s Theme:

I wish all my luck to Peter Capaldi; the 12th Doctor!

Favourite character/actor: Clara Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman)

Least favourite character/actor: Mother Superious Tasha Lem (Orla Brady)

Favourite scene: When Clara was walking into the TARDIS during 11’s regeneration

Least favourite scene: When the Doctor destroys the Dalek ships while regenerating

Rating; 3/5 stars

Picture Sources

The Time of the Doctor poster: http://screencrush.com

Amy and the Doctor: http://www.mirror.co.uk

Peter Capaldi: http://screenrant.com/