Sunday, January 6, 2008

Writing for children is no excuse for stupidity.

I have a confession to make. I ... oh, God, this is hard. I... Well, maybe we should talk about something else first.

It turns out that the further south you go, the further you are away from the north. No, really. Stop looking so flabbergasted, I swear it is the truth. It also turns out that all those ancient Romans in their zillion cubic foot buildings with wide archways and robes must have frozen their naughty bits off every winter. Egads. All those statues with missing naughty bits? They aren't broken, they were made from live models, I'm sure. Anyway, Roma actually wasn't too bad. They at least had heating (in their more modern buildings - but since only rats and cats infest the ruins, they can get by without). By the time I got to Catania, however, I began to realize just how far south I had really come: namely, not far enough.

See, if you go far enough south, even in December (/wave to Shona, who doesn't read this but had an outdoor BBQ on Christmas day... damn ozzies! jk), you don't need things like heated rooms, weatherstripping, hot water for showers and shaving (well, that might be pushing it), clothes dryers, etc. But if you go to just the right latitude (ie, south of Napoli, but stay in Europe), you find a curious region of the world where all of these things are *needed*, but not *present*. This is especially annoying when one is trying to overcome a nasty fever/headache symptom combination that has one curled up in bed all day. Annoying enough to make one radically alter one's Christmas and New Year's plans from "staying there in recovery mode for all the nights one has reserved" to "hopping the first train north and hoping for a vacancy in a place with a water heater." Turns out you need to go to Switzerland for that sort of thing on 24 December. Apparently.

Also, for the record, no I didn't spend a single moment skiing during the week in Gryon. And no, you don't want to know why. ... Although I suppose that if that doesn't make you want to know why, then nothing will. Tough! I'm not telling. Now. Maybe later. Apparently if I was totally honest with myself, the "you don't want to know why" would have read "I don't want to think about why," but I appear to not be that honest.

Has it been long enough? Ok, I have a confession to make. I, during a period of convalescence, read a Harry Potter book. I feel dirty inside. However, it was there, I was there, and not much of anything else was there, so there it is. Now, having read it, I can say from a position of knowledge what I said before from a position of ignorance: At no future point will I engage in optical recognition of the entire text of a book in the Harry Potter series.

The rest of this post is going to contain some spoilers for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so if you actually don't know what happens in it because your stupid friends haven't dragged you to the stupid movie and you haven't been stupid enough to waste your stupid time reading this stupid book yet, but you WANT to, then stop reading now. However, if you just want to read my verbal abuse of the characters as if they were real people, then carry on!

Anyway, on with me venting about why I hated HP4. And the number one reason is? Ding ding ding... Voldemort is a pathetic excuse for an intelligent villain. Actually, he isn't even that: He is a pretty good excuse for a slug, though. An evil slug. Let me explain why I say this. First I will sum up the reasons behind my conclusions, in such a way that hopefully you will draw the same conclusions, and if you don't I can laugh at you. (Or if you feel like debating the point, bring it on :)) His entire evil plan in this book is to get himself back into a real body and out of his evil slug body. For this, he needs three things:

  1. The bones of his father. No problem, there' in a marked grave, he can get this any time he wants.
  2. The flesh of his servant, willingly given. Well, his servant was willing to cut his hand off at the end of the book, he would have been just as willing any other time.
  3. The blood of an enemy. Not just any enemy, of course, but Harry Potter himself.
So, number three there is the big one. The one that has him devising this whole drawn out plot involving multiple minions and great deals of subterfuge and impressive magical prowess. Managing to get Harry's name as an unprecedented fourth competitor in the Tri-Wizard tournament (which, from the name, you can tell is pretty much not supposed to happen). Managing to get him to succeed throughout the year.. let me say that again, the YEAR, to the final task. Managing to get him to win the final task, thus being the first one to touch the Tri-Wizard Cup.


Because also through great effort, the Cup has become a portkey (which, early in the book, we are told can be made out of anything: old shoes, spare tires, gum wrappers, rocks, Tri-Wizard Cups, etc etc), and touching it teleports the toucher to a pre-selected destination. In this case, to the grave with the bones of Moldy Vort's father, where his servant stands waiting with willingly given flesh.

So.. okaaay. I gotta salute you, Voldemort, on having an incredible amount of patience. I mean, wow. You're in this painful little slug body and you want nothing more in the world than to get into your real one. You know what it takes. The only part you're missing is a few drops of blood from this Potter kid. You even know how to teleport him if he touches something. You also have a guy at his school who Potter trusts, but is really on your payroll. AND YOU WAIT A WHOLE FREAKIN' YEAR.

