Friday, December 02, 2022

Karen S Wiesner: Presentation is King, Part 1

A Reader's Commentary

Presentation is King, Part 1

by Karen S. Wiesner

In this three-part commentary using author Christopher Paolini's two series, I talk about the conundrum of how important presentation is with massive sagas.


I just finished reading To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, an 880 page hardcover, 1038 page mass market paperback {mmp} book (not including multiple appendices and an afterword and acknowledgement, which I will note that in the mmp added another 63 pages). The novel installment is the first in a new series called Fractalverse. The author is Christopher Paolini. Surely you remember him. At 15, this guy graduated high school and started his first novel, Eragon, the first of a four-book young adult fantasy series set in the land of Alagaƫsia. It was published in 2002 by his parents' publishing company. Multi-talented Paolini himself drew the cover as well as all the maps inside. He toured extensively to promote it--while wearing a medieval costume. Long story short, Paolini was discovered and Knopf publishing house bought the series, reissuing the first book in August 2003. At the age of 19, Paolini made the New York Times Bestseller list. He holds the Guinness World Record for being the youngest author of a bestselling series ever.

I remember reading Eragon in 2006 around the same time the film adaptation with Jeremy Irons was released and thinking, This must be the coolest thing ever. Not only is the author a kid, but he's writing about dragons. Dragons! An epic, sprawling fantasy with dragons. And, man, Paolini could write. He wrote the hell out of that book. (Did I mention dragons?)

I had one dual-faced problem with this book and pretty much all of Paolini's: The size (which is a direct result of the complexity).

Now, let it be known that I'm a die-hard reader in every sense of the word. Since I started grade school and realized the building held its very own room filled with books galore, I have loved books. I started working in the school library when I was in 1st grade and continued that into my high school years and a new building. The grade-school librarian set aside all the brand new books just for me to read in advance of everyone else. In the 5 years I was in that initial building, I read nearly every book the library offered. I was a fast reader and I devoured everything. Whenever I wasn't doing anything else, I was reading. It was my hobby of choice. Or maybe it was more like breathing for someone like me. In any case, by the time I was in high school, I read a Stephen King size book a day. Is it any surprise I wanted to be an author? (BTW, I wrote my first book when I was 5. Not exactly a keeper, but hey…)

So, back to the point, the only problem I had with Paolini's Eragon was the size of it--528 pages--which was a corresponding consequence of its intricate design. As flawlessly written as that first novel was and all the ones that followed in the course of 13 years, including this new intense sci-fi saga that was offered by the now in-his-late-30s author, I admit that I have trouble reading all of his offerings (except The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm, a sequel collection of short stories set in the world of Eragon--which I confess I knew nothing about until I picked up To Sleep in a Sea of Stars and saw it listed in the front with the rest of The Inheritance Cycle). I think I might have read the final book in The Inheritance Cycle, Inheritance, but I can't be 100% sure. If I did, I have no memory of the culminating story contained within.

While I was reading To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, I started to ask myself why I've always had such trouble finishing--or frankly, even beginning--one of Paolini's books. Everything is in his favor: He's an excellent writer, no dispute there. Some of my favorite books are written in the fantasy genre. I adore dragons. I love science fiction, and, when combined with horror…forget about it. Win-win. {I do admit with To Sleep…, I wanted more Alien, less Enemy Mine (Dennis Quaid).} Regardless, the bottom line is that I highly recommend these two series written by Paolini to any fantasy and sci-fi lover.

Almost unconsciously while I worked to get through To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, though, my brain was analyzing my reactions to reading all of his stories. I enjoyed the most the first parts of both his series. What I mean by "parts" is literal in the case of To Sleep..., which was divided into six separate parts that run the gamut, size wise. In the mmp, Part I has 160 pages, the middle parts are between 150-275 pages, and the last one is only 57. The Inheritance Cycle doesn't have parts. However, with the first book, I was really only immersed in the first 150 pages or so. Then I got bogged down. I have some explanations for why this could be the case. In next week's commentary, I'll go over those as we analyze this conundrum concerning how massive sagas are presented.

Happy reading!

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Visit her here:

No comments:

Post a Comment