Tuesday, March 28, 2006

13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling

Once again, mind your spoiler space.

Ah, the fifth Harry Potter, which could have easily been subtitled, “The One Where Harry Grows Some Balls.” After years of being an entirely passive character, Harry sacks up and starts demanding some answers, most notably why he’s always the last to know what’s happening to him. I loved that, upon arriving at the Order, Harry loses his shit and lashes out at Ron and Hermione who have been kept far more in the loop than he has. I realize that the adults have been trying to protect Harry from harm and from being troubled with the truth of his plight, but when the Dark Lord has a personal vendetta against you, there comes a time when you need to know what the fuck is going on. That’s something I’ve had a problem with for the past four books and it’s nice to see that Rowling is finally allowing the boy some action. I mean, give the young readers the benefit of the doubt – Harry doesn’t have to be a completely blank slate for them to identify with him.

On the whole I liked HP4 better than this installment as I found it be far more climactic. The final scene when Dumbledore breaks ties with Cornelius Fudge, orders Hagrid to get the giants on their side, sends Lupin to gather the others, and puts Snape on some as-yet-to-be-revealed mission completely blew my mind whereas the final scenes in this book – when Sirius “dies,” Dumbledore goes up against Voldemort, and the prophecy is revealed – were, yes, suspenseful and exciting, but didn’t elicit the same “Holy shit!” reaction the fourth book did. (I say “dies” because I’m not entirely convinced Sirius won’t turn up again in some form or another and don’t tell me whether it happens or not in the sixth book.) And maybe because this is first book where I expected some real shit to go down I was a little bit disappointed when the majority of the book was filler material, just like the previous four. For instance – I don’t care about S.P.E.W. and Hermione knitting hats for unwitting house elves. The house elves are the means of production, yeah, I get it. I just don’t care. I’m getting tired of Quidditch, too. We know Harry loves the sport and, sure, you can mention it, but we don’t need 200 pages on it anymore, okay?

I wanted some questions answered, man. Well, mostly I wanted to know where Snape went because that was the part that surprised me most, apart from Voldemort’s resurrection. All we find out is that Snape is a Death Eater turned spy for the Order and that Dumbledore has complete trust in him, so much so that he leaves Snape to teach Harry Occlumency (“Occlu-thing” as Harry once called it, which made me laugh) to help him close his mind against Voldemort’s invasion. However, it doesn’t work because Snape has a long seated grudge against Harry’s father and his hateful memories cloud his ability to fulfill his duties with Dumbledore. He throws Harry out of his office and refuses to continue teaching him Occlumency. Which, okay, so Harry was snooping around in his Pensieve and saw some things he shouldn’t have, but we’re dealing with the Dark Lord here. You’d think Snape would put that first. Also – how does Snape get away with the things he does? At one point he just pushes Harry’s potion work off the edge of his desk and gives him a zero for the day. What kind of teacher is that? Why isn’t he ever reprimanded? Alas, Snape remains a mystery.

And while we’re on the subject, what about Dolores Umbridge appointing herself headmistress and then employing Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle to physically punish students? And what about her pen that didn’t write on paper, but carved lines on the writer’s hand? How is that okay? What kind of people are running the show here? Although, I do have to say that Dumbledore’s escape from Umbridge was a great scene, especially when he’s all ready to throw down, calmly saying, “…if you attempt to – er – ‘bring me in’ by force, I will have to hurt you.” Dumbledore ain’t playin’, yo. And Dumbledore’s duel with Voldemort reminded me of the fight scene between Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn in that it was awesome. They’re going to have to do some real work to make this movie as good as it needs to be.

I’m not saying there weren’t good things about this book, but I’m getting tired of Rowling’s version of suspense equaling the insertion of a hundred pages of rumination on an inconsequential subject. Is Cho Chang going to matter later on? Are we going to hear more about Percy’s break from his family? Will Hagrid’s half-brother reenter the picture? Are Ron and Hermione going to stop bickering and just hook up already? I’m tired of reading about all of these things when I just want to get to the meat of the story. I’m not one to jump to the end of the book and read it first, but Rowling’s writing isn’t good enough to keep me for 800 pages and it’s only principle that’s holding me back. I, for one, am glad there are only two more books left. I’m not denying that I’m interested in the story, but do you see all these other books I want to read? I don’t have time for this shit.

And what the hell is Snape up to?!


Blogger piksea said...

That is the big question. The only real question right now, with one book left in the series is "What the hell is Snape up to?"
We're all just going to have to wait for the answer to that one at the end of the series.

I'm looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Exxie said...

Dang...so I don't get to find out when I read the sixth? It better be good if I have to wait that long.

1:54 PM  
Blogger piksea said...

I'm with you, it had better be good. It actually becomes THE question in the sixth book. I can't believe that Rowling has found a way to string along the "is Snape good or bad" question throughout the entire series. I think he's become a far more complex character than any of the others at this point.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Heliologue said...

I have to wonder whether or not Rowling's actually planned these things out, or whether or not she's writing herself into a corner. It'd be a damned shame if book seven ended up being contrived and manipulative, like a bad movie sequel.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Exxie said...

You'd have to have this kind of stuff planned out, wouldn't you think? Otherwise she's hanging out there, willy nilly, hoping it fits together in the end. My hope is that she has timelines and climaxes that she's working around. You could say the same for Lemony Snicket, right? He has to have all of this set out ahead of time. (I'm happy that series is also coming to an end...as much as I've loved it, it's wearing on me a bit.)

1:43 PM  
Blogger piksea said...

I didn't get very far into the Lemony Snicket books. They were so depressing. I just felt horrible for those poor kids. I was thinking of giving them another shot though, since so many people love them.

10:23 AM  
Blogger bri said...

It's totally been planned, which is why the series is so ambitious.

The 5th book was easily my least favorite: it's VERY LONG, not much happens except everyone is angry at one another and bickers a lot, and in general it's uncomfortable. (Like Mahler, the evens are better than the odds with Rowling.)

Read the Sixth book. The pensieve is so much fun...

1:28 PM  

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