The Inheritance Cycle: Commentary, FAQ, and Criticism

You're here for one of two reasons: One, you want to hear me ramble about some of the responses I've gotten over the years; or two, you are going to send me a comment and you wisely want to know what I have to say to the most common complaints people make. Of course, most of the people who are ignorant enough to say some of these things will not bother to take any time out of their day to see if what they're saying has already been said, so I'm probably preaching to the choir here.

First, don't say any of these things:

This is the list--with explanations/elaborations--of the most common things that have been said to me in critique of my essays on The Inheritance Cycle, and they'll be added to if I get enough of the same question or comment that I just don't want to say again.

If you plan to submit a comment or an e-mail, please do not argue any of these points with me, because I have already heard them, and unless you have a new slant on them (which I doubt), you'll be wasting your "breath" (erm, keystrokes).

Here they are.

"But description is a good thing!"

One of the major criticisms I get on my essays about these books is that the "purple prose" descriptions I cite as being over the top and unnecessarily dramatic are actually GOOD. I have been told over and over that this sort of vocabulary enriches the novel's landscape, while I feel it reads more like a vocabulary exercise meets a bad attempt at poetry.

Descriptions should be vivid, yes, but they should not sound like they're trying so hard to be vivid that they are the work of a high school English student attempting to use more colorful adjectives. I would rather hear "She was breathtakingly beautiful" than "She was as beautiful as an autumn sunset," because the first is descriptive and emotional while the second is hackneyed and overdone. If a man leaned close to me and said, "You know, you are so beautiful," I would be touched, whereas if he compared my beauty to the setting sun I would just think he was trying too hard to be complimentary.

In a recent e-mail, I had someone argue this point with me. I responded with the following few paragraphs:

About imagery: Of course good stories use imagery. But there is a such thing as too much and in the wrong spots. All imagery should enhance the story, but not eclipse it. The only time I think language is supposed to be admired for its beauty just on the basis of its arrangement is in poetry. In fiction, it needs to take a backseat to story and character--that doesn't mean it needs to happen less or be less descriptive, just that it needs to be placed correctly. Paolini writes in such a way that I get the distinct impression that he is choosing his words more for their sound than for their practicality.

For instance, if someone is crying, my first thought would be on wanting to know more about the emotion causing the crying. What is the person crying about? What is that emotion doing to that person's thoughts? What is that like? But Paolini switches gears at that point to talk about "tears like liquid diamonds." When someone is crying, I do not want their tears described so much as I want to feel their anguish. This is what I mean when I say he uses his description in the wrong spots. Often.

Describing what people's tears look like on the outside causes us, the readers, to naturally pull out of the characters' personal hell and into a world where their tears are art. I can't appreciate characters' sorrow if the story is too busy admiring their tears.

The amount of unnecessary description in Paolini's novels causes abrupt switches of perspective for readers; a description of a character's beautiful face is fine in a paragraph about another character's feelings about that beautiful face. But when the focus of the scene is, say, the couple's argument, then unless the description is enhancing *that*, I find it distracting. You can't stay connected to a character if you have to switch back and forth between hearing the character's thoughts (being inside the person's mind) and then looking at the character from outside as described *by a narrator and not another character*. In this sort of situation, the narrator is cultivating his own voice when all voices in the story should be the characters', even if it's third person. He has not chosen to relate this story as a storyteller who speaks directly to readers (as in, "Gather 'round, my sons and daughters. I will now tell you the story of Eragon"). But he does drop the pace and use the perks of that storyteller's voice whenever it's convenient--but not correct--to do so.

"You're too jaded to read this book. You went into this looking to hate it."

Now another common complaint: Dumbassery regarding me being too picky about details and allowing my editorial prowess to interrupt my enjoyment of the book--like the book is full of magic, but I'm a philistine because I "can't" see past its flaws to get to the magic. I'll avoid having to say what I've said a bunch of times by just pasting and paraphrasing another bit that I wrote as a response to an older e-mail:

I don't think I should have to hack through garbage and "see past" a bunch of &%#* in order to extract the small amount of magic a book might have. Not to mention that in this case I didn't see it. And I think most fans' adoration for the book comes largely from the doe-eyed attraction to the idea of the hero type. Feh.

