End Of Harry Potter [Paperback] by Langford, David Paperback – May 10 2007
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About the Author
Onetime nuclear physicist David Langford has been writing about science fiction and fantasy for several decades. He has won the science fiction world's Hugo Award 27 times.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Guns on the Wall
There`s a famous saying by the Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, which goes: `If you hang a gun on the wall in Act I, you must use it in Act III.` Sometimes it`s differently translated as: `If you introduce a gun at the beginning of the play, you must use it by the end of the play.`
J.K. Rowling hangs plenty of gun-equivalents on the walls of Hogwarts and elsewhere, but Chekhov`s rule needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt when we`re talking about novels. What he had in mind was the script of a play, where anything that`s important enough to be mentioned in the stage directions should have its part in the action. Suppose, though, that in such-and-such a scene set in a stately home, that gun on the wall of the stage-set wasn`t in the play script but is just a touch of high-class decoration added by the set designer…?
Harry`s Uncle Vernon actually does buy a gun in Chapter Three of Philosopher`s Stone&mdashbut it`s not there to be used, only to underline how desperate he`s getting (and also, when Hagrid so easily takes it away from him, to remind us again of what a wimp Vernon really is). It`s an extra touch of make-up or stage decor, rather than an important piece of plot machinery.
Part of the fun of reading detective stories is the challenge of trying to sort out these ornamental extras from the real `guns on the wall`, the clues which are part of Agatha Christie`s or Dorothy Sayers` or J.K. Rowling`s secret script. As her readers have discovered, Rowling is rather good at inventing smokescreens of comic diversion to help conceal important clues, even when they`re right under our noses. Now you see it, now you don`t.
In Philosopher`s Stone, our author wants to plant the name of Nicolas Flamel&mdashthe wizard who created the Stone itself&mdashin such a way that we barely notice its appearance, and will later kick ourselves for not remembering it. So the brief mention of Flamel is deftly slipped into a mini-biography of Albus Dumbledore, printed on the back of the collectable picture card which Harry finds in his very fi rst Chocolate Frog wrapper.
Meanwhile, during this scene on the Hogwarts Express, there`s a flood of distraction as Harry boggles at new wonders of the wizarding world. It`s the first time he`s met photographs whose subjects wander in and out of the visible picture-frame, and it`s also his first encounter with half a dozen other brands of magical sweeties like the very weird Bertie Bott`s Every Flavour Beans. A subtler distraction for the reader is the nagging thought that perhaps Chocolate Frogs are a little homage to the Crunchy Frog sketch from Monty Python`s Flying Circus&mdashwhose Cockroach Clusters will indeed turn up much later, in the third Harry Potter adventure...
All this inventive stuff is great fun, and it is also a conjuror`s display of dazzling lights and coloured ribbons, designed to lure your eye away from the key reference to Nicolas Flamel. Rowling has a real gift for this kind of misdirection, as perfected by stage magicians who subtly guide you to look in just the wrong place.
Onwards! A bit closer to a literal gun, since they contain real explosive, are the Filibuster Fireworks which appear early in Chamber of Secrets. At first sight these don`t appear to be at all important&mdashjust something to provide entertainment for young wizards and witches, like all those weird sweets. But by writing these fireworks into the story, Rowling is secretly preparing a stage-effect for a much later chapter. When Harry needs to cause a diversion in the Potions class, tossing a Filibuster Firework into a Slytherin student`s cauldron is a perfect way to create total chaos.
Why are they called Filibuster Fireworks, anyway? The most common meaning of `filibuster` is to make long, long speeches in Parliament or Congress, not to convince anyone of anything, but to waste time and prevent unwanted laws from being passed. It`s a tactic of diversion and delay&mdashwhich, of course, is exactly how Harry uses his firework.
The most obvious `gun on the wall` in Chamber of Secrets is Ron Weasley`s wand, which gets broken early in the book when the flying car crashes into the Whomping Willow. As a result, the Spellotape-repaired* wand becomes a totally unreliable weapon. Ron tries to curse Malfoy, and the wand backfires, leaving Ron himself burping up great masses of slimy slugs for the rest of the day.
