I sometimes say things that outrage people and get me volumes of angry mail. This will be one of those times.
I saw the latest Harry Potter movie tonight, and I must confess: I wasn’t a fan, nor am I particularly interested in the whole series. My kids liked them, and I read the first couple, but after the first, the rest just seemed like the same old story — didn’t I read this one before? Let me guess; he goes to school, faces a growing dread of a bad guy, plays a game of Quidditch, discovers that someone who should be on the side of goodness is actually very, very naughty, poof, there’s a magical combat, Harry wins?
Too formulaic. I can’t get at all motivated to read any more of the books, I don’t care what happens to Harry in the final volume (I predict Harry fights the big bad guy, poof, Harry wins) so all your spoilers will leave me unconcerned, and the movies just drag on. In fact, the only question on my mind through the latest was to wonder why Voldemort has no nose. Is this a common symptom of evilness? Is it something like leprosy, or is it more like carrying the supermodel ideal to an extreme?
I really want at least one weird, unexpected twist in my fantasy novels, and Potter never delivers. I can see some of the appeal, in that it’s a cozy bit of world-building and it has that soap-operaish property of getting the reader hooked on the fate of a group of characters, but I got all that in the first novel and the subsequent retellings of the same story in each of the succeeding versions didn’t add anything, as far as I was concerned.
I have to respond to some of the comments.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought the first book had quite a few virtues and was an enjoyable read, and the themes that people thought were commendable were present right from the start. I just don’t think it gained anything by being repeated 7 times (so the last one is different? Then it should have been a two-book series.)
I know it’s a children’s book. Good children’s literature, though, is not baby-talk versions of trite stories with happy endings — it is not teletubbies on paper. If you’re avoiding L’Engle, Wynne Jones, Pinkwater, Alexander, LeGuin, Pullman, de Saint-ExupÃ©ry, White, Rowling, even Lewis because they wrote for children and young adults, then you are missing some excellent literature. It’s a huge mistake to regard children as stupid versions of adults who need an inferior literature (books that make that assumption tend to end up in the remainder bins very quickly) — in many cases, the themes and plots and characters of children’s books are much more sophisticated than what you find in books intended for adults.
Try comparing LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy to Dan Brown’s tripe, or to those horrid westerns by Louis L’Amour, or the Left Behind books, or anything by Tom Clancy. Which ones have the most depth, treat their readers as serious people who will think and learn, and actually exhibit some hint of good writing? When I see people walking out of airport bookstores that are stocked with the usual bestsellers — which are often little more than glorified Dick-and-Jane books with added sex and violence — I often feel like snatching it out of their hands and leading them to the juvenile literature and telling them they need to work on rebuilding their literary foundations from scratch.