There are aspects of the book--IN THEORY--that have merit. The problem is their execution, and also there is the fact that these magical moments are stolen outright from overused fantasy clichés and repackaged in an ugly box. All the excuses and defense of the book ask for me to "look past" the rough to see the diamond, when Paolini's only contribution to this jewel is to put the dirt, mud, and bedrock around the crystallized carbon that someone ELSE spent millenia squeezing into a precious stone. Give me a break.

And how's that for an original metaphor? So there.

So . . . what do I have to gain by saying I hate a book if I don't actually hate it? I hate the book itself and I hate the process by which it appeared in the publishing industry, and I resent the fact that it's such a piece of crap and some people don't even notice and throw money at it because it is about dragons and is written by *gasp* a teenager. In any case, I don't hate other successful books (Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, His Dark Materials) and I don't hate other young authors (Bujor, Atwater-Rhodes)--I don't know why anyone would think that I have to stretch in order to particularly hate this one for some reason. I gave more than enough reasons why I thought the book was trash. It's pretty unfair to claim I'm just "looking for something to hate" when I did such a damn good job supporting my opinion.

I'm a writer myself as well as a professional editor, so I have a certain amount of right to be standing here saying what I'm saying about this book. I'm not just a negative nancy who likes to crap all over people's books; I generally know what I'm talking about. I do believe people can still like the book in spite of its flaws, but not me. Here's what happened: The book was published by the author's parents and promoted with their money until a well-known published writer who met the author at a signing forced his kid to read it, and when the kid said it was good he talked to his own publishers about getting it a "real" deal. Someone at Knopf wisely saw the gap in the fantasy market and slapped a pretty cover on this one to plug the hole and make some money. If you don't understand why I don't like a derivative, predictably plotted, badly characterized, unmasterfully dialogued book that on top of all that got into the publishing world in the above way . . . well, then maybe you ought to read the essay again, or ask me a couple more questions, or maybe accuse me of a few more false judgments. But I assure you I can support my opinions rock-solid and clarify anything you think is off-base.

In this same camp are the people who say they think I didn't even read the book. If you can read my essay and then say "well I bet you didn't even READ the book!" it just shows me that there's no way you understood what I said. Hey, I put up with no small amount of torture and pain to read these books just so I could say I gave them a fair chance before I voiced my negative opinion of them. I've also been called "biased," which doesn't make sense. Yes, it's an opinion piece, which by definition is a form of bias. That's what reviews ARE. But it's not a "biased" review. Just because I didn't enjoy the book doesn't mean it's biased, and it doesn't mean the essay doesn't support its point.

I essentially said "this is what I think, and this is why, and these are examples showing what I'm talking about." It doesn't make sense for you to expect me to open the essay by saying "attention: This essay is actually not worth very much because it is my opinion." All reviews are someone's opinion. Or maybe the people who say this sort of thing don't understand that I did a very good job giving support to every problem I had with the book.

"Different from YOUR opinion" doesn't equal "BIASED and UNFAIR and WORTHLESS."

You're allowed to not like the book. I didn't. But I explained why. If you have a problem with how I did it, explain why.

"You're not this book's target audience, so of course you don't like it."

Oh really? I like plenty of books that aren't aimed at me, so I doubt that's the reason. In fact, I am a woman--not a teen or a child--and some of my favorite books are kids' and teens' books. AND I don't enjoy reading what most would probably identify as the most likely genre for my gender and age group: Romance. I pretty much detest it. I like science fiction, fantasy, and imaginative and well-written young people's literature. (And a lot of nonfiction.) If it has good characters in a believable world, I'll read it. I'm a fantasy fan who has liked many other books in the genre, even if they are for teens or even younger. I have read tons of children's books in fantasy and have loved them despite being an adult. I like Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter and Young Wizards and His Dark Materials. I'm not the target audience for those either. I love them because they are good. You can't pretend that I hate this book because I'm not the target audience. I hate this book because it is a bad book.

A recent e-mail allowed me to write a nice metaphorical response by claiming I'm not the book's target audience, and comparing my attitude to the concept of holding a Ford Focus to the standards of a Porsche. Observe:

There are many different kinds of cars. There are many different kinds of books.

You can't criticize a Ford Focus for not having the features a Porsche does. That is true.

You can't criticize a children's book for not having any romance. Children's books aren't necessarily supposed to have romance in them to be good children's books. The only time you could criticize a book for not having romance in it is if the book was in the romance section.

