It all started with those crazy Greeks. They would write themselves a play and the plot would spiral out of control until they needed a god to step in and save the day in the final act. It is known as Deus ex Machina, the god in the machine. In other words if the god isn’t in the machine the machine isn’t going to work! Since Katie left to go back to her life among the Americans, I have diligently torn through the Potter series. I want to start upfront by saying I am excited for the next book and I will be getting it when it comes out, probably via pre-order. I must also say that as child’s literature the Potter series is very well done, I think it fits better with the young adult group due to the progressively darker overtones of the series and the mounting body count. But I find very frustrating the constant use of dues ex machina by Rowling present, in varying degrees, in all the books.
The first two books were, for all practical purposes, the same book with minor differences. I found the first two were not bad books, certainly fine young adult fiction, but not what I was suspecting given the constant talk of how Potter “transcends all age groups.” The second book was much better, from almost every standpoint than the first. My main fault was that the second book really just was the first book all over again only instead of a Philosopher’s (in America Sorcerer’s) Stone we had a Chamber of Secrets. We had two massive uses of dues ex machina to wrap the stories up.
I was pleased by the third book in the series. I liked its shift from mystery in the castle to include more of the outside world. It was the first time I could see the magic (har har) of the series. This is where Rowling finally starts to get into a stride. I enjoyed the third book a great deal but had had the ending spoiled for me by walking in on the last bits of the movie. The book was not so good, unfortunately, to completely overcome the fact that I knew the ending. Though, in fairness, that is a hard cup to fill. Rowling flirted with the dues ex a few times here, but managed to sufficiently lay the ground work for the time traveling prior, so the job was done well. Though she used it for many smaller points throughout the text.
The fourth book was very well done, except the ending. I really loved the book until the last two chapters or so. Rowling really dug deep into the machine and produced quite a god to end this one. The “clues” that she had given as to the villain’s true identity were very weak and I did not find the build up was right. It felt like she wrote herself into a corner and couldn’t pull another Philosopher stone teacher incident, so she had to really reach. I could almost hear the thunderheads as her literary Zeus descended and Moody’s last lock was thrown and then it “all made sense.” I was very disappointed with the end to this book. Other than that it really was fantastic!
The fifth book was also fantastic. Rowling’s world started to show some minor inconsistencies, but they were major enough to have made a difference. But nothing so glaring that I doubt I would have caught had I not read them all right in a row. I was also pleased that she finally drifted away from the “who done it?” type narrative of the first books and got more into the, in my opinion, more interesting “how was it done?” I also think this played more to her strength as a narrator. The reason she had to keep going to the dues ex machina well is because she is not a good “who done it?” narrator, she is much stronger at justifying the whys and the hows of her characters. It showed. The fifth was a bit repetitive, Harry is mad at his friends will they ever speak again, now Ron is mad at everyone, rinse, repeat, but on the whole the fifth was the best installment. I am really looking forward to the next book. I strongly suggest you read the Potter series if you have not already. Just keep plugging away at the early books because they get much better.
Let’s go to the score board now and see who I like and who I don’t:
Harry: I don’t like Harry. I am a bit anti-primary character to begin with, but Harry just ircs me. I hope he dies in the next book and the last book is called Mad Eye Moody and the Destruction of the Dark Lord! THAT would be a great book!
Mad Eye Moody: simply put he is the man. He is one of my favorite characters and a far better hero than Dumble-duffus. Mad Eye is awesome. Let's put it this way, Mad Eye for Minister of Magic!
Lupin: I liked the anime Lupin the Third, so how can you go wrong with another Lupin, even if he is a werewolf (no with a name like Lupin how could that be?) You can’t go wrong with Lupin.
Dumble-duffus: Two words – retirement home. I think the only reason the Dark Lord fears him is because Dumbledor is so senile he may turn the Dark Lord’s head into jello and eat it. I don’t much care for him, as one might suspect. I don't think he is at all as powerful as Lupin and not in the same League as Mad Eye! Moody is so much better. He was on the front lines while Dumbledor was in his ivory tower thinking about going to the park and feeding the ducks and talking to Agnus about the state of the neighbor’s bushes and eating jello.
Snape: I really like Snape, I have for the beginning. In large part because he is Harry’s foil, but also because he is the only character in Rowling’s world that seems to show a bit of depth - until certain things are revealed in Book 5. Snape is not a nice man, but he is aliened with good. He is really the only character who is like that. Rowling’s world tends to be black and white. If you are not a nice person you are also evil, if you are a nice person you are also good. Snape breaks that mold by being not nice but also good. He has consistently added a third dimension to an otherwise plane universe.
Dobby: should save the world because Dobby is great! Go Dobby Go!
Hermione, Ron, Neville (my man), Ginny (needs to hook up with Harry, though he doesn't deserve her) the Twins, Luna, Cho (Harry needs to stop jerking her around!): I like them all.
Hagrid, Malfoy, Trelawny, the Centaurs, Percy: Can only hope they kill each other in book 6.
What is really good about Harry Potter is that there is a very eccentric caste of secondary characters which you know a great deal about without the books actually being about them (shame as it is that it is not about Mad Eye). This makes it more fun to read for me in particular due to the fact that I don’t particularly care for Harry and I can only take so much of Ron and Hermione. So when there is a Neville or Lupin reference I can go “YEAH!” and get back into the series.
And, unlike Rowling, I don’t need a god to wrap this up, so here it is: go read these books. They are worth your time. I don't go as far as some people in my praise, but I still say they are a pretty great way to pass the time.