Harry Potter And The Cursed Child (Script) – Review

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“It’s tough to live with people stuck in the past, isn’t it?”

I struggled with whether or not to even review The Cursed Child. Reading the script of a play and then commenting on it is like smelling food and then having to decide whether or not it’s tasty. I’ve missed out on the special effects, the acting, the showmanship

Many people will be like me, however, and remember reading the early Harry Potter books, unaware of the people around them or the rain tapping against their window, utterly lost in another world. They will want to know whether or not to pick up The Cursed Child because they remember how the original books could transport you to a place with a sense of drama and justice missing in our own, with adventures that could be both whimsical and serious.

It’s worth knowing upfront that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not a great story. The plot becomes unwieldy and ridiculous, even for one involving time travel. Some of the conflicts seem contrived. If you’re paying attention and remember the structure of the previous novels, you’ll have figured out a major plot twist by a third of the way through. There’s a warmth here, though, and a playful tone which never cheapens the struggles of its characters. There’s the excitement of adventuring with some very old friends who, though you haven’t seen them in a while, still know how to make you laugh. It’s fun without being trite.

I had never wanted to see Harry grown-up; he had moved on from his childhood adventures and so had I. But if I have one major criticism of the original book series, it’s regarding the sunshine-and-rainbows epilogue. There was a ring of falseness coming from the happily ever after, a brushing over of the struggles this world had gone through. The absurdly perfect ending was a cheapening of the sacrifices made by characters over the course of seven books. The Cursed Child is a deeply flawed story, but it’s one worth reading because it acknowledges that, no matter how brave you are, the world is not going to hand you a happily ever after. For there to be long-term contentment, your society is going to have to work for it or the ghosts of the past may reappear when you’re least expecting them.

Harry and company did not walk off into a perfect sunset after the books ended. The Cursed Child shows us that they struggled and made mistakes, and it’s far more interesting to ponder where they have ended up because of this.

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The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe – Review

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“I felt that pressure of time that is perhaps the surest indication we have left childhood behind.”

The Shadow of the Torturer is an interesting but frustratingly inconsistent book. After a morbid tone for over one-hundred and fifty pages, with musings on the universe and the indifference to horrors such as torture which can be habituated during childhood, the narrator suddenly has a ridiculous monster-cart race through the centre of the city with a horny peasant girl. This was not a smooth or enjoyable tone shift.

Every time something in the novel impressed me it was followed by something objectionable: the world is imaginative while the characters feel stale; the setting is fascinating, but the plotting is tedious; the writing is carefully crafted and a joy to read, while the characters are anything but.

Men and women come across as fundamentally disconnected from events that are unfolding around them, and I don’t think this was a narrative trick to make a point. They react with mute fascination and then swiftly move on from whatever trauma has been inflicted on them just to keep the plot rolling; they become horny instantly because Wolfe would like a sex scene, not because it might be an appropriate human reaction.

The universe of The Shadow of the Torturer is fascinating, and the society we’re introduced to really feels like it could have been around for millennia. It ends up seeming like a hollow ruin instead of a city, however, because it’s inhabited by broad caricatures instead of believable people.

 

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima – Review

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“Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff.”

I picked up The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima because the author was a body-builder and martial artist who tried to topple the Japanese government through a rousing speech, and, when that failed, stabbed himself in the stomach. This was, admittedly, not the purest motivation to read a book. I was going by the logic that whatever a man like that wrote, it was likely to at least be interesting. I was right.

A sailor begins to realise that the greatness he has been grasping at his whole life may never come within reach. A widow tries to move away from the memory of her dead husband. A young boy, caught in the grandeur of his pseudo-revolutionary school chums, has begun to dream of violence.

This is a creepy novel, and that’s a compliment. There’s a sense of unease and looming disaster which is rare to feel outside of the horror genre, and this is particularly affecting because the characters seem normal, just in a strange set of circumstances.

There’s a dark influence from our protagonist Noburu’s friends. They long to be special, and are willing commit horrors to separate themselves from what they see as the brainwashed and inferior masses. Their minds are being warped by the terrifying influence of the Chief; that doesn’t mean Noburu’s not accountable for his actions, but it demonstrates the power of a strong group on an impressionable young man. This novel could be retold as a simple parable about the allure and dangers of fanaticism, which is ironic coming from an author with fascist sympathies.

The pacing is occasionally listless; it’s a short novel that feels long, but not unintentionally so. Mishima is willing to diverge into the mundane in a way that Western authors rarely would, and if it wasn’t for the malicious goings-on in the background it would almost be relaxing. Actually, this has been the case for every Japanese novel I’ve ever read. Hmm.

Characters drift lazily through their lives, but we get the chance to know them intimately. Everyone here is restless, searching for meaning or purpose; some try and find what they need through materialism, others through faux intellectualism, others through love but no one feels content. You keep waiting for some small crack in their lives to cause everything to break apart, and when the climax comes, there’s a satisfying and horrifying pay-off thanks to a well executed slow-burn of a plot.