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Discussion of the first 6 Harry Potter books

Posted by phduffy on 2005-09-06 16:47:37
2 forum posts

I went to Ireland, and figured I'd grab the first two Harry Potter books from my mom, so that I'd have something to read on the plane. As you may know, I've loved all three movies (particularly the 3rd). To me, these movies capture a magic that's very rare in either film or novels today.

Anyways, I got to the first book about 5 days into my trip.
By the time I returned home, I'd finished the first 2, and purchased the 3rd and 4th books and read them as well. I got home and borrowed the 5th and 6th books, and finished each of those in a matter of days.

I assume that if you're reading this, you're somewhat familiar with the Harry Potter story... his parents die, and he's raised by his aunt and uncle (ala Luke SkyWalker), until his 11th birthday, when he's taken away to Hogwart's, the wizard school. Each book in the series chronicles one year at Hogwart's as Harry attempts to learn how to become a wizard, and as he battles against Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed his parents.

The books are called children's books, and there's some truth to that; however, I think they'd be more appropriate in the teen section (which is where they sometimes appear, although they're so popular that they appear in General fiction now. Apparently on its first day of release, the 6th Harry Potter book sold more copies than the DaVinci Code did in a year). The level of discourse is evidence of the fact that these are teen books, although the themes of the books mature as Harry does. ie, the 3rd,4th, 5th and 6th books have more intricate plots, and are darker, than the first two. However, all the books are an easy read. I'm compare them to Ender's Game, for those of you familiar with that novel.

I think JK Rowling has done a fantastic job of making characters that you care about, and plots that are interesting. Sometimes you get mad at how stupid people are, but then you remember that they're 15 years old. One of these books (I won't say which one so as to save some of the suspense) had more of an emotional effect on me than any book I've read in a long time... umm, let's just say my eyes were itchy.

Despite all my praise, there are some faults. I for one, would like to see some of the focus taken off Harry to focus on the other players. I thought this was going to happen in book 4, and that we'd be treated to two parallel stories. Unfortunately, Harry was quickly brought into the main story (I say unfortunately, but book 4 is my favourite of them all).

Another fault, which came to a head in book 5, is that at times plot advancement requires complete stupidity on the part of some characters. Book 5 doesn't really work unless Harry, Ron, Hermione, the Ministry of Magic and Dumbledore (among others) all act like idiots. Harry, Dumbledore always helps you... when something weird happens, tell him.
Harry's friends: every year Harry thinks something weird is going on somewhere... maybe it's time to start taking him seriously?
Even with those faults, Rowling does do a good job of planting the odd Red Herring, so that certain events do not conclude as we thought they would. I think Snape may be the ultimate Red Herring. Or at least a somewhat complex character, in that you're never quite sure what the hell is going on with him, and who he's working with.

Another fault, which while not a huge one is still one I want to get out, is this:
Harry is frequently compared to Voldemort, in that he's a halfbreed - one of his parents is a wizard, the other a muggle. We're shown that this is the case with Voldemort, however this is clearly not the case with Harry. Both of his parents studied at HogWarts. Yes, both of his mother's parents were muggles, and perhaps that's what's being said, but it's not clear, and it's not the same as Voldemort.
Speaking on the issue of Half-Bloods, the Potter books frequently show the affects of racism, as some wizards come from pure-bred families, and look down on half bloods, or mudbloods (people who have two muggles for parents). However, I have yet to see any explanation of how half breeds could exist. There is virtually no interaction between wizards and muggles, and when a muggle does see a wizard performing magic, their memory is erased.

For anyone considering reading these books, I think that the quality took a strong turn forwards in book 3. The writing is more mature, the setting darker, the plot more complex. I would rank the books as such:

Book 4
Book 6
Book 3
Book 2
Book 1
Book 5

With that said, I think that if you're considering starting the series, you should wait. Basically, there are two possibilities if you start the series:
a) you think it's okay, not great, don't want to read anymore of the books. (Or hate it and don't want to read anymore of the books)
b) you'll love it and rush to read all the books... at which point you're get to book 6 and wish she would hurry the fuck up with book 7. (Although to her credit, the books consistently come out once every two years. She's not George RR*) And the ending of book 6 is closer to the Empire Strikes Back then the Two Towers, meaning I can't wait for the next one.


Oh yeah, one more thing. As I mentioned, I loved the previous movies. Some people say that the books are way better, but really, the movies are pretty much an exact duplicate of the book. I don't know if the dialogue's the same, but the plot and characters are all identical. With that said, I'm somewhat worried for the next movie. Why? Well, here's a page count summary of the 6 books:

Book 1 - 185
Book 2 - 200
Book 3 - 250
Book 4 - 600
Book 5 - 700
Book 6 - 600

As you can see, there's considerably more to cover in the next book, and I'm not sure I can see how a 2.5 hour movie will do it. Oh well, I look forward to seeing them try.

*I'm not saying that the Potter books are better, just that I give Rowling credit for keeping on schedule.
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