I know that some of the fans like to claim that we ‘haters’ look for things to hate. Honestly, I feel that the opposite is the truth; we look for the good in these books. Really, I don’t think anyone started reading the Eragon books, thinking they were going to hate them. It’s just not our fault that these books are so terrible. But there are good points, and I’ve noticed that us ‘haters’ are willing to give points to CP when he deserves it. We are willing to see the good in these books when it is there, it’s the fans who are unwilling to see the bad.
Really, who thought that giant snails were a good idea?
Anywho, this chapter has some good potential in it, yet at the same time…well, let's get on with the spork.
Nasuaada is being tortured. Bad King Galbatorix is mind-raping her. He’s trying to break her mind by flooding it with shit that is obviously not real. Nasuaada is laughing, no really, the chapter begins with Nasuaada laughing her head off as Galby sends her on a bad acid trip.
When I said this chapter had potential, I meant it. The idea of the villain, The Villain of this story, trying to break someone’s mind is interesting and can be done well. Having one’s mind tampered with, while not a new idea, can be a very effective when done properly. Particularly when presented as a form of punishment or torture. It’s one thing to damage to body, but mental pain and the scars that are left behind are sometimes shown to be a worse fate.
On Deep Space Nine episode “Hard Time”, Chief O’Brien was falsely accused of espionage and the punishment consisted of a false memory being implanted in his mind. The memory was of a 20 year prison sentence that while fake, was extremely traumatic and left O’Brien paranoid and emotionally damaged. The course of the episode shows the deterioration and pain O’Brien suffers from this false memory, yes those 20 years never happened, but to O’Brien those 20 traumatic years were vivid and horrifyingly alive in his mind. Ultimately Captain Sisko has to temporarily relieve O’Brien of his duties so that he can recover.
This is a perfect example of how the idea of false memories and images can be used effectively as a means of punishment and torture. O’Brien’s mind had been broken by the memory implant, he suffered from it and we see his suffering and the effects of this false memory. To add to the impact of this episode is seeing the change in O’Brien himself. O’Brien was a major character on DS9, a favorite of mine in fact. We saw him at work, with his family, the friendship that grew between him and Dr. Bashir. We knew him as a character, a person, knew his personality and quirks. And so when we see the dramatic shift in personality, the change that comes over him within “Hard Time”, it really hits home how much this fake memory is hurting him.
And now we come to CP and how he handles this idea. See, the first problem here is the levity and lack of danger. For one thing, Ol’ Galby seems to be beaming obviously false images and memories into Nasuaada’s head. Why? I really can’t tell. I mean, he’s trying to confuse her, I guess. But I feel that what would be more confusing would be a memory that is close to be real. Make Nasuaada believe that she has escaped Galby’s clutches, show her images of her breaking out and going on to lead the Varden to victory, then living a happy and fulfilled life afterward. Then break her out of that memory, show her that it was false. Then try it again, in a different fashion. Have Nasuaada wake up back in the Varden camp, try and make her believe that her kidnapping and captivity with Galby was a bad dream.
These sorts of scenarios are remarkably effective because they have the potential to be true. Showing her drug-fueled dreamscapes might make her think that she’s gone insane. Showing her realities that are possible and then showing that they are false will make her doubt her sanity to begin with. She’ll begin to doubt whether she is within the dream world or reality, she’ll doubt her mind, her own memories. That is how you do it.
And CP does sort of attempt this. At one point Galby tries to trick Nasuada into thinking that she is in the future, having survived the war and now lives with Murtagh and their children, though at times she suffers ‘attacks.’ It’s a good attack on Galby’s part, it shows a possible future with Nasuada as someone whose mind can’t be trusted. This is a point in CP’s favor. Then we get a couple more illusions that had the potential to be true; a fellow captive named Rialla and a captured Eragon. However these latter illusions were ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’ and the effect is kind of lost as Nasuada recounts these events with no emotion whatsoever.
