Well, so much for being glad that the fanfic is complete. Reaching the end of Harry Potter and the Wastelands of time was an exercise in frustration. The fanfic does not effectively end, at least not in a way that satisfactorily resolves any of the major plotlines. Major enemies are still threats (in fact Voldemort is a greater threat than ever) huge questions are left unanswered, and there is a huge and catastrophic war still looming in the very near future. In fact, one wonders why the fanfic ended here at all, really. There is already a sequel, Harry Potter and the Heartlands of Time, which picks up immediately after Wastelands, and continues on at the same pace, but is, frustratingly, not yet complete.
So, to avoid rehashing what I’ve already said on this subject, please check out my Early Impressions to get my initial take on this fanfic. Not much has dramatically changed since then.
This fanfic veers so far outside the continuity of standard Harry Potter that it barely bears any resemblance to the J.K. Rowling classic. Harry, as discussed before, is in fact over 1000 years old, the story finally tells us, and yet, he is still an immature little boy.
I’m unclear how much of this is intentional on the part of the author or a result of the author’s age itself. The author’s bio on Fanfiction.net says that he started writing when he was fifteen and has been doing it for seven years. This means that he was probably twenty years old when he started writing Wastelands of time and is only twenty-two now. While I’m VERY impressed at the strong narrative voice and general writing proficiency on display in this fanfic, I continue to have this nagging feeling that Harry sounds like he’s still a teenager, despite being over 1016 years old.
Adam Cadre has as one of his patterns (#14) that “One of the best things a storyteller can do is thoroughly think through the premise.” Essentially, you’re going to present a supernatural idea (such as a Groundhog’s Day time loop) as the center point of your story, you’d better make an effort to fully explore the consequences of such an idea. Here we see Harry knowing — down to the second — when things are supposed to occur along with a supernatural awareness of the passage of time, and yet he still thinks foul language and highly arrogant statements of power are cool.
The hand waving done by the story is that Harry has essentially gone insane and become someone else. This, in abstract, makes a lot of sense. When you spend your life – many lives in fact – trying to accomplish something and you never, ever, succeed at it, you can become very deranged or insane. But it’s the specific ways in which Harry goes insane that strike me as odd. Besides the childish attitude, he’s very much task oriented. Maybe that’s because of routine, but something happens in the beginning of this story that throws the whole routine out of whack. Then, further on, Harry discovers that he’s run out of repeats: whatever happens this time around is the last time around. But even KNOWING this, Harry fails to take any additional caution with his actions, he’s still brash, still a braggart, still a know-it-all even when things are proving he knows little now. Rarely does he ever feel sorry for the mistakes he makes, nor any anguish at the lost opportunities he’ll have to redo this cycle. He’s also begins a love affair with a hat during the story, and I also don’t understand that either. 1000 years and he’s never once seen that hat or liked it enough to pick it up before?
In fact, it’s pretty much a self-insertion at this point, with an SI who is wearing Harry’s body and using his name. And that bothers me. Because for as brilliant as many, many parts of this story are, I can’t help think they’re horribly out of place in a Harry Potter fanfic.
I don’t have this problem so much with Methods of Rationality, and I think it’s because one of the core premises is that the world is different, that many people are more rational than their storybook counterparts. Wastelands, however, pretends that it’s the ‘real’ Harry that has just been broken over time. But he’s so radically different and off the script of the books, you can’t really tell it’s Harry at all save for the name and scar.
There’s a great Ranma ½ fanfic I read a long time ago – for those of you who don’t know, Ranma is a Manga/Anime about a guy who gets cursed to turn into a girl with cold water and back with hot and utterly hates it – by Richard Lawson called ‘Thy Outward Part.’ In this story, we are introduced to an original character who meets a very unusual girl at college who greatly impresses him and with which he develops a crush. After several chapters of getting to know this odd girl, we learn that her name is Ranma.
The surprise that the strange person we meet is Ranma – the main character of the manga — is part of the reason why we accept it. We already know who this person is by the time we realize who they are, and then the story shows how the Ranma from the original work became the Ranma in the story.
I feel like that linkage, that transition from Harry-we-know to Harry-we-now-meet is missing in Wastelands and is never effectively told. As such, I feel alienated from the character.
Which is a shame, because he goes on a pretty incredible adventure.
I’ve spent so much time complaining about Harry’s out of character-ness, I’m sure I’ve already scared away everyone. So it’s probably too late to say this story is really good. While it’s hard to see the cracks in the plot until the story is complete (which it’s not, as I explained above) the narrative adventure of Wastelands is probably top notch. Harry moves around rapidly, bridging scenes well, showing the various intricacies of magic and the wizarding world outside of Britain. In fact, the world building going on in this story is fantastic, especially considering the entire plot hinges upon the history and fate of Atlantis, a city that was never even mentioned in the books.
For as much as I disparage the character development going on in this story (and other characters are no less questionably portrayed, such as Fleur and Tonks, both characters which are divergent from their book personalities AND situations but no explanation is ever given) the actual adventure part is top notch. Harry moves across the globe with ease, though special attention is given to Tivoli and New York City for whatever reason, and those places are meticulously described.
There is no end to the mysteries that surround the adventure that Harry goes on as well, and so far those mysteries have payed off in entertaining ways. The mysterious woman and man who hounds Harry through time ended up being both well realized and worth the payoff when we find out who they are. Even some of the cryptic actions that Harry takes only for them to pay off several chapters later end up being well played.
In fact, I want very much to like this fanfic, but there are just so many nagging things that draw me out of it when I read. The immature POV, the strangely interpreted Harry and supporting characters, the flagrant “cool” actions he tries to take that repeatedly fall flat with me, the myriad of cultural references… it’s just too much. I love the adventure this Harry goes on, I just wish it was someone else who went on it.