As well as being good entertainment in itself, this magic-gone-wrong comedy lays the groundwork for a much more serious miscarriage of magic. Near the end, Gilderoy Lockhart himself tries to wipe out Harry`s and Ron`s knowledge that he`s a posturing fraud. But it`s the broken wand that he grabs, and his Memory Charm bounces straight back at him. The `gun on the wall` has gone off at last, and&mdashas neatly foreshadowed by those slugs&mdashit backfired.
An interesting side-question: could Lockhart really have got away with it if he`d succeeded in wiping out the boys` memories? This isn`t some remote village in Transylvania or Tibet, but Hogwarts School, where Madam Pomfrey and Dumbledore would work their hardest to cure a couple of dazed and blank-minded pupils. As Voldemort himself knows, and mentions when talking to Wormtail early in Goblet of Fire, the effect of a Memory Charm can be broken by an expert wizard. The most likely explanation is that Lockhart was too ignorant of the higher branches of magic to know this important fact.
Putting Back the Clock
The little mystery of Hermione`s classes, and how on Earth she manages to attend more than one at the same time, runs through the action of Prisoner of Azkaban. Is she using some special charm that allows her to split into two or even three Hermiones, all of whom can go to lessons or take exams simultaneously?
Eventually all this bafflement is explained by the Time-Turner which Professor McGonagall has persuaded the Ministry of Magic to loan to Hermione. Now, with special permission from Dumbledore himself, Harry and his closest friends can save the day by going back in time to do all the things they didn`t achieve in the three hours that had just gone by. If such an amazing gadget had simply appeared when needed, this would have been a totally unconvincing way to save the book`s plot. What makes it satisfying is that the Time-Turner`s effect on Hermione`s timetable has been a running joke, and a source of mild bewilderment, ever since we first found her planning to take three classes at once in Chapter Six.
The Time-Turner is such a powerful plot device, capable of solving so many problems, that Rowling later takes some care to rule out its further use, as we`ll see in the chapter `Awkward Consequences`.
Key to Transport
The introduction of the Portkey in Goblet of Fire is much more straightforward. It`s not a mystery, but just a useful part of the vast magical crowd-control apparatus that`s needed to organise the Quidditch World Cup in a country full of Muggles. As the `port` in the name suggests, this device instantly transports or teleports anyone who`s touching the key (the tip of a finger is enough) when its spell is triggered.
So the Portkey doesn`t seem to be an unused `gun on the wall`&mdashit goes into action almost as soon as it appears. We`re left with the knowledge that just about any object of any shape can be enchanted as a Portkey: a manky old boot, a newspaper, a drinks can, a rubber tyre... Much later, at the very end of the Triwizard Tournament, the Goblet of Fire itself turns out to have become a Portkey that opens the way into a terrible trap.
One of the most puzzling questions in the series is why the Dark Lord`s agent within Hogwarts should go to the trouble of preparing such an incredibly elaborate booby-trap. Wouldn`t it have been so much easier to place the Portkey enchantment on Harry`s toothbrush, or some piece of his broomstick maintenance kit, or one of his school textbooks? If Portkeys are more difficult to make work inside the walls of Hogwarts, why didn`t the villain enchant a piece of Quidditch equipment or some other ordinary object out in the school grounds? Since this Dark impostor gains Harry`s trust almost as soon as he begins to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, he could have given our hero a wrapped-up Portkey at any time—Secret instructions, my lad!`&mdashand told him to open it in private, out in the woods, or in Hogsmeade village...
Perhaps the best answer to all this is that Voldemort&mdashlike the villain of many a James Bond movie&mdashprefers his foes to be defeated in the most spectacular way possible, just as murders committed by himself and his followers were signalled by the emerald-green glare of the Dark Mark in the sky. By the same logic, Harry must be captured exactly at his greatest moment of triumph, so that he can be thrown from this height into the deepest possible despair, and then gloated over at length before his final end. To a Dark Lord, this probably makes sense.
Rowling introduces a different and much subtler kind of unexploded plot device in Order of the Phoenix. This is Harry`s chronic teenage anger, and we don`t even recognise it as anything special. After all, the boy is now fifteen&mdashof course he`s going to have random fits of sulks, and shout embarrassingly IN CAPITAL LETTERS at even his best friends! Especially when Dumbledore, who could tell Harry all sorts of things, has gone mysteriously reclusive and refuses to talk to him for most of this book. Dumbledore`s reasons for this silence are not entirely convincing, but that`s a different issue.
