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"Whoops, I forgot I had this..."

Some of you might know about my objections to the Harry Potter series. They are numerous and varied, but the biggest one is the fact that characters conveniently forget obvious solutions to problems or information they'd been explicitly told just a few chapters before*. I don't know if I'm just weird this way, but I have a real beef against characters doing obviously stupid things for no other reason than that the plot requires it.

Alas, I've encountered this problem in one of the books starring a different Harry: Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.

I started reading The Dresden Files when I was laid up after breaking my foot in 2009, and I've been hooked ever since. Recently, my sweetie gave me copies of the audio-books for the first four volumes (Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, and Summer Knight), and listening to James Marsters narrate them was a wonderfully fun experience. I later picked up the next two, Death Masks and Blood Rites. And it was in Blood Rites where I encountered the same thing that made me so frustrated with the Harry Potter books.

I don't know if it's because Jim Butcher was rushed or if his editor was asleep that week, but [MINOR SPOILER] there are several points in this book where I found myself almost screaming "Use your shield bracelet, you dumbass!"** And then, when he used the shield bracelet in one of the most dramatic and climactic scenes in the book, it was the wrong tool to use!

I don't like being that much smarter than the protagonists of the books I read. I like my OMG moments to line up with the protagonist's OMG moments, or at least to come not too far before***. I like the protagonist to come up with a solution that, even if I didn't see it coming, makes perfect sense for the situation. And when protagonists ignore the rules, I like that to happen in a way that still makes sense without violating character, setting, or plot. When the protagonist conveniently forgets the fact that he has the perfect solution for the current crisis, that pisses me off. It's like the opposite of a Deus Ex Machina†. It's the hand of the author reaching in to knock pieces into place to make sure the plot happens they way he wants it to, and it's obvious as hell.

I hope this doesn't keep happening. My first reading of these books was long enough ago that I can't really remember, so listening to the audio-books has been a lot of fun, because I'm kind of re-learning their stories. Stuff like this would make that experience less fun, and I don't want that.


*[SPOILERS] The biggest error of this type, in my opinion, is in book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore and Harry encounter a note signed with the initials R.A.B.—and are completely baffled by who R.A.B. could possibly be. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there saying, "It's Regulus Black, you ƒµ¢{!ηϑ morons! You know, the guy you've mentioned at least three times so far in this book as being highly significant? That Regulus Black? No? Seriously?"

And yes, I did read the whole series. It was at the behest of my sweetie, which shows how much I'll torture myself for someone I love. (I did the same thing with the Star Trek novel Uhura's Song—which wasn't even about Uhura, and which features an original character who is so obviously a Mary Sue that I think the term "Mary Sue" must have been invented just to describe her.)

**I also don't know if I was asleep the first time I read it, but I didn't bounce on this in 2009 for some strange reason, just this time while listening to the audio-book.

***Grant Morrison and Peter Clines have both done this with enormous skill. [SPOILERS] In Morrison's run on JLA, he had Batman running through the steps of a logical deduction he'd made, and at the end of it I cried "They're Martians!" right before Batman himself said, "You're Martians." Clines did the same thing in his book 14, when the group of people are trying to figure out a set of initials, and when one character ran through the logical deduction, I sat up and said, "It's Nicola Tesla"—again, just before the character said, "It's Nicola Tesla." Having these kinds of epiphanies in narratives makes me happy in ways I can't describe.

†A Diabolus Ex Machina?


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Sep. 15th, 2016 04:21 pm (UTC)
Close: a Diabolus ex Machina is where a new thing shows up to screw everything up. This sounds closer to Forgot About His Powers.

And yes, it's very freaking annoying.

(I have to admit that the Dresden Files are seriously falling in my estimation, for a variety of factors.)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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