July 20, 2007

What to read after (or instead of) Harry Potter

Over the next few weeks and months you'll probably be hearing a lot about Phlip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy. They're the books Harry Potter fans are supposed to "graduate" to — infinitely better prose, richer characters, more complex morality. They're all that, sure, and if nothing else you'll probably want to read the first one before the amazing-looking movie comes out. They are also, unfortunately, a little bit dull after a while. I recognize them as better literature than Harry Potter, but I didn't quite enjoy them as much.

And in any case, they're still children's books. There's nothing wrong with reading children's books, of course, but if you're looking for genuinely brilliant adult literature that shares the Potter spirit, I can enthusiastically recommend Susannah Clarke's epic 2004 novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. My favorite aspect of the Harry Potter books has always been the world that Rowling creates, with its fantastic yet credible artifacts, its sense of history and its well-considered rules and regulations. Jonathan Strange is not a fantasy book in the sense usually implied by that term, but it shares the same delight in imagining what a real world (in this case 19th century Britain) would be like if overlayed with magic.

Unlike Potter, Strange is decidedly slow-moving. Its plot is moved forward by the inner lives of its characters, not the onrush of events. But it is, in its own way, utterly spellbinding.

Related: Pimp my daemon.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I'm reading Golden Compass right now, so watch yer spoilers, Radosh.

Finished Strange some months ago, and though I enjoyed it, it made me question the existence of Clarke's editor. I can understand the slow build, and appreciated the tangents, but when the book [SPOILER?] goes on vacation down the home stretch [END SPOILER?] I wanted to knife-kill someone. And the world Clarke created wasn't so satisfying that I wanted to revisit it in her short stories, even if one of them does cross over with Neil Gaiman's work.

I'm surprised the original Books of Magic hasn't been fast-tracked to moviedom.

Everyone should go sit in their Barnes and Noble and read the prologue to Stardust. That's some good snazzle, there.

Wait, Clarke has stories set in the same universe? I didn't know that. Now, do I want to read them? Thinking...

I think BoM is too similar to Harry Potter to work as a movie. Though it came first, it would now feel, for most people, like an imitation. True, Gaiman could rework it, but even so.

Second the recommendation for Stardust, though it's more of a Princess Bride-style lark than a great book.

And if the Christians hated Harry Potter, Pullman's going to give them a heart attack.

I've been holding off talking about that, but yeah....

Most evangelicals actually have no problem with Harry Potter. And the ones that have a problem tend to see it as a "teaching opportunity" more than a threat.

But His Dark Materials is so explicity, coherently anti-religious and pro-humanist. My guess is that they will embrace it as more proof that Christians are a persecuted minority and hope it goes away.

The very short story in which Clarke crosses her world over with Stardust's Wall can be found on her site.

Yes, Stardust is a lark. But I remember the prologue, by itself, as one of the best things Gaiman's written.

From what I've read, the "His Dark Materials" films will be much less anti-religion than the books. (Wasn't there a story in the NY Times about this a whle back?)We'll see.

so, uh, have you read it yet, Daniel?

Reading it now. Now, i'm not rushing through it. Can you believe Rowling went and talked about the end before I finished? Why does she Hate Magic?

mmm... I read it in 36 hours, i guess that's rushing it, but I enjoyed it much more by re-reading the 6th book first.... when you've finished put up a post or send an e-mail so we can discuss...

I just came across this blog and thought I'd make a comment. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. I came across another series of books that might interest you all, Artemis Fowl. They're more action packed, but very fun.

I read the first Artemis Fowl book and I think some of the second. I really wanted to love them. The concept (Die Hard with Fairies) is great. But I wasn't thrilled with the execution.

Understand. They're an easy read, nothing too deep.

After reading this blog, I picked up a copy of Stardust at the library. Great book. And then today, I see a preview for the movie! I had no idea they were making a movie, so I'm very excited to see how that relates to the book. If anyone goes to see it this weekend, let me know what you think.

Yes, I've been psyched for the Stardust movie for a while. Probably won't see it this weekend, though, as I still haven't seen Bourne Ultimatum.

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