Tuesday, July 19, 2005

BOOKS: Emmeline

Emmeline. It's a pretty name. I saw it once a couple of years back as a character's name in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Emmeline Vance. A couple of mentions, nothing more. Didn't think of it again until this month.

I started reading the wonderful Retrieval Artists novels by K.K. Rusch. The lead character of this "NYPD on the Moon" has a long-dead daughter named ... Emmeline. It's a name that stuck this time as I polished off The Disappeared, Extremes and then Consequences. Each seemed a better read than the prior volumes, which is a rarity these days.

When I opened up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Saturday, it didn't take long to run smack dab into another mention of the now deceased Emmeline Vance.

Four straight books, each with a character named Emmeline, who is dead. And more than 40 years of reading before these four books with only ONE mention of an Emmeline, who was alive in that tome.

Wonder if a lottery ticket purchase might be in order?

BOOKS: Harry Potter 6 ... 6 out of 10.

Having started my 50th year on this planet some 37 minutes ago, it strikes me as probably the time to recommence kvetching here on this blog. Monday was my birthday and it was preceded by an interesting weekend of programming and getting some reading in ... the You-Know-What book.

To prove I am a curmudgeon, I only have to note that I think the last two Harry Potter books have been monumentally disappointing and the the last one, in particular, was a bad book. I loved the first book, think fondly of the next two and couldn't find much to complain nor laud about the fourth book. But the fifth was a chore to read. So, you understand my mindset approaching Saturday's delivery of book six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

To say it was a marked jump back to better than average is an understatement. To say I was still disappointed at the climax of the book is equally obvious. J.K. Rowling's imagination, a wonderful thing, flits here and there throughout the beginning and the middle of the book. Not sure why she decided to throw in a couple of chapters of "What's Gone On Before" exposition to start the book, since surely the number of readers JUST now starting the series must surely number less than ... well, what IS less than zero? But even those chapters had some moments.

There are Rowlingian moments for most of the rest of the book, many of which just do not pay off. House elves show up a couple of times for no good reason, nor effect. A trip to the Weasley's joke emporium in Diagon Alley sets our minds wondering WHAT will the Gang of Three do with some of the offerings found therein. Nothing, as it turns out. Still, the magic that makes this series readable, even for an old coot like me, hovers over the pages as they seem to turn by themselves.

Until the climax. Which feels phony to me. I believe a dead man will be alive sometime in book seven. (Hint: The Phoenix did it). I believe a bad guy will be a good guy about the same time, as dislikeable as the bad/good/bad/probably good guy might be). Let me guess the plot to Book 7. Take one part disinterested school life, one part Spiderman swipe, four parts of Hercules 12 Labours and one part of Alec Guiness' "May the Force Be With You" ghost-speech and you will have distilled the final volume to its essence.

Rowling has the ability to be inventive. I'm sure I have some of the minor details completely wrong. But I'd be very much surprised if we don't have Harry Potter triumphant at the finish line with all the beloved characters gather around the bruised and battered hero. And I mean ALL of them, even the one sneering over in the corner.