Monday, July 18, 2005

There are no spoilers for Book 6 in today's review.

The latest Harry Potter book is surprisingly better than I expected it to be. I found the first three books to be cute but formulaic (Suspiciously evil wizard turns out to be not so bad, but benign friendly wizard was up to no good!!). The fourth and fifth tried too hard to be of epic proportions and ended up as Spellbooks of Oral Diarrhea. Now, with the end in sight and all the pieces falling into place, the sixth book has a much tighter storyline and a pace that doesn't drag along so much.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the first book where the significance of the title isn't really revealed until the end, and it's more of a footnote than an explanation. It's shorter than the previous two books by about one hundred pages, but it's definitely larger than a stick of butter . Harry Potter starts taking responsibility for himself this time around, and spends less time whining and moping. Much less bookspace is given to the trials of being a teenager, a sideplot I always felt was the weakest part of the other books (yes, it's necessary, but I don't think it was ever particularly well-done). The Ron & Hermione tension which has been building for several books now is just annoying, and needs some kind of resolution. If our media can be trusted, kids nowadays are playing Witch Doctor as early as 10 or 12, so it wouldn't be unreasonable for the pair to be sampling each others' concoctions or exploring each others' broom closets at 17. Of course, the fact that the book is aimed at kids means that this will never be worked into the official timeline of the Potterverse.

And yet, the kiddiness factor of this book is much smaller than any previous book. Murders, tortures, zombies, and blood rituals abound, and I bet at least one conservative values group will be outraged at the one page with the word "slut" on it. Rowling isn't afraid to create this dark atmosphere as a natural result of the story to date, and it works very well. This would be a good book to be turned into a movie by the Burton/Elfman/Depp team, except that they would probably overemphasize the "dark yet cute" style rather than just letting it be dark.

Lots of events from previous books are tied together here, although some less successfully than others. Though it's no War of Light & Shadows, Rowling does a pretty decent job of making those connections more than just afterthoughts. The ending is well done, and throws some interesting surprises into the mix for the final book. This time around, I'm actually looking forward to the next one.

Incidentally, I picked mine up for $15 at Costco on Saturday. They had a monstrous end-aisle display stacked higher than I am tall with books (It's pretty easy for something to be taller than I am, but at least I'm bigger than a stick of butter). Crowds were hoarding the books fifteen minutes before the store officially opened, with some soccer moms picking up four and five copies for their broods.


I've added 10 new things to my About Me page , highlighted with red exclamation points. I don't think any of them are major spoilers. In other news, my presentation on How to Read Music is all done, so I'll be starting on Highlights of Western Music tonight.

I'm tired of the registration requests at smh.com.au, so any of their news stories that I post can be viewed with the user/pass: cosmoran/spider. This is identical to the login for the New York Times which I have posted here in the past. Enjoy.

A tall frosty glass of Homo Light
"If it was Memorial Day, no one would have minded."

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