Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying - Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest

Summary: The Harry Potter series is more than just a story about a young wizard who saves the world from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The seven-book saga is an excellent primer on spying, intelligence, and politics. Join spy novelist Lynn Boughey and thirty-six-year CIA veteran and executive director of the International Spy Museum Peter Earnest as they review the spy craft employed and celebrated in J.K. Rowling's bestselling books. From the invisibility cloak to house passwords to Fred and George Weasley's Extendable Ears, "Harry Potter & the Art of Spying" is full of spy lessons for the secret-agent-in-training in the Muggle realm. Learn how to break secret codes, gather intelligence, read character's motives, and why Severus Snape is the best double agent ever. (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review:  Exclamation points!! Bold fonts! CAPS Lock!!  Italics!! More exclamation points!!  The same joke repeated 400 times!!

That about sums it up.

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying takes a long look at the spy-world characteristics of the Harry Potter world.  It provides an in-depth analysis (blow-by-blow) of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, specifically outlining what spy tactics are either coincidentally or deliberately put in place.  The second part of the book takes a longer look at the characters and their roles as spies, drawing information and conclusions from the entire series.

On the surface, this sounds awesome, doesn't it?  There is certainly a lot of spying that goes on in the books, as well as quite a bit of intelligence seeking. My imagination ran rampant with possibility.


I'm not quite sure if the authors knew who their target audience was.  Clearly, they were writing to Potterheads, those so infatuated with the books they would read anything pertaining to it.  I count myself among that group.  But what about this group of Potterheads that are the target audience?  Are they smart?  How many times have they read the books?  Do they know the text well? Is this the first extracurricular Harry Potter universe book they've ever read?  Frankly, it would have done them a world of good to think those questions through before publishing this book.

The writing style is very camaraderie-based, but somehow manages to be quite condescending as well.  Describing the most basic points in the Potterverse in depth (who doesn't know by now what the Mirror of Erised says?  And how that "code" was written and deciphered?), most of the time belaboring the point beyond reason, becomes arduous and burdensome.  The whimsical, jokey style of writing soon slogs, creating such a drudgery to read that frankly, it took me over a year to finish.

Yes, I said over a year.  I read the unabridged version of Les Miserables, all 1400+ pages including Hugo's philosophies on government, love, and revolution, in under a week.  And I was only reading during commute times and at lunch. This book wasn't nearly as well written and not quite half as long.

It broke my heart to see such a potentially fun book weighted down so heavily with unnecessary additions and explanations.  Potterheads are a smart bunch, and I truly felt that that went unrecognized.  I've said it before, but I don't do well being talked down at by an author.  I imagine many people don't.

That being said, I really enjoyed Boughey's inserted stories about his life as a spy.  Now, there's a book I think I'd enjoy!

Rating: One and a half stars

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