An Audio-Book Review: Memoire of a Grouchy Old Man


Belgarath the Sorcerer

By David and Leigh Eddings

Published by Recorded Books for the Blind

Read by Roy Avers

 

The Book:

Fans of David Eddings’ Belgariad and Malloreon series will, no doubt love this additional look at the characters they loved. However, I found myself wondering how much of it really added anything to the over story of the previously published series.

In some ways it does add. The story starts out where the final book of The Malloreon leaves off on the night Polgara’s and Durnick’s daughters are born, but It was rather predictable that in the aftermath, Belgarath and Garion would raid Polgara’s pantry for a keg of ale and start talking in a manner we are supposed to see as philosophical. Naturally Garion wants to hear about the entirety of everything that led up to that moment, a story he must have heard a few dozen times by now (Had I been writing the story I’m sure I would have had Belgarath intentionally misunderstand the question and start explaining how ale is made, but I was not writing it). Instead Garion wants it in writing and Belgarath refuses.

Why does he refuse? He admits freely that he likes listening to the sound of his own voice. He could have just talked all night, giving Garion essentially what he wanted. In fact, I might normally expected the story to be told in that manner, but instead Belgarath refuses until his wife forces him to write it. It turns out Belgarath is an incredibly bad author, writing this book as though the readers in the future will not only already know the story in advance, but the personal habits of the characters. Lines like , “You know how Durnick is,” rang particularly off key to me, because if he was really writing his story down for the ages, he should have realized that someone even a generation probably would not really know who Durnick is, never mind who he is. But eventually the story settles down into Belgarath’s first person narration.

I was somewhat surprised that the world had not changed by much over the course of Belgarath’s six thousand year-long life. It was Pseudo-medieval in the two main series and it was also pseudo-medieval in nature six thousand years earlier. Maybe one could argue that the early years were sort of like Post-Roman Europe, while in the Belgariad is was closer to Fourteenth Century, but that’s not much development for six thousand years. If anything Belgarath’s youthful world should have been New Stone Age in nature, but there are too many towns and cities and one gets the notion that in those early days when the gods walked among their people, the first thing the gods did was to teach them how to build cities. So, no, not a lot of development in six thousand years save that kingdoms and empires become more solidified.

As for the story, well, I think we have heard most of it before but with a few more details; most of which, I could have guessed at. Every so often, Belgarath gives us some details we had not read before, but I could not help but imagine Belgarath telling the story to me (which I think was the authors’ intention) and I know how much he likes to embellish his tales, so that he rarely tells the exact same story twice. Come to think of it, I am surprised he didn’t just find someone to dictate it to.

In some ways it is sort of as if Homer, having composed the Iliad, decided to tell the tale all over again from Paris’ point of view, and then again from Helen’s or Cassandra’s or that of Achilles or Menelaus. One story but a different point of view and with the next book Polgara the Sorceress, that is essentially what he does.

There are a lot of passages that will not make sense if you have not read the two main series this stands as a prequel for. Belgarath’s first person narration does tend to grate after a while and the constant asides to other characters (who he assumes will be reading this avidly) break the flow badly. Another flaw in the story is that Belgarath’s version frequently features details that did not exist in the backstory brought up in the main series, even when he was the one relating them. Yes, sure, there had to be some differences of else who would really read it, but it gets boring after a while especially since it felt like each difference or extra detail got inserted on regular intervals… “Oh, it’s been fifteen minutes. Time to point out that everything you know is wrong again!”

There were also several bad continuity errors, such as in this book Belgarath is fully in the know about the fact his daughter, Polgara, is a duchess, but in the Malloreon it takes him by surprise. Well, maybe his mind is going?

However, if you like David Eddings’ style, you will probably enjoy reading this one. It does have some new information and I did not hate it and in fact did find it entertaining much of the time.

 

The Audiobook:

I have not listened to the Audible recording of this book by J. P. Linton. If I am to believe the reviews of others, I made a wise choice in listening to Roy Avers instead. I thought he read the book excellently. He put in just enough emotion to bring the excitement of the story forward without ever going over the top. He never resorted to funny voices although perhaps Beldin’s gravelly growl came close a few times, but then, it still sounded like a real person talking, not a poorly voiced cartoon character.

If I have any reservations about the reading it is that I found it best to take in small doses. I listened to most of it which going to and from my office (about twenty minutes at a time) but had one long drive of over two hours and have to admit I started to get tired of listening to it. Whether that was due to Mister Aver’s style of reading or the way Belgarath’s narrative is written, I am not entirely sure.

So the story is passable even though it is mostly just a retelling of some of the Eddings’ earlier works and if you want to listen to it, I can recommend going out of your way for Roy Avers’ rendition.

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