I understand that.

But the different types of cars are like differerent genres of books. You can't criticize one for not being the other, because there are different standards for each car, each genre.

But it's equally true that some cars have better engines. Just better. Some cars simply ARE better than others because they have more quality parts, or are more fuel-efficient, or have endurance over long periods of time, or perform well over difficult terrain. If your car breaks down frequently, it is not a quality car. It is not a matter of you not being the "target audience" for this car. Cars, period, are supposed to take you from point A to point B. If they can't do that, they're not good cars.

I argue that as a book, Eragon doesn't go from point A to point B without breaking down a few times (causing the reader/rider to have to get out and make adjustments), and it doesn't have as smooth a ride, and it's uncomfortable, and it has bad gas mileage. There is no way to blame that on its driver. If you enjoyed your ride in Eragon despite the noisy gears and the bumpy ride and that weird smell inside that is definitely NOT "new car smell," then what we have here is NOT a target audience problem. What we have here is a person who has no standards due to having been on so few car rides . . . or a person who is so excited by one or two aspects of this car (that might or might not have been swiped from another car to be fit together imperfectly) that all the other faults are dismissed out of ignorance or naïveté. Lots of pieces of crap cars can have nice paint.

Mechanics will tell you that some cars are good and some suck. But no mechanic is going to expect a Ford Focus to perform like a Porsche, or to have the same parts. I, as an experienced reader and book editor, am a book "mechanic." And I will tell you with some authority that I do not expect a fantasy book to perform like a romance, or a children's book to perform like a corporate thriller. But I hold them all to their standards within their genres, and there is no genre where it's okay for a book to SUCK.

Eragon SUCKS. I gave a lot of reasons why I think so and know so. I have a lot of reasoning, time, and professional experience invested in my verdict. So believe me, it's not an issue of "not being the target audience." None of my attacks on the book were of the personal variety, like that I just didn't *like* aspects of it. They were done poorly. There's no target audience for cars with engine trouble. Most people don't mind driving a Ford Focus instead of a Porsche because they know the tradeoffs. But nobody likes driving either car if its engine, brakes, etc. are not in good working order.

I think Paolini should take his book to a mechanic.

"But the book is a bestseller! If everyone likes it so much, how bad can it really be?"

On the reception of the book: This book is like Harry Potter in a way. I don't say that because I think they're similar books or because I think they're of similar quality. Far from it. Harry Potter is far superior to Paolini's books. But I wanted to say this because very much like Rowling, anything Paolini writes will sell. It does not have to be good to be a bestseller, so those who wave it in my face that it was a bestseller as some kind of attempt to prove its quality don't have a leg to stand on.

It's true that I don't always believe or agree with the critics, but usually if I love something they hate, I have some reason for it other than the quality of the product. In other words, I might be able to acknowledge the critics' assessments as being true, but offer another reason to like the work in spite of these shortcomings. (An example might be how I love the concepts but not so much the writing style of Gregory Maguire, or how I love the music in RENT but think the ending is cheesy, or how I might think a movie sucks but love the acting in it.)

So I hesitate to say this. But I will say it anyway.

Has anyone noticed that most of the reviews for this book say it SUCKS? And that the ones that don't almost always talk more about how amazing it is that a kid as young as Paolini wrote it than about the quality of the book itself?

This book didn't get voted "Worst Book of 2005" by Entertainment Weekly for nothing. And that is all I'm going to say on the subject of other people's opinions being any reason to reconsider the quality of the book.

This book could have been awful and people would have bought it regardless. In fact, I assert that it WAS awful and people bought it regardless. Fans do strange things. I had a friend in college who was obsessed with the band Smashing Pumpkins, and he once said, "If Billy Corgan released a CD of himself farting on a drum, I would buy it." I think that's the attitude here.

The second book wasn't really held to particularly stringent standards because it did not have to be. Everyone knew that it would be bought on the strength of the previous book, and everyone bought the previous book because they were so wowed by the thought of a teenager writing a book. By the time I turned twenty, I had written FOUR books. It isn't that difficult to write a book. I shudder to think what would have happened if my parents had vanity published the first book I wrote at age fourteen. The one I wrote after that wasn't much better. And I know it, and furthermore if I had been published at that age I would have assumed that my writing needed very little work.

