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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II: A Conversation

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2)This past weekend, several of us here at Fantasy Matters got together and went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.  We sat in the second row from the front (not recommended) next to this hilarious little kid who chuckled when Voldemort died.  Afterwards, we sat down and talked about the movie, the book, and the Harry Potter series in general.  Here are some of our thoughts...

We started off our conversation with Neville Longbottom:

[note: this conversation contains spoilers]

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Review: Assassin's Apprentice

I read each day on the bus.  Each morning after frantically getting ready for work and doing the 250-yard-dash to the bus stop to catch the 825 downtown, I’m able to spend a solid 23 minutes reading.  Then after work I get the same (if slightly less frantically-prepared) block of time to read and unwind.  One of my favorite experiences is finishing my book on the morning trip.  I’m able to spend the remainder of my time that day re-reading the beginning of the novel.  

Assassin's Apprentice Book Cover Beginnings of novels are strange places.  Readers are helpless, drowning in page after page of uncertainty.  Often nothing makes sense: you don’t know who the narrator is, characters are just names and especially fantasy books are stuffed full of words that sound like gibberish when you first see them.  After completing the novel the beginning is a totally different place: I can go back and find all sorts of extra depth that was invisible to me during the first read-through.  That was my experience after having completed Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice.  Especially after re-reading the beginning, I was struck by Hobb’s characters.  They are deep and complex, like real people.  There are no stock characters, and the ones that hint at less complexity also happen to be the ones that we don’t yet know well.  Each has a history that is gradually revealed over the course of the book which informs his or her choices and reactions.

Beloved’s Fool’s comment really resonates with me when I re-read it after completing the first book, especially the third paragraph:

I found the characters to be beautifully shaped and very human, very flawed in believable ways. I was so caught up in the characterizations, in fact, that it wasn't until I finished book one that I realized what Hobb had accomplished. She had slowly and subtly built this world around me as I read. Because I was learning about it along with Fitz, I didn't realize how much I was learning.

In particular, I like the description of the characters as “flawed in believable ways.”  To this I would add that the characters are also scarred by their experiences in very convincing ways. For example, the main character of The Assassin’s Apprentice, Fitz Farseer, lacks self-confidence, but in a way that makes him seem real, rather than in a way that beats you over the head with his potential for character development.

[Mild Spoilers to follow]

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Stupid is as stupid does...

Falling Skies...and for a bunch of allegedly smart people, the folks in Fallings Skies are pretty stupid.  This new TV series on TNT takes place six months after an alien invasion, and it focuses on a group of resistance fighters from Boston who call themselves the Second Massachusetts.  Like the movie District 9, Falling Skies glosses over the details of the first contact with the aliens and instead tells the story of what happens after the initial meeting--in this case, a meeting that nearly wiped out the human race.  I found this set-up really thought-provoking in District 9, and I think it has a lot of potential here, too.  It also makes me wonder: is this show just following District 9's lead, or does this mark some sort of larger trend to focus on the aftermath, rather than the alien invasion itself?  Furthermore, does this reflect something particular about our own society?

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Harry Potter and the Magical Rollercoaster

New to Fantasy Matters, Eadaoin McClean just visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter--one of the sections of Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida.  As part of our celebration of "Harry Potter week," she provides us with a review of some of the highlights of the park!


Wizarding World of Harry PotterAs you enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you find yourself on the mainstreet of Hogsmeade village, walking past the newly arrived Hogwarts Express with the conductor waiting to greet you and pose for pictures. With snow on the roofs (even in the heat of July), the village is set as an untouched scene from mid-winter, complete with a snowman decked out in Gryffindor colours. All the familiar stores are there, from Zonko's Joke Shop to a branch of Ollivander's Wand Makers, where you can go and see which wand matches your magical ability. The lines for this show can look quite long, but people are taken through in batches of 15-20, so it moves along fast enough. Once inside, one person is chosen to select their perfect wand and the magic begins!

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A review: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of CuriositiesAs an enthusiast of the odd and specific, I have always been charmed by the curiosity cabinet (both in idea and actual incarnation). A collection of items strange and wonderful, trailing murky histories like smoke, it incites dreamy examination and the desire to fabricate. Origins, uses, murderous acquisitions, and romantic mysteries all seem to wait somewhere inside each object or specimen, begging to be released.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, a new anthology of “exhibits, oddities, images, and stories from top authors and artists” edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, attempts to capture the spirit of the cabinet in book form. Drawing on a spectacular list of contributors, it reads like a collection of extremely well-written explanatory placards from the most magical, inexplicable, and often gruesome museum you could hope to stumble across. As the introduction explains, Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead died in 2003 at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, leaving behind a cabinet of curiosities full of artifacts that prompted stories and anecdotes from the people who knew him. That these people happen to be some of the most well-respected authors and artists working in the genre of the fantastic today is a coincidence brilliantly engineered by the VanderMeers.

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