Tuesday, July 03, 2007

While waiting for Harry, part 1

With only about 2-1/2 weeks to go until the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, excitement is building and speculation is rampant. While waiting for Harry Potter, you may want to read one or more of the plethora of books offering analysis, commentary, and predictions about the Harry Potter series.
Today, guest blogger Nick Ruth discusses two such books:

Title: MuggleNet.Com’s What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Falls in Love and How Will the Adventure Finally End
Authors: Ben Schoen, Emerson Spartz, Andy Gordon, Gretchen Stull, Jamie Lawrence with Laura Thompson
ISBN10: 1-56975-583-3
ISBN13: 978-1-56975-583-9
LOC: 2006907934
Publisher: Ulysses Press

Title: The End of Harry Potter: An Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries That Remain
Author: David Langford
ISBN10: 0-765-31934-9
ISBN13: 978-0-765-31934-0
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC (TOR)

There are many ways to identify a classic work of literature such as bestseller lists, awards, Amazon.com ranking, and blogworthiness and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series certainly measures up in all these areas. How many books actually beget hundreds of other books whose sole purpose is to treat the source material like sacred texts, examining every word and scene for hidden meanings and deep philosophical underpinnings? The members of that group would be very small but I think Harry Potter fits in very nicely with the likes of the Bible and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and while the first six books generated plenty of high flying discussions, it is the 7th book titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that has kicked in the literary afterburners.

How does a fan of the series prepare for the sure to be exciting conclusion? A real fan rereads the first 6 books ( over 2800 pages) timing the last book so that the last page is read while standing in line at midnight on July 21st, 2007 when book 7 is unveiled. The two books above (410 pages) invoke their own divination spells to save the reader the heavy lifting and summarize the main plot points, while attempting to mind meld with J.K. Rowling and guess how the story will conclude. MuggleNet’s What Will Happen (WWH) and The End of Harry Potter (EHP) are literary detective novels, and while there are some similarities in their conclusions, the paths they follow are very different.

The first thing that struck me when reading these books was the tremendous amount of planning that J.K. Rowling has put into her plot, and the second thing that struck me was the tremendous amount of effort that has been expended trying to unravel those plans by WWH and EHP. Every plot point raises dozens of questions. Did Snape kill Dumbledore on the tower? Was it really Dumbledore? Is Dumbledore one of the living dead? Why does the killing curse fling Dumbledore off of the tower? Both books explore these questions and so much more that I have begun to wonder how J.K. Rowling keeps it all straight in her mind.

The MuggleNet team has been at this game for many years and puts together all the clues in a very easy to read book that lives up to its title. The authors examine each of the major characters in the series and most of the minor ones and provide all the major clues to support their theories on what will happen to them in Book 7. Who will live and who will die? It’s all here but it’s almost maddening as you read this book to make a decision for yourself. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as the book argued for a particular point of view, and then found myself nodding again as it argued the opposite point of view. The book argues that there are no easy answers and that J.K. Rowling wants the reader to walk the halls of Hogwarts with Harry Potter. I think I’m ready for Book 7.

The End of Harry Potter is a little bit more puzzling to read as it doesn’t seem very interested in how the series will end. David Langford takes a much broader view of the Harry Potter universe and examines the clues as literary devices. EHP was not as enjoyable to read, and although the author tries hard to keep the prose light and funny, I found myself skimming through it looking for interesting insights. EHP touches on many of the same areas as WWH like Horcruxes, curses and patronuses but it’s a struggle to read when you’re dealing with chapter subtitles like ‘The Wonder of Onomastics’ or ‘Infodumps and McGuffins’.

Both of these books will prime the reader for Book 7 and both of them will make you want to read the whole series again, but to my mind the MuggleNet book is the is the one to get and it will be a lot of fun to compare the predictions with the true outcome when the Deathly Hallows ties up all the loose ends. My predictions: A great read and Voldemort dies.

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Nick Ruth is my wonderful husband of over 19 years. He's also the author of The Remin Chronicles. Nick blogs about politics at purple-politics.blogspot.com/


Michele said...

Interesting. I loved Dave Langford's book - which I admit is very British, but I still haven't been able to persuade myself to read the Mugglenet book and fear it's too late and I'm too indifferent to do so in the time remaining - heck, I can't even get *excited* about reading book 7 yet; it still looks like something I must get through rather than an enjoyable and long-awaited pleasure...

Unknown said...

That's really sad, Michele. I'm so sorry that you're burned out on Harry Potter. We're really looking forward to book 7 in my family. I hope that you'll enjoy it once you start reading it.

Michele said...

I feel kind of sad in a way - but on the other hand, my head is stuffed full of my own fiction ideas, so I'm not completely depressed at the thought that I've far less interest than I thought I'd have at this stage. Plus, it's been a demd long wait for book 7 ! I feel bad about keeping my few readers waiting two weeks for a final chapter, never mind two years for a final book !!

Unknown said...

LOL. I guess being a fiction writer yourself gives you a different perspective!

Michele said...

Oh it definitely does ! Something else I didn't expect from taking up writing fiction...