What's difficult is writing a GOOD book, regardless of whether you're a teen. And I would go as far as to say the books I wrote when I was eighteen and nineteen were as good as Paolini's books, although they might not have been as well received if they had been published because they are modern fantasy with no magic or dragons in sight. (At the time of Eragon's release, the fantasy world was starry-eyed from the release of the Lord of the Rings movies, but most of the kids who became giant Eragon fans were not literate enough to read LOTR.)

Despite all the book's shortcomings and the outcries of the critics, the success of this young author seems to be all the answer that his fans need. "If the books suck so much, why is he the one who's published while you're not? If they suck so much, why is he rich?" they ask me. Well, just because all of Germany went along with Hitler's ideals does not mean they were good ones. Just because a religion has many followers does not mean that their thoughts about God and the world are therefore right. The group mentality that has people scrambling to read these things is rather painful to see.

Interestingly, I found this quote in Eldest: "It is hard to watch such idiocy and not be angry."

My sentiments exactly.

Remember, "bestseller" does not mean "good." "Bestseller" means "lots of people like it." And said people have not taken any tests to prove that their opinions have any merit at all; they have numbers on their side and that's about it. In the words of the immortal Flannery O'Connor: "There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." Ha ha ha. "The masses" frequently make horrific mistakes and generally have bad reasoning skills and even worse taste. You cannot make me recant or apologize for any of my statements about the book by trying to bludgeon me with peer pressure. I'm well aware that the book is well-liked. The same people probably like music I hate and television shows I wouldn't be able to stand.

Fact of the matter is, I've seen a lot of trash published. I've even seen a lot of trash that's successful. Does that mean it's good? Is it true that because something has fans, it doesn't matter that it's not very high quality? Let's put it this way, if everyone at the table chews with their mouths open and no one at the table is grossed out by it, is it still rude to do it? Probably not, as long as everyone at the table is guaranteed to be doing it themselves. The publishing world unfortunately isn't like that. Some of us know how to chew with our mouths closed, and some of us have sensibilities that get offended when we have to look at some jackass whose food falls out of his mouth as he talks.

I think I'll stand by my opinions . . . because they're supported by facts, not by numbers. There's a big difference between a big group of untrained singers and one well-trained soloist. Guess what? People pay to hear the soloist, and there's a very good reason for that; what comes out of her mouth is actually quality. If you plan to argue with me about this and you're about to use the books' popularity to change my mind, I urge you to stop now and don't waste both of our time.

"Well, maybe you don't believe the FANS, but what about professional authors who have complimented Paolini? Do you think THEY'RE deluded?"

Yeah I do actually. And I don't personally like Terry Brooks or Anne McCaffrey (authors who have complimented Paolini). Though I also don't think they're bad writers. I just don't personally like their stories. There's a difference.

In any case, no one ever said that if you're a successful writer then therefore your taste is impeccable. One of my favorite writers is Eoin Colfer. I read a book once because it had a quote from him on the cover that said he said "I love this book." Oh God, it was one of the worst books I've ever read. I was disappointed in Mr. Colfer. Since then I have seen him endorse other books I dislike or didn't particularly enjoy. I've come to the conclusion that the man can write, but he has crap taste. So be it. It doesn't change my opinion of his writing.

And it's very shallow to try to throw it in my face that other successful writers like Paolini's work (or say they do, at least) and expect me to change my tune or at least feel embarrassed about my voice. Come on now.

"Leave off Chris, he's just a kid. And he wasn't trying to write the Great American Novel; he just wanted to write something people would enjoy, and he did that, so it's good enough."

Ahh yes, the excuse that makes everyone multiply every praise to "WOW, and he's only a kid!" and then give him a "Well he's only a kid, he's learning!" excuse for every horrific mistake. Included in this is the suggestion that even if he wasn't a kid, it IS his first book, so I should stop being so hard on him. Well, if I may paraphrase something I said to another reader once: A lot of writers whose first book is a stinkbomb are not getting all kinds of unnatural praise with all the bad reviews getting chucked out the window because he's a kid. Everything's exaggerated with this one. You hear things like "ooh, he graduated high school at fifteen." The boy was homeschooled. It's not the same as "regular" graduation if you graduate homeschool at fifteen, but yet everyone's acting like it proves he's a genius. "He created his own language for the books!" No he didn't. "He got published at such a young age!" His parents vanity published the book, which is absolutely something ANYONE with money can do. Now he's touring and giving talks like he's in a position to tell others how to write and to be this inspirational figure, and really what he is is a creative kid who was in the right place at the right time. I have to say I thank my lucky stars no one tried to publish what I wrote when *I* was fifteen. I'd have been dead from embarrassment about now. Heh.

