Monday, July 23, 2007
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (ISBN 0545010225)
Rating: 9/10 majority of the book, 4/10 ending - average 7/10
This weekend welcomed one of the most widely anticipated books in recent memory. Hard to miss it, with everyone and their mother walking around reading it, sunning themselves and reading it, drinking coffee and reading it, etc. Major what? moment when I told a co-worker I was up until 1am reading last night and she asked me what I was reading. What ELSE would I be reading until 1am? I guess this weekend was a little Potter-centric, and I have to remember that not everyone got the fever :) Honestly, I kind of wish I'd stopped at 12am and not continued, because then I could just not have read those last couple chapters.
I think it's great that one of the biggest cultural events of the summer has been the release of a book. A book that millions of people read over the span of a weekend. Our short attention span nation actually sat down and read a 750 page book, expended the energy to carry the damn heavy thing on the subway with them, and in a big city, actually brought strangers together to chat about it as they were walking here and there. Massive cheer on friday night when we all got on the bus holding our books, cheering from those already on the bus who had it.
Now on to the spoilers. IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED THE BOOK (and plan to), you may want to stop reading now and go finish the book first, as I'll be talking about who died, who survived, and all that jazz.
Ok, all good? Those of you still with me either have read it or don't care to....
WTF was JK Rowling THINKING???!!! Did she drink Spielberg water or something? Ok, I'm calm [breathe in, breathe out].
To start from the beginning. Most of the book was what I would expect from a Harry Potter book - very engaging, a fast read, building to a big climax at the end. Mad-Eye Moody dies straight off the bat. I can deal with that, it's not like he's a big character anyway, not a lot of emotional investment there.
Harry, Hermione and Ron wander around for a while, but honestly, I think that's fairly realistic, I mean, if they knew what to do off the bat it just wouldn't seem real (I can't believe I just said that about a magical fantasy book...but I guess I'm talking psychologically real here). But that's all part of the build-up to the end. Things start moving about 2/3 of the way through when they start finding horcruxes and the sword.
Then you get to face-off #1 between Harry and Voldemort, when Harry is going to his death. At this point, I'm really liking this story, and it just feels right to me that Harry is going to sacrifice himself to kill Voldemort. Not that I want Harry to die, but it just seems to fit (the reasoning given in the book, that Harry is the 7th horcrux and as long as he lives, so does Voldemort). And going into it, I told everyone (and their mother) that I'd much prefer it if Harry died than Ron or Hermione. Plus, I was also convinced after the last book that Snape really was a good guy working with Dumbledore. So after I found out he, in fact, was a good guy, and it looks like Harry's actually going to die, I'm feeling good about the book, like JK Rowling is actually going to make it an interesting ending rather than a cotton-candy one.
No. What was I thinking? Ok, so I realize that this book is a young adult book, and is targeted towards a younger audience than me. However, it's not like she doesn't have a history of killing off main characters (ahem, Sirius, Dumbledore). Let's review who was killed off in the book:
Mad-Eye Moody - ok, yes, he was a good guy, he had a part in an earlier book. But do I really care that much? Not really.
Crabbe - yay
Lupin and Tonks - yes this is sad. But the problem with their deaths is that they didn't mean anything in the book. I mean, Rowling told us that it affected Harry, but she didn't show us. It felt like "look, Lupin and Tonks are dead, how sad, running out into the woods to continue the fight." It's not like I wanted him to fall to pieces over them. But if they were going to die, it just felt like it should have some kind of emotional impact and it didn't really - I felt like the whole thing with Lupin and his son was kind of shoved down my throat from the beginning, just to set me up for him being killed off at the end. I didn't feel like it created a real sense of emotional intimacy with the character. When Sirius and Dumbledore died, there was that sense of loss and sadness as I was reading it (not that I was just being told it was sad), and that sensation was just absent here. Maybe they're just not big enough characters.
Fred - see Lupin and Tonks above
Snape - he kind of had to die, big part of the plot. No issue here.
Dobby - I take serious issue with the fact that we see the most emotional impact on Harry being the death of Dobby. Yes, Dobby saved him from the Malfoys. Dobby was a good friend, and I don't mind that Harry was so saddened by his death. But the fact is that this is the ONLY death in this whole book that I really felt was adequately shown to affect Harry.
Maybe the book was just built up too much. Everyone kept saying the 7th book was going to be a bloodbath, that lots of characters were going to die. And as much as I like most of the characters and have built up a connection to them over the years with these books, I feel cheated. Cheated, I tell you! I was expecting some kind of emotional impact, emotional scenes, and rather than the drama I was expecting, I just got rip-roaring action instead (and lest you think I'm one of those tear-jerker chick-flick women who never watches action, I must tell you that 3/4 of my dvd shelf is action movies).
Have you seen A.I.? That movie exemplifies exactly how I felt about this book. For this movie, Spielberg and Kubrick collaborated, but they couldn't agree on an ending, so the movie wasn't made for several years. Then Kubrick died. Which left Spielberg to make his own ending. There was a point, about ten minutes from the end (SPOILER), when Hayley Joe Osment's character is at the bottom of the ocean. I'm not sure if this was Kubrick's ending, but I sure wanted it to end there. But no. Spielberg had his tentacles in it, so they had to find Hayley several hundred years later, when society accepted AIs and he could be a little boy like he always wanted. Happy ending? Yes. Contrived? Hell yes.
Now let me vent a little about the flow of the book. The book takes about 600 pages to build to its climax, and once it gets going, with the battle at Hogwarts, explosions everywhere, it seems there's nowhere to go but up. Harry goes out into the woods to face down Voldemort. Harry dies (sort of). Then there's a random, completely unnecessary chapter with Dumbledore in the train station of Harry's mind. It completely destroys the flow, is completely cheesy, and implodes the climax in upon itself. I didn't feel a need for this chapter. At all. Because when Harry goes back to his body, the climax has just had the air taken out of it (yes, this could also be partly because I've realized that Harry is not, in fact, going to die). So the last chapter with Neville killing the snake and Voldemort killing himself (this was kind of cool, that Voldemort was his own downfall) just didn't have the same impetus that the story did before the extraneous chapter.
And the last chapter. Talk about cotton candy. Spielberg. Cheesy. Campy. Come on! I mean, seriously, 19 years in the future? Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione sending their kids to Hogwarts? Ok, so I know they're turning this book into a movie, and that it's aimed primarily at a teen and pre-teen audience, that they want to have a happy ending, and tell people what happened to the characters after the battle ended. But seriously. This is like the French-dubbed version of Last of the Mohicans, when at the end, instead of their quiet grieving, they start saying stupid things like "Where are we going to go now?" "We're going to go to Kan-tuck-ee and summer with my father." Ugh.
All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book until I got to those last four chapters. I should have stopped reading at midnight, instead of continuing on until 1am. But it's still worth the read, especially if you like the Spielberg endings and don't go on crazy rants like I do when I come across an ending like this (especially when I was expecting something different).
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad there's a happy ending. Voldemort had to die, of course, and Harry had to come out victorious. I just feel like it was a bit TOO happy of an ending.
What was your reaction to the whole thing?