Sunday, July 22, 2007

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Saturday marked the release of the final book of the Harry Potter series. Any my base exchange had a stack of them. Now, I did not get around to buying it until after dinner, but with the time difference, I figure I did not do too bad in getting to it.

There were a lot of stories about the book. One was a logistics company who arranged to get a couple cases on the first flight to Kabul from Dubai after the book release. The TV shows were marveling how they got the book into a war zone on the first day. My favorite story has to be about the Clackamas Town Center (OR) Barnes & Noble that was in the New York Times. They offered the first spot in line to a teacher, who was getting married that night, and was going from the reception, not to a hotel room, but to the bookstore. The plan is that the honeymoon would be a week from then, presumably giving her time to read the book first. Priorities.

Like the other Harry Potter books, this one has a theme of choices over background, that
you are not a product of your environment, the labels that are on you, your parents, but you are a product of your choices. And as promised, this book continues the darkening tone that has been progressing since the Goblet of Fire. Yet more people die. Evil is ascendant. And in a sophistication completely unexpected, the book gives a description of people involved in an honest-to-goodness-insurgency in their proper english shopkeeper sort of way. I found that particularly entertaining

But even so, this is definitely a book aimed at younger (teenage) readers. The Harry angst that got really annoying in Half-Blood Prince is still in full form, but at least JKR let other characters join in the self-destructive attitudes in the midst of something deadly serious. The jealousy and child crush side plotlines in the midst of serious hazard would have been pathetic if I did not know people like that (and not just kids, fortunately, not where I am now) I also don't like dream sequences in general, and the chapters where we go through the memories in the Pensieve seem like cheating, alot like the holodeck episodes in Star Treck: The Next Generation. Although, the scenes where Harry and Voldemort connect in each others minds actually comes across quite well, probably because of the heavy toll it takes on Harry (and apparently Vodemort as well.

But what makes this book work is the steadily growing sense of doom. That evil is growing ever stronger and the heroes and their friends grow deeper into peril at every turn. Learning that at every page the enemy has attained another victory, has gotten stronger, and has gotten closer to its main goal, while our heroes are more weary, discouraged, friends are lost or fall away out of despair. With just enough successes not to fail, we reach the last desparate end. And we actually do not believe that any character or cause is immune from being lost.

JKR did seem to have to tie up too many plotlines, including some that probably would not have been noticed if they were not tied up. The Snape plotline was too clever by half. It probably entertained (no toyed with) those who got caught up in "Snape Friend/Snape Foe" marketing. But JKR probably hit her audience right, this is a children's/young adult book.

The ending was satisfying. Grief, resignation, pain, joy, gladness, healing and hurt all rolled up in one, like many other grand endeavors. Not super deep, but very entertaining. as intended. And I did read the whole thing that first night. Also probably intended.
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