The story is promising enough: Bilbo the hobbit finds himself volunteered for some reason for an adventure by Gandalf the wizard in which a bunch of dwarves travel to their ancestral home, the Lonely Mountain, to defeat the dragon Smaug that has taken up residence there and lords itself over the dwarves' rightful gold. Along the way, Bilbo meets the Gollum and gets his magical ring, which has a minor role to play in the three LOTR books.
But ultimately, this book has all the "negative" aspects of a Tolkien book--the possible racism, the boring poetry, the flat characters, the artless battle scenes--but none of the really interesting stuff, like the extensive maps, detailed histories, and invented languages. It hints at those things, of course, but by the time he had written The Hobbit Tolkien really hadn't conceived of his opus quite so grandly, and a lot of the stuff that makes the LOTR books so fascinating was sort of made up after The Hobbit and projected backwards on to it. It sucks for Carlton that this is where he decided to start with the series, but, then again, who gives a crap about Carlton?