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Harry Potter Redux aka Why I Hate Quidditch



In my prior entry, I promised to read books two and three of the Harry Potter series. And so, on my return trip home, I polished off: Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban. I also realized from looking at the book jackets that I'm supposed to be calling these books "Year Two" or "Year Three" rather than Book Two or Book Three. Oh well. On to the analysis...WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS of HP Year Two AND Year Three!HP&TCOS (aka Year Two) This book was the equivalent of reading a magazine or watching a random episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (seasons 4-7). It went quick, I was entertained enough to keep turning pages or leave the channel on, and the very next day, I struggled to remember the main plot. I had to leaf through the book to remind myself what it was about. Perhaps it is one of those Memory Charms for people who finish the book but are HP naysayers.My complaints about HP 1 were multiplied for HP 2. The exposition reminders of what happened in Year One were extra-annoying. JK Rowling - How about you assume your readers have READ the first book. The ridiculousness of HP being sent back to his abusive family made even less sense: Why wouldn't someone at Hogwarts work out an alternative? It isn't like the Durselys CARE if HP disappears forever. The characters aren't particularly more developed - they are still cardboard cut-outs for the most part. And yet again, we're not really told WHAT the Chamber of Secrets IS and what it is meant to do. Instead, we get mindless action with our stock villain (though the 'twist' of Ginny being used through the diary was a nice touch).The best thing I can say about Year Two is that it was an incredibly FAST read. So I don't feel like I wasted my time with it. HP&TPOA (aka Year Three)Year Three was, by far, the best of the HP books I've read. Why? It actually has a REAL story! From near start to finish, there is a moving plot with some substance. At the end, I'm left trying to decide whether I should keep reading HP.The BadThere is still that awful exposition (and summarizing past books) and in Year Three, I even noticed at least one mistake in the description of how things had happened:The book claims that Malfoy and Potter met on the Express, when they had actually met in the shop getting supplies. Now, I'm hardly the fine-tooth comb reader when it comes to HP (and I'm sure that someone here will debate me on what it means to "meet"), but while exposition annoys me, shoddy exposition - or ambiguous exposition - irritates me to no end, because it REALLY yanks the reader out of the story.My other big issue with Year Three is the raising of the Evil Bureaucrat quotient while still ignoring the abusive family issue for HP. I don't disagree that bureaucrats can be evil and/or corrupt, and I don't have a problem with this 'enemy.' However, in a fantasy world that recognizes bureaucracy - for good and bad - it makes the fact that everyone seems to ignore HP's family situation all the more ridiculous. Figure out how the so-called fantasy world works, figure out how it interacts with the Muggles, and come up with a system that makes SOME sense, for goodness sake.The GoodThe Plot Itself - This was an interesting story. No obvious twists and turns, but not so unexpected you couldn't believe it. One thing I liked about this story is that Rowling understands that if you place a gun in Act One, something better happen with it in Act Three. Now, Rowling telegraphs things a little bit because she seems to spend most of Act One (that's not exposition) planting guns, ammunition, a manual, etc. But it does all come together.On the time travel issue: Readers of dkstories's story have already beaten THIS horse to death. But...under what theory of time-travel does this story actually make sense? I give Rowling props for not trying to explain it. You can take the story or leave it for what it is. But the reader is aware of time travel from Act One (because of Hermoine's classes - the only explanations were a potion allowing someone to be in two places at once OR time travel - either which would have helped at the end of the story) and then it materializes when needed with NO exposition at all. For once.Character Development - Harry (and his friends to a lesser extent) are finally able to have some conflict and growth stemming from conflict! It's about bloody time. One technique that I think makes that makes Year Three work is that Rowling feels free to focus ONLY on the characters important to this story. The HP universe, after two books, already has a number of characters who could be worked in just for the sake of including them (people like Neville, Ginny, or even to some extent Draco). I like the fact that Year Three mostly resists this temptation and spends the bulk of the story surrounding only the people who matter to this particular story.Why I Hate QuidditchI like sports (understatement alert). Play them. Watch them (live or tv). But I DON'T like Quidditch, and I have to explain why. Here are 5 reasons that I hate Quidditch (I could probably write more if needed):1) Quidditch is a cheap ploy used to move plot - but not very much and not in any complex way (Slytherin cheats. We get it).2) Quidditch seems to have been invented more with a movie deal in mind than for reading pleasure. It takes some sportswriting craft to thrill and dazzle a reader with an account of a sporting event. Rowling does not have this skill. The Quidditch games are not well-written. Perhaps they make for great movie special effects (I haven't seen any of the movies but that's my suspicion). They remind me far too much of Anakin Skywalker pod-racing.3) The rules of Quidditch make very little sense from a team sporting perspective. The value of catching the Snitch is way too high compared to the other scoring. It rends much of what happens during the match irrelevant. As a spectator, why would most of the match be interesting to watch? As a player, why would this be fun to play?4) The Hogwarts lax attitude about the danger in playing Quidditch and the resulting injuries to the players makes very little sense, especially when compared to other school policies that exist in actual classes (where they are supposed to be learning things!).5) In a sport where equipment makes a REAL difference in performance, we'd expect that school to have rules about what can be used and/or provide equipment for the students. Quidditch favors the privileged students who can afford the fancy brooms, and in a school-sponsored event, you'd think that would somehow be addressed or mitigated.Should I Keep Reading?I promised to read Year Two and Year Three before making up my mind. Year Three was encouraging enough to at least suggest that I should keep going to Year Four. Plus, I'm breezing through these books so fast it isn't taking me long at all. But I'm still not sold. What do you think? Should I keep going? Knowing what I like and dislike in this series, and without spoiling just yet, please let me know if it makes sense for me to keep reading...


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