My mentioning of Paolini's age is in the context of "I should not have to let him get away with 'but I'm only nineteen!'" That's the most common cry for mercy that I hear: "He's a BOY, let him be! He did GREAT for being a teenager!" I never said I don't consider the author's age; I said I shouldn't HAVE to. His age is supposed to be this get-out-of-criticism-free card, not a detriment that his bad ol' enemies are using against him. I said I did not like to judge based on age, meaning it wasn't like I found out he was nineteen and assumed he couldn't have written anything worthwhile. But I did say that reading his work makes it obvious that he hasn't been at it long. You shouldn't be able to tell that people are inexperienced by their writing. I mean, does he want to spend his whole life being good "for his age"? I can do a very good cartwheel for someone who isn't a gymnast, and for someone who sucks at math I graph functions extremely well. For a short person I'm very tall. You get the idea.

Say I go to an art gallery, and I notice that most of the framed art is beautiful and in some way obviously made by a talented person even if I don't like or understand some of it. But then I see some painting that's framed like the others and hung up next to other artists' work, and I don't think it's very well done. Its colors are flat, the portrait's eyes are at the wrong angle with the tilt of the head, the perspective and proportions are off, and the lighting on the face is different from the lighting on the neck. My artist's eye notices these things and I begin to point them out.

Immediately I am attacked by art critics defending the painting. Most often they say that this portrait was done by a boy when he was only fifteen, so it's great for the kid's age. Secondly they say he didn't set OUT to paint a realistic picture. He set out to paint something people would enjoy, and people are enjoying it and it obviously got into this gallery, so it must be good enough. But all I see is the painting itself. And I still don't think it's good. I would understand "it's great for a fifteen-year-old," even if I don't really think it's that either; however, this isn't a children's gallery or a developing artists' gallery, and I don't feel like I should escalate the painting's value or its creator's talent just because he is young. He is in the art gallery with adults and serious artists, so he should be on their level if he is going to be hung in the gallery. Then I think to wonder . . . how did this happen? Is the whole artistic world as oblivious as these art critics?

After a little research, I find that the kid who painted it has parents who own the gallery. Surprise!

I'm still looking at a substandard painting. I'm not reading in any excuses for how long the artist has been painting or who his parents are. I'm looking at the work itself. I still see that the artist needs to learn some things about perspective and facial proportions, and I know enough about art through my own experience as an art critic and a painter to be able to tell the difference between a deliberate IGNORING of these rules (as in Picasso's cubism or Dalí's surrealism) and a badly rendered attempt.

And obviously this kid's parents telling him all along that he's a genius has made him think he doesn't need to get better; he just needs to make more like this, because this is good enough and everyone seems to be so in awe of it.

Nope. I don't buy it. And ultimately allowing "good for his age" to be considered on par with "good, period" lowers the standards across the board, hurting no one more than the "artist" himself.

"There AREN'T any new ideas in the world! Everything that CAN be done HAS been done. Every major fantasy rips off Tolkien anyway! So why are you criticizing him for having a few influences?"

This is one of the most untrue statements I've ever heard, and consequently, one of the ones I hate the most. More of my avoiding saying it again because I've said it before in other communications:

Hey, I'm not saying that lots of fantasy novels don't take inspiration from Mister Master J.R.R. They do. So does Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not disagreeing with you there. But I would disagree with you if you are trying to say that Tolkien's Middle-Earth is now a public-domain playground that writers are allowed to take and rename Alagaësia if they want.

Inspiration is one thing but literary transplants are another thing entirely. And any good surgeon knows that if you're going to do a transplant then there has to be a blood type match. From the lethal curdling that I saw in Eragon, I'd venture to say that Middle-Earth is O-positive and Alagaësia is AB. Negative.

