Last year, the wife and I read through all seven of the Harry Potters, and I must say they are better than I remembered them. Rowling’s universe is unique, rich, and extremely creative. Also, Rowling does a great job of leaving hints of where she is going throughout the septet, which I hadn’t caught the first time through (another reason to reread, boys and girls). However, there are a few small, irking details that I feel warrant mention just for fun.
Perhaps my biggest pet peeve when it comes to fantasy or sci-fi is when an author creates something compelling but refuses to let her characters use it as anyone otherwise would. One perfect example is the althiometer in The Golden Compass (crappy book). Pullman imagines into existence a handheld device that will tell you the truth about anything if you can learn to decipher it. Lyra, our
snotty intrepid heroine figures it out and proceeds to ignore it until urgent situations. Were I to have such a device, I’d use it for everything. “Should I apply to this job?” “Who makes the best pizza in town?” “Will I like this book?” “What should I get my wife for her birthday?” Why shouldn’t I use a pocket watch that has the perfect answer to every question? Everyone would do so.
For the most part, Rowling avoids this pitfall, but she is a little guilty nonetheless. Remember when Gilderoy Lockhart accidentally blasts off Harry’s arm in The Chamber of Secrets? They take Harry up to the infirmary and regrow his arm overnight. This is just one of dozens of amazing medical feats performed throughout the books, which I would be just fine with me if it weren’t for one glaring oversight: Harry’s eyesight. If you can regrow an entire limb overnight, you’d think a little eye surgery would be rosy stroll. Why don’t they fix Harry’s–and for that matter everyone who has glasses in the books–sight? It makes no sense. I’m guessing Rowling likes her protagonist in specs, and that’s why the entire international magical community cannot figure out the human eye.
Another glaring problem in the Potterverse is the library system. It seemed like in every book Hermione, sometimes accompanied by Ron and Harry, spends hours and sometimes days and weeks searching for potions or names or a solution to whatever mystery is afoot. Apparently reference librarians are frowned upon at Hogwarts. Sure, sometimes our heroes are trying to solve the problem secretly and so avoid Madame Pince; however, I don’t see why these answers were so darned impossible to find. Is there no card catalog? Heaven forbid they have a computer in which to enter search terms or–(gasp)–the Internet. The Ministry of Magic needs to get Arthur Weasley off of trying to understand household appliances and onto forming a let’s-understand-the-Internet task force.
The last minor objection I raise to Potter has to do with Quidditch. I love reading about the sport (you can’t beat those Slytherin v. Gryffindor matches for excitement), but the scoring system is abysmal. A goal, i.e. quaffle-through-hoop, is worth ten lousy points. For these goals, you dedicate almost your entire Quidditch team: three Chasers to score, two Beaters to play D, and a Keeper, of course. The match doesn’t end until someone catches the snitch, which is worth 150 points. For this purpose–obviously the most important and frequently the only one that matters–each team has one player. One. Were I a Quidditch coach with this flawed scoring system, I’d leave my keeper in goal and send everyone else out looking for the snitch. Once found, we would plow over everyone to allow our seeker to get there first. In most of the matches in the books, the majority of play and scoring has nothing to do with the outcome of the game. Lower the value of the snitch to something akin to 50 points: significantly higher than a goal but not worth the entire match.
So there you have it–petty complaints from a Harry Potter fan (but not devotee). I’ll never write anything as good as the Harry Potter series (if I write anything at all), but I feel that these tiny issues could have been easily addressed. Ah well. I’ll read the books again someday anyway. As an aside, for all of you movies-are-better-than-books people, millions of other readers and I have known for years how The Deathly Hallows ends. Try reading; I dare you.