Friday, July 15, 2011

Five Things on Friday - Saga Edition

Tonight is the night, oh interwebz of joy. Tonight, despite the fact that I am having a very rough day, have no idea how I'm going to pay my bills or drive to work this month, I am going to see Harry Potter. Because, priorities... I gots 'em.

Now, before you lecture me, you should know that I am RABID about Harry Potter. Like seriously, crazily, rabid. And this is a very sad day for all of us. I mean, it's a great day - because, you know, new Harry Potter movie, but also a sad day because it's the last new Harry Potter movie.

I know people who don't get it. People who say things like, "Isn't this like the fourth or fifth movie," or like, "Well, it's about time, there's half a million of those movies." And it makes me sad. Sad, not just about people who don't understand the joy and amazement of Harry Potter - of a complete cultural phenomenon that changed children's literature and the way children view literature forever. But also for the saga.

So, for those with attention spans longer than ants, I present:

Five Sagas That I Love

All grown up...
1. Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling, books and movies) - Okay, obvs. And I could say all the things I usually say about Harry Potter: a grand story of good vs. evil, the complexity of human nature, the bond of true friendship, not to mention the whole inspired an entire generation to pick up books bigger than their heads and devour them in a way previously reserved for teenage-heart-throb-movies. But, since I've said all that before, let me instead address why I, a fully grown adult type person, thinks J.K. Rowling hung the moon. I am all about the characters: you can write the most boring plot imaginable, but if you have good, strong characters, I'm all in. And HP has great characters. I remember being Hermione - almost exactly. Now, I'm more of a Molly Weasley. (And with that in mind, can anyone guess what I am most looking forward to tonight?) These characters are wholly formed, three dimensional people. You forget that they are not real. And that right there is what separates bad fantasy from good fantasy. In good fantasy, the magic and mystery and dragons and whatnot are a vehicle for the characters. Not the other way around.

Magically delicious.
2. Dresden Files (Jim Butcher, books, comics and a very short lived TV series) - As the only practicing wizard in the Chicago phone book, Harry Dresden sees his share of weird stuff. From werewolves (the good, the bad and the positively sociopathic) to fairy godmothers; from supernatural drugs to enchanted dinosaurs; from mafia bosses to magic beer. Life is never boring for Harry. What keeps Harry's stories interesting book after book has a great deal to do with Harry, but even more to do with everyone else. Harry begins the series as a fairly young wizard (they live into the multiple hundreds, you know) and his growth as a wizard and as a person is fun to watch. Every book brings progress or regression and you love to see him improve and suffer when he slips. You watch with trepidation as he makes bad choices and cheer (usually in your head) when he makes better ones next time. That's the essence of what makes a saga tick - true investment in the lead character. But that's not all Dresden has to offer. There's also Karin (cute as a pixie cop and reluctant love interest), Michael (Knight of the Cross and reluctant father of a budding wizard), Thomas (Harry's half brother and influential vampire of the White Court), and Susan (half vampire and star-crossed lover). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone grows, everyone changes. There is not a single stagnant character in the series (with the possible exception of the deliciously bad mafia boss, Johnny Marcone) and that makes it never boring for the reader.

Not everyone can get away with
walking barefoot through a cemetery.
3. Harper Connelly (Charlaine Harris, books) - So far, there are only four books, but I know this one is going to last forever. How? Because Harris' other series include Sookie Stackhouse (10 and counting), Aurora Teagarden (8 books), and Lily Bard (5 books). Charlaine is a champion of the saga. Now, you're probably more familiar with Sookie and that's fine and good, but I will argue to anyone and everyone that Harper is a better character, a better premise and better written books. So there. Harper can commune with the dead, but not how you think. Since being struck with lightning as a young girl, Harper has gained the ability to locate bodies based on a buzzing type feeling. But more than that, she can, for a moment, connect with the dead and experience their last moments the same way that they did. This seldom solves murders by telling her whodunit, but does serve as an aid to investigations. As she travels the country, finding bodies and helping murder and missing person investigations, she is also struggling for her missing sister. It's like a TV series, there's always a mystery of the book, but the larger mystery is far more compelling.

How I wanted her hair!
4. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery, books, movies, TV series, probably other stuff) - The first chapter books I read were the entire Little House on the Prairie series. Which set me up for a lifetime of little girls from history who were troublemakers. Fortunately, this is practically a genre. But my favorite is Anne. Anne is an orphan who goes to live with an elderly sister/brother duo as farm help. Of course, she is so much more than that, with her lively imagination and sweet innocence. As the series progresses, Anne and her best friend, Diana, along with her forever love, Gilbert, grow up. Anne marries, has children and forges a life for herself completely different from her early childhood. Anne is Polyanna, but less annoying, Laura Ingalls, but more precocious, Pippi Longstocking, but with redder hair. I spent a good deal of my childhood playing Anne of Green Gables with my red-headed best friend. We even nearly drowned pretending to nearly drown playing the Lady of Chalotte. I never managed to get drunk on raspberry cordial though.

Just like our world. Only better.
5. Discworld (Terry Pratchett, books, comics, movies) - Discworld is a flat world that moves through the universe balanced on the backs of four elephants supported by a giant turtle. It is a place not wholly unlike our own, but vastly funnier and more interesting. There are so many Discworld novels and they cover everything from politics to religion to journalism to music to Death. Yes, with a capital D. They are smart and funny and satirical, but they are also genuinely fine reads with compelling recurring characters. There are "mini series" within the larger series - the Night Watch books, the Witch Books, the Death Books (my personal favorites) but they all add up to a larger world so completely imagined it's contagious.

So, what about you? Do you love a good saga? A never-ending series? Does a whole shelf of Castle Rock or Aunt Dimity make your knees weak? What are your favorites?


Suze said...


Is that the moment you're waiting for?

So with you on HP and Anne of Green Gables! I remember watching the PBS series every year when it was fundraising time. And when I was pregnant with Anya and would go whole nights without sleeping because the insomnia was so bad, there were times all I could do to keep sane was knit garter stitch squares and read books I already knew through and through, like Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice.

I don't do sci fi or much genre in general, but I do enjoy the China Bayles mystery series by Susan Wittig Albert. She's a better writer than most, and her women characters kick ass.

Joni said...

Most definitely Mrs. Weasley's duel with Bellatrix, which I expect will be AH-MAZ-ING! I'm a big HP fan too, and although I've never gone to see one when it opened, I seriously considered it with this one. So report back, please!

I'm kinda with Suze where I LOVE sagas, but not generally sci-fi ones. I'm with you on Anne of Green Gables, though! But many of my favorite books are series of 7 (C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia), 9 (Jan Karon's Mitford series), or 14 (Karen Kingsbury's Baxter series) as the case may be...

Mark said...

Love the HP books and thou I have seen only one of the movies(Barbara hates 'em) I have rear the entire series twice. Am very enamored with the Percy Jackson chracter in the young Olympians series. Thou not for kids all of the Clive Cussler, and Jack Higgins books.

DolceMia said...

That was a fabulous line SUZE! You could feel Molly's power and boy did she hand it to Bellatrix!

Jessi said...

You nailed it Suze. And, oh, it was wonderful.

Joni - Narnia is pretty spectacular. I'm hoping to start it within the next year or so with Brynna.

Joni said...

Jessi, I saw HP today and thought of you during that scene. Pretty good!!! Did you enjoy it?!?!

Jessi said...

I did. We were at the drive in and everyone there cheered. It was pretty great.