How about just having Mr. Trusted guy - oh hell, we've had worse spoilers: Let's just call him Crouch - having Crouch take Harry into his office on the first day of school and saying "Hey I can do this great protection from acne spell for you, you'll never get a zit, just let me draw a few drops of your blood and you can go about your day!"

Or, if you REALLY were looking forward to making that big monologging speech to your minions in front of the kid and then killing him right away, the instant you'd gotten your body back, did it never occur to you to enchant a nerf ball into a port key and have Crouch say "Harry... catch!", again on the first day of school?

Oh yeah, the monologging speech. That is another thing that drove me crazy about this book. Ok, yes, we understand that the author wanted to explain to the readers how everything really happened since, unlike a really good author, she basically ignores it all except for occasional glimpses, all throughout the book. Was the 10 page monolog really necessary? Especially when, not a chapter later, we have the other villain (Crouch), giving another multi page monolog under truth serum to explain everything that the first monolog didn't. The greatest hilarity of this, for me, was that in this second monolog, even though Crouch was actually talking to Dumbledore, he generally still talks about Dumbledore in the third person. Kind of like the author wasn't sure where this particular bit of exposition was going to go, except that she really likes writing monologs, maybe he'd be explaining to his boss Voldemort? .. and had it all written up, then later decided to change it.

That has all been the negatives, though. What should old Mr. V. Mort have done? Let me offer some constructive advice in case he can send back a time capsule to his earlier self and do things differently. Here's what I would do if I was an evil slug who needed 3 drops of a kid's blood to get my body and power back, and also had a huge desire for revenge on said kid.

  1. Day 1: Subterfuge the blood. Medical tests. Accidentally cut him. Whatever. I already have Crouch in a position the kid trusts, the kid already puts up with having Forbidden Curses put upon him by Crouch, I'm sure that somehow Crouch can get a few drops of the red stuff.
  2. Resurrect self.
  3. Go out for a good meal. Take a drive, see the sights, do things that were impossible to do for the last 13 years as a disembodied spirit and then as a slug.
  4. Day 2: Heck, maybe Day 32. Feeling full of vim and vinegar and in the prime of health once more, have Crouch toss him the nerf-ball port key. Or maybe give it to him as an enchanted piece of homework. Either way, have it teleport the kid into a giant vat full of sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads.
  5. Add blood to shark vat to induce frenzy. Doesn't matter who's blood. If there's any of the kid's left over from steps 1-2, use that just for fun.

See how this plan cleverly avoids spending another 10 months as a slug, and also avoids a painfully large amount of effort and subterfuge? Yay!

.... of course, then the author may have had to come up with some other sort of ominous plot to stretch her book over an entire school year. Oh, the humanity.

Now I have an even bigger confession to make: Not too far into the book, I realized I had seen the movie already, but I still read the book to see if it was any better. It wasn't.


Laurel said...

Oh Logan!! You are such a pill! You make me laugh! And......your sister spent part of HER Christmas vacation reading a Harry Potter book (#7 I think) from cover to cover.....even until approx. 4:00 a.m. one morning!! I'd like to hear the debate between the 2 of you.
Love you lots!

Scrapnqueen said...

You musta been really bored. You read a book you already knew you hated, then wrote a 1000-work monologue (note spelling) about it?!

Yes, it is a book for children. Yes, Voldemort is not the most intelligent villain out there. Apparently a really powerful wizard, but not so bright. I have had that same thought myself many times.

And, of course, if Harry Potter was toasted by a vatful of sharks by October of his fourth year of school, how would Ms. Rowling have made another three kajillion dollars off the next three books? Hmmm? Answer me that one!

I like children's books. Sometimes we need a little more simplicity in our lives, and villains that are a little less intelligent to make them less monstrous. (Although "Moldy Vort" is certainly still monstrous enough.) (Moldy-Vort--HA!)

Love you!

Scrapnqueen said...

Oh, also, minor detail: Crouch was the guy who had the Imperius curse on him all year, and the guy whom Harry trusted using Polyjuice Potion was a guy he thought was Mad-Eye Moody, but I currently dis-remember his actual identity.

Logan said...

am I noting the spelling about 1000-work? (Just what are you trying to say here?! :p hehe) Or 'monologue'? Or both? Sue me for not having a spellcheck :) [blogspot's was not functioning for some reason]

Also, the identity you are mis-remembering is 'Crouch'. The other Crouch!