By giving a bi... --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It should be obvious that I'm getting my geek on. With Book 7 coming out in less than three months, and having reread all the books, I found myself craving something "Potter". I don't care much for discussion forums because an awful lot of ridiculous theories get mixed in with intelligent discussion, so I thought this would be fun.
The author, David Langford, is a 27-time Hugo Award winner. Those are impressive credentials. He's a very bright, funny guy, and knows the Potterverse well enough to be a more than able guide. Some theories I'd seen, others I'd thought of, but he did manage, more than once, to slip something in that took me by surprise. For example, when discussing Dumbledore's trust of Snape, he opined that perhaps Dumbledore does NOT trust Snape in the way we think he does. He discusses Rowling's ability to fool us in depth, like a magician waving a rabbit in front of our faces but convincing us that we can't see it. She's a master at that. What other kind of trust might Dumbledore have? He might trust that Severus Snape will do exactly as he expects him to, play the part Dumbledore wants for him, and go back to Voldemort's side. So, when he says that he trusts Severus completely, he's saying that he trusts him to be untrustworthy.
I'm not sure that I believe that, but it was a new thought, a very valid one, and made me sit up and pay more attention.
If you're tired of discussion forums, this is a terrific place to turn.
One aspect of THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX I missed was the linkage of Rowling's life and the symbolism of Umbridge's actions. As a single parent living in poverty, Rowling was confronted with well-meaning but overly bureaucratic social workers. Umbridge's character emerged from Rowling's experience with social workers. An extremely important and eye-opening article that Langford cites is Benjamin Barton's article entitled 'Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy' in THE MICHIGAN LAW REVIEW volume 104, May 2006. I teach a course in community organization and will require my students read Barton's work. The contents will help social work students understand the impact of their actions on clients' capacity to succeed.
I can make two points that will help a person decide whether to read THE END OF HARRY POTTER?. First, if you read this review after the publication of THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS, you're too late. The central theme within Langford's book is connections within the first six novels that lead to the last. Thus, THE END OF HARRY POTTER? will not be enjoyable if THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS is read first. Second, the Rowling's purpose is reminiscent of Roddenberry's. The original STAR TREK was intended to be a morality play made palpable to the general public. The Harry Potter series achieves the identical objective. The easier route in life is succumbing to evil. Harry (or Rowling) shows that the long term consequences of taking the moral path is a self actualizing experience that is more satisfying than any short term pleasure.
Langford is a master of the written word and THE END OF HARRY POTTER? is worthy to read.
The absence of unbrideded speculaiton was actually a bit of a mercy. Some of these books create massive theories that are nothing but a house of cards. Remove one card and the entire structure tumbles. It annoys me when these several authors go off on these flights of fancy. While these various theories could occur, the chances of them actually occuring are miniscule. I want to see facts and logical inferences - not wild guesswork.
I think author David Langford didn't project as much as I had anticipated because, in truth, almost anything is possible in book 7. Despite writing six preceeding books, Rowlling has done an amazing job of keeping her options open. There is simply a lot of stuff we don't know and that we can't reasonably anticipate until we read the 7th book. Langford follows the clues down their varios paths, then moves on without feeling the need to add unsubstantiated guesswork. The nice thing about this is that it primes us for the upcoming book - gives us the threads to pick up when we identify them in book 7.
As I've said. I bought the book primarily to help me solve some of the upcoming mysteries. I don't think the book did that, yet I still highly reccomend it. It was well written. It flowed and was a good read. It was intelligent and thoughtful. I think the nicest thing I can say about the book is that it will make the reading of book 7 more enjoyable.
I don't want to give the book a 5 star rating because it wasnt' "super de duperdy" great. But it earned a very, very solid 4 stars. I can't imagine anyone who is pondering the mysteries that the 7th Harry Potter Book may contain not enjoying this book.
There are so many directions the book could have taken.
What I specifically expected was speculation about "where to from here" with some of the main characters. The back cover also implied this.
Not the case ...
It is a collection of speculation about what will happen in future books pulled from blogs and conversation based on whatever the current book was in the chapter being discussed.
Some of the theories are interesting, but, given that all the movies/books are out now, there is not much here for the average reader.