Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2003-07-08 Entry: "Broken Pottery"

I buy too many books. Way more than I can possibly read. Of course, I don't help matters when, after purchasing the latest Laurell K Hamilton book, I decide I'd better re-read all the earlier ones to remind myself what happened.

Anyway, I managed to squeeze the latest Harry Potter book into the schedule. And I wasn't all that impressed. Admittedly, I've completely forgotten the entire fourth book, and I'm a bit hazy on the details of the third, but a number of things jumped out at me.

I knew in advance that someone was being killed off, and Rowling did a fantastic job of telegraphing exactly who that would be from page one (well, not exactly page one, obviously, as he doesn't appear until a couple of chapters in, but you get the idea). Take a perfectly likable character from an earlier novel, make him as horrible as possible for the entire book, and then kill him off with no fanfare. And no, I'm not talking about Harry (who is also pretty unlikable for much of the book).

Other fun points: The book beats you over the head with the clue stick as far as Neville is concerned. Even with the Dumbledore exposition at the end I'm half convinced Neville is the one intended to defeat Voldemort in the end. This would allow plenty of wiggle room in the prophecy to kill off Harry (and therefore prevent the endless requests for a sequel or three). I'm not entirely convinced yet, and we'll have to wait two years for the next book for any sort of confirmation, but that's the way I'm leaning at the moment.

As the books are written to end when the school year ends, no sign of Harry's results until the next book (so we don't know how he did in the Potions exam needed for his chosen career). Obviously he'll pass with flying colours, so there isn't really any tension here (I guess there's the slightest possibility he'll only scrape through and McGonnagall will have to pressure Snape into accepting him, but I can't see it happening really).

Will they actually find a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who manages to last more than book 6? Considering Harry seems to be doing a better job than any of the previous teachers (except possibly Lupin) they're going to have a tough time finding someone suitable. Is the headmaster allowed to teach? I can't see any reason why not, especially now there's less pressure to run secret societies while the government stick their heads in the sand.

What was the point of the brain in the tank? I thought for a moment it was a macguffin to allow Ron to have all the answers to everything in the next book, but they seemed to brush it off without talking about any side effects.

Anyway, enough keen observations. I'll probably need to read the fourth book (and, considering all the James/Sirius back-story, probably three as well) before tackling this one again, but fitting that in around the fourteen million other books awaiting perusal could take a while.

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