Well, I’ve read it now. It took about 8 hours. (That’s 7:30 till 9 on Sunday, 9 pm till 11:30 on Monday, 10PM till 1 AM last night.) I actually read the first two HP books in less time than it took to watch the movies. I wouldn’t ordinarily say that I’m a fast reader. Certainly and have demonstrated they read at about twice what I do.
Anyway; I find it hard to analyse pacing in a book that is so quick to read. It was one of Sam’s complaints about the Order of the Phoenix when it first came out: that it dragged in places. I read that book one Saturday in a single sitting… so even if 25 pages were dull, that’s only a few minutes. My attention span is longer than that.
But actually, the thing which has been intriguing me about the HP phenomenon is the age old question of human destiny. You see, we are free people, able to choose our own courses of action. But most of us can make a pretty good prediction about where we’ll be in 3 or 4 years. for example, will be at Uni, finishing off the PhD. He’s probably got most of his courses picked out, and as soon as he has a vague notion of a thesis, a reading list will materialize. If he were organized, he could say “in June 2009 I’ll read this list.” So that if you asked him about a specific tuesday in June, he could take a reasonable stab at the location and activity, even though it’s not part of a clockwork routine.
The actors in the Harry Potter series though, have an even more specific set of activities already planned, for years to come. I remember watching an interview with Daniel Radcliffe after The Goblet of Fire was released, where he was looking forward to kissing Katie Leung (as Harry Potter?). It was destined to the maximum possible extent that human activities can be predicted and controlled. Short of what must seem almost like divine intervention, he knew that sometime within the next year they’d be sharing a friendly moment on camera. How do you go about mentally preparing for that stuff? It seems especially difficult to me, given the relative youth of the actors when they started. I mean, when HP and Ginny hook up, won’t that be weird for the actors, who’ve known each other since childhood as friends? How can you really separate out reality from the acting over such a timescale and at that volatile age?
Anyway… this obviously isn’t a defence of the age-old questions about predetermination; but it does make me think a little less skeptically about various psychic predictions and prophecies.
So getting back to the subject line. I liked it, but… I promised no spoilers, and I shall deliver on that. Let me just say that I have generally found Voldemort to be a disappointing villain, and this book did not redeem him. Though the awesome visuals of the fight between him and Dumbledore in the Order of the Phoenix makes me think that when they make this movie, Ralph Fiennes might.