About Books #15: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Fanfiction. For the most part, either you love it or you hate. Either you get it or you don’t. And as far as Harry Potter’s concerned, there’s a couple of fanfictions that have taken a different status all of their own. The kind of fics that have spawned their own fanfiction. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is definitely one of those. It’s ginormous, complicated, scientific… And absolutely brilliant.

There’s a special place in my heart for fanfiction. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, but too often for me, they end before I’m done with the characters. Naturally, that was also – and maybe even most of all – the case for Harry Potter. You see, Harry Potter to me was the gateway-fandom. It was the fandom that first introduced me to the world of fanfiction, and to this day it’s the fandom I read most fics from.

Plot

As always, let’s go to Goodreads for this: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a work of alternate-universe Harry Potter fan-fiction wherein Petunia Evans has married an Oxford biochemistry professor and young genius Harry grows up fascinated by science and science fiction. When he finds out that he is a wizard, he tries to apply scientific principles to his study of magic, with sometimes surprising results.

Like that’s the only reason anyone would ever buy a first-aid kit? Don’t take this the wrong way, Professor McGonagall, but what sort of crazy children are you used to dealing with?”
“Gryffindors,” spat Professor McGonagall, the word carrying a freight of bitterness and despair that fell like an eternal curse on all youthful heroism and high spirits.”

While Harry Potter meets all the same people, he himself is not the same. This is a universe where rationality rules first – even if that means the original plot cannot be maintained. Harry Potter tries to reason to explain everything, but unfortunately Magic does not always respond to the rules that should govern it. Luckily people, magical or not, are the same everywhere.

Characters

This one’s difficult. That’s mainly because the characters are kind of the same as they were in the series, but then again they’re not.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again: Harry Potter is awesome. In this fic, he’s also smart. Scary-smart almost. While I’ve read quite a couple of fics where that was the case, this one has one very important thing that most of those did not: Harry Potter is reasonable. I guess that’s what happens when your dad’s all about science and teaches biochemistry at Oxford. Unfortunately, Harry Potter is still 11 throughout this book, and as such he can, at times, act childish (gasp). But yeah, imagine a super smart, kind of powerful kid of 11 trying to reasoning their way out of anything. Also, imagine this Harry Potter not being quite content with the way the world functions…

World domination is such an ugly phrase. I prefer to call it world optimisation.

I don’t want to rule the universe. I just think it could be more sensibly organised.

Hermione Granger, in this one, is competitive. However, unlike the books, here she’s actually given some honest competition. Not just when it comes to the school work, though – she’s going to be a heroine. Draco Malfoy, alike, finds himself challenged on his believes and school ranking position by Harry Potter.

“Boys,” said Hermione Granger, “should not be allowed to love girls without asking them first! This is true in a number of ways and especially when it comes to gluing people to the ceiling!”

Add in that Quirrell’s apparently the good guy, Harry’s kind of iffy on Dumbledore and Snape and McGonagall fly in and out of the picture as well, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good image of the use made of the characters in this one.

Plot

Two things: first, this story is incredibly long (over 2000 pages), and consists of several smaller story arcs as well as a larger story that is just breathtaking and will probably have you both laughing and crying. Second, there’s a bit of science in here. And when I say, I’m talking just about every single scientific theory ever invented and at times it might give you a headache. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂

I see little hope for democracy as an effective form of government, but I admire the poetry of how it makes its victims complicit in their own destruction.

Overall: 5/5

At this point, I’ve called this book brilliant, crying- and laughter-inducing and also slightly maddening. All of the above are true, but mainly it’s just one of those fanfics that you really do need to have read. I mean, it’s an institution within the fandom as is, but this is also just genuinely a good story. It’s not that often that an author manages to move pass the fixed elements of the original series, but in this story that was most certainly the case!

Plus side: it’s freeeee! (Dobby is a free elf!) (Yes, I do think I’m funny, sorry J )

As is, by now, probably blatantly clear: I fully recommend this one. Also: because I’m done with this one, I now have no fanfictions to read. So if you know of any you feel that I should read, be sure to let me know below!

-Saar