Eldest. By Christopher Paolini. New York: Knopf, 2005.
In light of my previous blog, you may be wondering why in the world I am reading and blogging on a fantasy/fiction book. Is that focused reading? Is that reading deeper? Well . . .
Let me tell you what drew me to this trilogy. Christopher Paolini was homeschooled all of his life. He graduated from high school at age 15 and began work on the first novel in Inheritance Trilogy, Eragon. My interest was immediately peeked because my wife and I have decided to homeschool, and I wanted to see where this 15 year old would take us. Thus far, he has met and exceeded all expectations.
Another reason for reading fantasy fiction is pure brain exercise! It takes incredible imagination and creative ability to produce entire worlds inhabited by fictional creatures and characters and, unbelievably artistic, to create a foreign language(s) spoken by these created inhabitants! When it comes to this aspect of fantasy literature, Paolini is as good as any author in the genre!
From a believer’s perspective, don’t look for outright Christian themes like in Narnia or an undergirding of Christian virtues like in Lord of the Rings. But you will find the needed motifs of hero, villain, courage, hope, despair, loyalty, betrayal, etc.
I did think it interesting that Paolini weaves a struggle between faith in a god or gods and atheism into the storyline. A conversation between Eragon (the hero) and his trainer (Oromis) occurs when Eragon questions Oromis’s beliefs. Oromis explains how believing in no god(s) in actually a better world. He says, “A place where we are responsible for our own actions, where we can be kind to one another because we want to and because it is the right thing to do instead of being frightened into behaving by the threat of divine punishment.” (p. 544) The storyline moves on as if this was actually a good argument for atheism! One would only hope the author’s personal views are not being expressed here. If so, hopefully Paolini will soon discover that Christianity does hold people responsible while maintaining a sovereign God who is in control of all things. In addition, where does Oromis determine right from wrong? By collective adherence? Well, then we are back to the old Nazi question - Germany agreed with Hitler because he gave them jobs, but that DID NOT MAKE NAZI GERMANY RIGHT! The standard must be outside of ourselves! And what is so wrong with punishment and reward as motivators for behavior? Isn’t that the way government is supposed to work justly? So there are more than a few problems with Oromis’s reasoning here.
However, I have to say a bit of reality sinks into this when Roran (Eragon’s cousin) finds himself in a kind of foxhole and begins to pray. Paolini writes, “Don’t let me die here, he pleaded, though, whom he addressed he knew not.” (p. 560) At least an appreciation for deep human inclination comes through here! When we are faced with death, we want a god then! A good god. A forgiving god. A saving god.
Well, that God we need is Almighty God of heaven and earth, but the time to cry for Him is now!
Back to the review. It’s a great story as far as a story goes. You will travel dozens of miles in the strangest of places. But it is just a reading for pleasure journey not a faith-building journey.