July 14, 2003

Phoenix Review

Well, I finished reading Harry Potter book five ("Order of the Phoenix"), so if you don't want to see spoilers, read no further.

For about the first two-thirds of the book, I have to say I was both beaten down and also amused. Here you have a situation where there is a definite wrong-ness in the world, and you and your friends all pretty much agree that it is as plain as the hand in front of your face. Some people you care about, whom you thought were ok, suddenly act like you're from Mars because you think this is so important and they don't see what the big deal is and don't believe you anyway. It's almost as if they're in denial from your point of view.

Then it gets worse, and bigger things you can't control, the so-called powers that be, start to agree and sound just like the wrong side. It's almost as if someone is out there pulling the strings and revealing that everything and everyone you trusted is really just like a puppet waiting to be jerked around by anyone other than you or those who are on your side. You think it has reached just an absolutely hopeless situation when you realize it can get worse, because the bad guys start getting more and more cocky and brazen about it. You wonder at what point will people realize what is truly going on and start to agree with you.

You learn that you have to really value your true friends. You also have to watch what you say and whom you say it to, because it just isn't worth the trouble. You also have to learn to suppress things lest they get in the way of friendships which aren't necessarily as important but also not worth tossing aside over this thing. While this is definitely an overdramatization of politics (or, say, Clan Lord), there are grains of truth to it from my subjective viewpoint.

In a way, I don't want to read about a similar situation. I mean, Rowling just kept piling it on poor Harry to the point it was getting ridiculous. So once I had some time to spare and some reading momentum this weekend, I really rushed through the book. Not so much because I liked it a lot (I thought it was ok, but not as good as Goblet of Fire) but because I was really impatient to see things turn around for Harry.

I like the way Harry's relationship (or lack thereof) is going with Cho Chang. I thought that was pretty believeable for innocent teenage behavior, and Hermione's translations of Cho's actions and words were funny. I didn't like the way Harry's other kind of relationship with Dumbledore went. It was all explained somewhat rationally in the end, but it seemed contrived nonetheless.

I liked Dolores Umbridge. Very juicy villain, but with her and Fudge, I am not sure I am convinced of their motivation to be so vicious to everyone and everything friendly to Harry. The whole motivation behind Fudge and Umbridge in this book was probably the biggest sore spot. I was expecting some sort of magical personality control or something to be revealed at the end for at least one of them. Maybe that will be talked about some more in another book.

I liked the different subplots involving Snape. Harry got a chance to see Snape's motivations, but Harry's dad and his cohort were almost too nasty. I was expecting that to be partially explained because it was Snape's subjective memory, but no, Sirius pretty much copped to it.

My other real beef with this book is that it just doesn't feel like it has a resolution. In the previous four books, there was always an overarching plot (finding the sorcerer's stone, finding the chamber of secrets, finding Sirius Black, the triwizard cup) that you could see progressing. You knew what questions were going to be answered at the end of the book, and you knew what was going to be resolved.

In this one, you really have no idea what is going to be resolved. Is there going to be a confrontation with Voldemort again? Is the whole business with the ministry going to be resolved and explained, or is that just part of life now? Any suspense with Quidditch (well, ok, there basically never is any, but still...) is sacrificed to the "piling it on Harry" concept. Exams are a subplot, but then the grades don't come in until next book.

So in a sense, I was frustrated reading this book, because I didn't know what it was all building toward. Maybe that's a good thing, but it was a definite change from the previous books. Anyway, I guess the biggest resolution occured when Fudge was convinced to completely change his mind about everything, and so we are left to believe that he just persecuted the hell out of everyone because ... why, exactly?

Bottom line is that it was all right, and I am looking forward to the next two books. I really want to see how Rowling finishes this series, and I wonder what she'll do after.

Posted by Observer at July 14, 2003 07:27 AM

Comments on entries can only be made in pop-up windows while those entries are still on the main index page. Sorry for the inconvenience this causes, but this blocks about 99.99% of the spam the blog receives.

Bumper sticker seen in Seattle:


Posted by: Feff on July 16, 2004 05:22 PM

Way ahead of you. See here for my post and here for t-shirt ordering. I'm *really* thinking about it. Would be a nice thing to wear on the first day of class.

Posted by: Observer on July 16, 2004 06:52 PM

Of course, I expect a counter to appear soon, like "Democrats for Sauron" or some such.

Posted by: Feff on July 16, 2004 07:36 PM