while entertaining, i can’t bring myself to get too excited about this series of books. that said, i can certainly appreciate the appeal of this series of books for kids.
this installment of the series focuses on the protagonist, harry potter and his participation (unwillingly at first) in a multi-phased puzzle/magic contest.
shit happens. people get hurt (some die) and are magically cured, there’s some teenage love tensions. harry saves the day/month/year.
more interesting than the plot of this story is the universe that this story is set. within this universe various parties seem enamored with the technologies of the muggles (humans) and throughout the book one wonders whether there is any advantage in having access to “magic”. their universe of magic seems to be quite pathetic in the face of the horrors of ours replete with technologies such as nuclear power (and weapons), genetic engineering and global warming. these people are still utilizing slave labor on a massive scale. they’re reliant upon carrier owls for long distance communications (though potentially not subject to NSA interception). they have no clear food production infrastructure. frankly, it’s not clear whether food is magically transported (apparated?) from where it’s been prepared to the place of consumption or whether it can simply be conjured on demand. the energy requirements in order to make either of these options possible are undoubtedly massive and yet there is no consideration given to the manner in which this is produced, transmitted or controlled.
the essential conflict in this series between voldemort (who pathetically must exploit various feeble minded assistants in order to work his way back up some convoluted reptilian, lamprey, rebirth process) and the rest of the “world” makes no sense whatsoever. there doesn’t appear to much commerce in this universe but there are clearly class divides (ref, weaseley’s and malfoy’s respective ends of the economic spectrum.). if there were something worth fighting over one would think that it would be control over this mysterious and unexplored (or unexplained) power source. but no, there are simply these vague references to control/power and dark arts.
re: dark arts, there are special classes at hogwarts in which students are taught various defenses against. now, why isn’t the population at large being given instruction in these techniques? this speaks to an abject failure on the part of the governance structures within the parallel universe to be able to provide for the basic safeties of its population. further, there is rampant corruption within the government with key members of the administration complicit in activities with the practitioners of “dark magic/arts”. instead of some magical wonderland, j.k. rowling has really outlined some form of hellacious parallel universe with less determinism than reality.
finally, this contest which the plot of the book revolves around, is being hosted at hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry. hogwarts has to be one of the worst academic institutions in recorded literature. the level of neglect exhibited by the staff in administrating contest for which the plot of this book revolves is truly breathtaking. not only are they unable to provide for the reasonable safety of the contestant’s (one of them dies), they can’t even insure which qualified participants are to be admitted or excluded. the headmaster of the school is fundamentally an impotent administrator subject to the whims of a “ministry of magic” who seems comically incompetent in preventing terrorist attacks at sporting events. (did i mention that the book opens up with the strafing of attendees at a quidditch match?) further, students are routinely poisoned, overfed and live in dormitories filled with lecherous ghosts and ever shifting architecture. (i.e.: movable stair cases which are decidedly un-handicapped friendly - no ADA compliance here.)
far from being a wonderful place of whimsy this is a world that would make terry gilliam quake with fear. brazil is paradise by contrast.