I think there are plenty of fantasy novels that aren't "high fantasy" and Tolkien-inspired, and I'd say that some of them could be considered "major." I know you're saying that Tolkien created a mythology that irrevocably affected us all, but I don't think you understand what my problem is with Eragon if you think that's it. Influence. Influence is the key word there. Lots of fantasy novels' elves suddenly started being long-lived, tall, fair, graceful people instead of working for Santa after Tolkien showed up. Okay. But you know what Paolini did? He didn't create his own world so much as write mediocre fanfiction in Tolkien's. That's how much I see that's ripped off. He changed the name of the orcs to the Urgals, but he even kept the bit where there was a special subsection of the baddies that were elite, just like Uruk-hai. The only difference between Paolini's stuff and regular fanfiction is that usually fanfic steals the characters. But he kinda did that too, except it was more from a known story structure that didn't need to be told again than from one particular work. Though it really resembles Star Wars more than anything else. (Though Lucas does seem to have admitted that Star Wars is totally based on Campbell's mythic hero thang.)

There's nothing wrong with inspiration and I stand by that. I also stand by my statement that if you're going to tell an old story, you should have something new in it as well so that you are not rewriting the same epic with the names changed.

Had Paolini run the race like all us lowly authors without publisher parents, every publisher would have said "oh man, not this story again." He admits it's a traditional fantasy epic--and hey, maybe that's not always a bad thing, but a new spin on it would be nice. I don't find anything fresh about this, and I guarantee you that various publishers would have looked at the outline and said "another one from the cookie cutter . . . where's that circular file?"

Seriously, most publishers are looking for something new. This is old news.

Even if I'd never seen Star Wars or read LOTR I would not have thought it was a good book; it wasn't executed well and I'd have just thought "well, that felt pretty forced" without knowing where he'd gotten the ideas. The point is, even if he *hadn't* copied, I wouldn't have liked the book. And of course I'm not saying "no authors copy," but other people doing it doesn't make it therefore okay for him to do it. I generally don't like traditional fantasy because it just brings nothing new to the table. Epic quest this, get the jewel that, blah blah. I personally am a science fiction/fantasy writer and one of my stories is *extremely* derivative (meaning it "copies"), but I doubt anyone will read it and say "this has been done before, this is totally a rip-off." I've rewritten a well-known fairy tale. But I venture to say when that one comes out people aren't going to call me unoriginal because of it. Good authors don't "copy"; they have influences. Almost every fantasy writer is influenced by Tolkien and the other greats. But the bottom line is, there is a big difference between writing something that has been Tolkien-inspired and writing something that sounds like Tolkien fan fiction.

And I really resent the idea that there are no new ideas just because you haven't thought of any. It's said that in the 1800s some guy who worked at the patent office claimed that everything that can be invented HAS been invented. Sorry to burst your bubble, but while it's in some very narrow way true that there is "nothing new under the sun," it is also true that all it will take is another person like Tolkien for the whole fantasy genre to be revolutionized again.

"If you hated the first one so much, why'd you read it all, and why'd you read its SEQUEL? I bet you secretly LIKE it and can't admit it."

Ooh. First off, the main reason I bothered to finish the first book is that I quickly amassed a series of complaints early on in my reading of the novel and I knew for a fact that if I did not finish reading it then its fans would devour me alive for dissing the book but admitting to not finishing it.

In order to get a full understanding of a book, one really must finish it. And since this is but the first part of a series, I theoretically have to read the whole thing to give it its proper chance. Some people hysterically wave Paolini's age and inexperience in my face and tell me I need to just READ ELDEST and see how he's matured. But Paolini's writing style hasn't grown up at all--it's been stagnating. And it sold a bajillion copies anyway.

In any case I am a fast reader and it does not take very much for me to read a book. Not to mention that I worked at a bookstore and I was the store's specialist in children's books, so it really helped to be familiar with the material and know what to recommend. That's why I picked up Eragon in the first place.

"Why have a website dedicated to bashing a book? If you didn't like it, why not just leave it alone? This is not productive."

There are plenty of books that I either am not interested in or just didn't like that I also don't have a problem with. I have a problem with this one for the reasons I discussed in detail in my essay. I don't believe I wasted my time just because I expressed my opinion and then did a good job of supporting it.

It's not something that I just don't care about; it's a book that I don't like AND it's a book that I think got published to great fanfare when it didn't deserve it. Published by the author's parents and carted around until he got lucky and got picked up by someone with a good marketing eye, I just find the whole deal rotten.

That is what I'm "against," and while I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm fighting or rebelling against this book, I would say I'm expressing my extreme distaste. It's not like I'm picketing or leading a movement to stop its publication. I'm allowed to talk about my opinion.