All of these illusions are also ruined in that Nasuada immediately figures out that they are illusions. See, we never see her genuinely doubt herself, she always knows that Galby is trying to trick her and none of it is real. So the whole point of the chapter, seeing Nasuada’s mind torture, fails because there really is no torture. She always figures out the illusion immediately, or shortly thereafter. The whole point of breaking a character’s mind with mental torture is to make them doubt their mind and sanity. To leave behind mental scars, rather than physical. But CP focuses on elaborate descriptions and Galby causing her pain, rather than doubt. Really, for a supposedly mastermind villain, Galby is quite stupid. You can cause her body pain in real life, that’s not the point of mental torture. And as the pain is an illusion, an obvious illusion, none of it truly hurts Nasuada. In fact at one point Nasuada talks about how ‘entertaining’ one of Galby’s illusions was.
It had been rather dashing and exciting, and she had been tempted to find out how the sequence of events would resolve itself, but by then he felt she had played along with Galbatorix’s false show for long enough. Pg. 528
The words of a woman being tortured.
Second problem is the character herself, and this is an issue that has started with the first book of this God-awful series. As I mentioned before part of the impact and awesome’ness of the DS9 episode centered around the character of O’Brien. We already knew him, we knew something was wrong; we saw the shift in personality and saw the change. It’s different with Nasuaada though. She, like all characters in the Inheritance Vomit-fest, is incomplete. A 2D, cardboard cutout. I really don’t know much about her, after four books the character of Nasuaada is sadly lacking. Thus her torture comes off as being almost cold and clinical. There is no attachment to the character, no warmth, no connection. We can’t relate to her and so her suffering has no impact.
And as I pointed out before, she isn’t really suffering to begin with. We get purple-prose saturated descriptions of her torture, of the dreamscapes she wanders through, and none if it hits an emotional chord. It’s all description and embellishment, like CP is covering what should be a raw, emotional torture scene with a three foot layer of sugary frosting. There is no real emotion; sure we get melodramatic descriptions of THE PAIN. But of emotion? Well, look at the beginning of the chapter. She’s fucking laughing. Even Nasuaada doesn’t take this seriously and it makes me not want to take this whole situation seriously as well.
And still she laughed. Pg. 522
Watching them crawl toward her, Nasuaada began to chuckle Is this all he can think of? I have stranger dreams nearly every night. Pg. 523
She laughed again. Now Galbatorix was just trying to punish her. Pg. 526
I mean, really? She spends almost the entire chapter laughing. I get that CP is trying to show how brave she is (cue Nala “I laugh in the face of danger.”). But at the same time, there is no sense of danger, or suffering for that matter. This relates to a well-known problem of CP in that he’s afraid to truly hurt his characters, at least permanently. Eragon’s scar is removed completely, Arya’s marks of torture vanish and she was able to conveniently prevent rape from happening. Now Nasuada gets a pass in that her torture isn’t really torture. She will have no scars from this, either emotional or physical. Nothing will really affect her character here, this chapter might as well not exist as it has no impact on the character or story. Really, the only person who sort gets some character development is Murtagh, as we see him risking his life to help Nasuada. And I almost feel as if this is an accident, as this chapter is supposed to be about Nasuada, not Murtagh.
The almost whimsical chapter title doesn’t help either. It seems to be a more fitting title for a nursery rhyme rather than a torture chapter.
There really isn’t much more to add here. This chapter just disappoints me and these books disappoint me. I think that deep down; CP does have some writing talent. You see it in these bits and flashes throughout the books, moments when you think that ‘hey, this kid isn’t so bad after all.’ But then he ruins it, drowns it in purple prose and filler, chokes it death with thesaurus abuse and poor character development. If I could sum up this series with one word it would be ‘disappointment.’ This chapter had potential, it had a chance, and it flopped. We could have had a moment like in DS9 “Hard Time.” The moment where we see O’Brien breaking down, at the edge of his sanity, screaming out in pain and confusion at his best friend, Bashir;
“I’m not your friend! The O’Brien that was your friend died in that cell!”
Instead we get this;
She started to laugh again, and she continued to laugh even as Galbatorix forced her to confront horror after horror in an attempt to find the particular combination of pain and fear that would break her. She laughed because she knew her will was stronger than his imagination… Pg. 531
One person suffered from genuine torture and pain, the other didn’t. Can you guess which?