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theMountainGoat
I spent most of Saturday reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. HOLY SHIT! It may be fan fiction but it is still a work of genius. Well written, intelligent (apart from a few goofy moments), thought provoking (even if it is guilty of a couple of straw men here and there) with a far more complex plot with more complicated characters than J K Rowlings' books. Of course it totally riffs off the original and pokes fun at all the stuff that did not make any sense (like Quidditch) but it is so radically different that it could be argued that it should be considered a work of art on it's own merits.

The basic premise is that in this version Petunia did not marry Vernon Dursley and instead dumped him for an Oxford University professor and so Harry Potter grows up in a highly educational environment and becomes a child prodigy who has studied maths, science, philosophy, psychology, politics and much more to a university degree level and is also a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and all the SF classics. So this Harry is a completely different character by the time he reaches 11 years of age, however everyone else remains the same at the start of the story but because of the way things unfold they react and change over time in a completely believable way because of more or less interaction with Harry. For instance Harry considers Ron to be too stupid to be his friend so he never spends time with him. Hermonie becomes Harry's intellectual rival. And with his grounding in SF Harry immediately recognises the pattern of this story he is in and realises Voldemort must still be alive and Draco is a pawn of his father so he resolves to redeem Draco and use him for his own ends.

This Harry is perhaps less likeable, even as he uses logic and rational thought to deconstruct the magical world and get the better of all the teachers. It would have been really easy for the author to write this Harry as a total gary-stu but he does not get everything go his own way, not at all. In fact his methods of rationality often gets him into very deep trouble. Although he did not grow up living underneath the stairs and his parents provided every opportunity for him to learn they were still emotionally distant from Harry and so he does not make friends easily and has very different psychological problems to overcome.

There are many scenes which are genuinely laugh out loud moments. We get chapters written from the point of view of character's other than Harry such as Hermonie, Draco and Professor McGonagal which make for a refreshing change of pace. Something which elevates this above 99.9% of all other fan fiction is that it pokes fun at the whole fan fiction sub-culture. For example one girl has a crush on Snape and her heart flutters when he tells her to stay after class and see him. Usually in fan fiction this would prompt something really icky but here Snape crushes her dreams saying he does not return her affections and tells her to stop it immediately. With all seven books of the original series complete the author has the entire source material to go at and he uses it in very different ways, for example the Deathly Hallows get mentioned and other plot elements and characters from later books are introduced early for comic effect.

I am about half way through the 78 chapters that have been written so far and the author (enigmatically known as Less Wrong) is still on the first year at Hogwarts. He releases new chapters as and when he can, usually every couple of weeks or so. Not sure if he will write up all seven years of the story or if this Harry will defeat the Dark Lord in half the time it took the original Harry. But then when the rules are this different anything could happen, maybe Voldemort will win, or maybe Harry really will become the next Dark Lord and have to be defeated by the other characters. It genuinely could go anywhere and that makes this interesting and worth reading.

The first 63 chapters are available in a neatly typeset PDF.

New chapters are released on this website (they don't look anywhere near as nice but they do come with author notes).

Comments

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zoeiona
Jan. 9th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
99% of everything may be shit, but 1% of a lot is, well, a lot.
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