I've reviewed plenty of books for the purpose of showing others what I thought about them and why. My essay is not solving world hunger or stopping child abuse, but it's getting the word out that the book's reputation is way over-blown. I have personally been contacted by some people who were wondering whether to read it, found my essay, and decided it would have been a waste of money. My work is done.

I like to talk about my literary opinions, and usually it's a positive opinion that I want to spread. But no one lectures me about how my fan sites on five other book series are "not productive" even though they are doing the same thing: Making known my opinion in a literate and well-thought-out way.

I don't believe in just saying "this book sucks" or "this book rules." You have to give reasons for it or your opinion doesn't have any weight. It just so happens that this book had a ton of problems, so I voiced my problems with those problems. That should not be a problem for YOU.

If you want to try to tell me I shouldn't have written or posted my opinion of the book because you think it isn't productive, then I'm going to turn it around on YOU and say "it's just an essay, not something to rebel or fight against. Why should you worry about what I think?" If I dislike something but I'm supposed to shut up and leave it alone, then apply the same standard to yourself.

"You're only crapping all over this book because you're jealous of him, because you can't stand the idea that another young writer was so successful and you're not."

No actually I know why "another young writer" was so successful. Because he was in the right place at the right time. And his parents vanity published his work. Paolini was successful due to a pretty wild coincidence involving meeting a published writer. Sometimes that works. Ever wonder why all you have to do to sell a book is be famous and write a book about it? People who know people!No mystery at all as to why he made it when he did. It had great reception because the marketing people were very smart and because the timing was right (LOTR movies were grinding fans' desire for fantasy novels you don't have to be so damn LITERATE to read, and no new Harry Potter book in sight).

And I've been at this writing thing a long time, but I have no reason to be "frustrated" since as such I don't have rejection letter wallpaper. I've written more novels than I have fingers to count them, but I also have standards. In any case it's not like I'm some crap writer who keeps getting rejections and is now wailing about the injustice of it all.

Not to mention that most of the people who make this assumption have never read my writing. If they've read any of my writing and they are willing to critique it with the sort of depth and support I offered when critiquing Paolini's books, I might start listening, but most of them don't do this . . . because they can't. All they can see is "You disagree with me!" and all they can say is "So you suck!" The key is SUPPORT, guys. Support what you say, like I did, and maybe you will get taken seriously.

"Who are YOU to criticize what Paolini does? Are you a professional editor? Are you a writer? Are you a writing teacher? You should shut up because you don't know what you're talking about."

I see. So . . . in other words you have accused me of having no credentials without . . . checking my credentials. Word to the wise: Don't assume that someone is unqualified just because they disagree with you.

I am a professional editor. I am a freelancer, meaning I do not work for one company steadily. I currently have three contracts for which I am paid, and the first one of these was established in 1996. If you'd like to do the math, that means I've kind of been at this a while.

I am also a writer, as mentioned above. I feel that because I am both an editor and a writer, I am in a unique position to look at works of fiction, being that I have both built fiction up from the ground AND torn it down to the ground again. Though it is impossible to be as thorough with one's own editing as one is with another person's, I do think that my editing skills prevent me from having appallingly written manuscripts, so regardless of whether you like my characters or my ideas you'll probably at least be willing to concede that I have a readable and smooth writing style.

I am not a writing teacher. I have never been a writing teacher, though I do have an education degree. But an editor is in a way a writing teacher, and I have dispensed hundreds of pages of advice over the years. You may not believe it if you hate my essays, but I have been repeatedly contacted by people who read them and subsequently wrote me to thank me for helping them draw their attention to similar mistakes they were making. One teenage author's e-mail statement said the following: "If anything, Eragon is a guide of what NOT to do when I write." Another appreciative soul said this: "I was thrilled to death after reading your review and I thought that you might be delighted to know that someone out there was reading it and sympathized completely. If I were ever to write something of length I would certainly hope that someone like you would be willing to proofread and edit it." Another girl: "I have dreams of being a fantasy author . . . and the rant helped me recognize things I shouldn't put in my books."

And one more slightly nasty thing for me to say in response to this: It's actually a bit amusing to have my credentials questioned by people who by and large can't write a coherent sentence. Almost every person who's criticized me has poor communication skills. I don't think they have any right to doubt my competence.