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Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality back to reviews
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Witty, Sarcastic, Clever, Smart, and very Fun
I did warily go into this story. After all, the internet had called it pretentious and ivory tower and a mockery of Harry Potter. Well certain parts of the internet anyway. How could it possibly be so bad? I had been forced to wonder. And as I read the story, I can see why people said that. I can also see why they're wrong.

Methods is the story of Harry-James-Potter-Evans-Verres, a loud-mouthed, sarcastic, hopelessly smart boy who tries his best to be the hero of whatever magical world he's dropped into. He confuses adults and argues with them and most certain deconstructs certain beloved aspects of the Potter universe. The snitch? Doesn't work, get rid of it. A ghost teaching class? Where's the real teachers? A bully of a teacher? I refuse to continue at school until he's fired.

All the while being friends with Hermione, in Ravenclaw, and Draco in Slytherin. It is funny how these are his two friends instead of Ron and Hermione. Discarding Ron removes the emotional side, the id if you will. That is actually something of the point. By trying to discard his emotions, Harry is trying to be a better scientist, investigating how the laws of magic work. At the same time, as the Sorting Hat warns, this increases his "coldness" towards others. This Harry's potential for being a dark wizard is higher than book Harry because of his inability to look past his own rationality. Harry talks about trying to take over the world many times, and he's not kidding. World "optimization" he calls it. This is a very interesting Harry, and one we haven't seen before. Yes, it's very different from J.K.'s Potter, but that's not a bad thing. Sometimes we do need to move past our own assumptions of what things should be and look at them for what they are. Method's Harry is a deeply flawed human being, and a very interesting one.

The story itself is very interesting, but some of the best parts come from the humor. I've laughed more at this fic than a lot of things in the past while. I don't want to give much of it away, but it is worth a read just for that. The science is very interesting, as well, and quite accessible, even for someone not knowledgeable about the topics addressed.

All in all, do yourself a favor and pick this up. You won't regret it.
I must respectfully disagree with the last part of that review — I picked this up, and after six chapters or so, I very much regretted that I had. When I spend most of the time reading wishing that someone would smack the protagonist repeatedly up the head, it tends to ruin my enjoyment of the story, and I found the Harry of this story to be incredibly annoying — with no sign that he was ever going to become less so.
comment #16867 Roo 16th Nov 12
I once tried out the fanfic by going to a random chapter. In it, Harry and Dumbledore get into a debate about the afterlife. It made me want to punch Harry in the face. Having Harry reduce Old Wise Man Dumbledore into a stuttering, sweating wreck from a few arguments made me immediately peg down Harry as a Sue no matter what the author says. Maybe I picked the wrong chapter, but I'm certainly not wanting to read it.
comment #16869 doctrainAUM 16th Nov 12
Without trying to argue about fic!Harry's sue-ness. There are about five different scenes in which harry and Dumbledore fight. Although the early arguments are the kind of curb stomp battle you'd expect if a 100 year old man debated an 11 year old,Dumbledore makes several mistakes in the fic's present and flashbacks that, in the most dramatic argument (probably the one you read) Harry's "arguments" are just a call back to earlier chapters throwing Dumbledore's mistakes back in his face. That's what reduces Dumbledore, and in the next argument harry is owned severely for shooting below the belt.
comment #16939 croakamancer 22nd Nov 12
Honestly, I can't see Harry as a Sue. Sure, he delivers some author tracts, but in the end being way smarter than he should be is part of his personality. As the review said, he is a very different character from the original Harry, a very overblown, flawed, but ultimately interesting character. I don't say I always agree with the views he propagates, but I feel that it's kind of the point: He is a highly intelligent, rational -kid- in a magical world where wizards have long since discarded rationality in favor of their all-purpose magic. This sometimes makes him insufferable, but I find that this is one of the charms of the character: he is certainly intelligent but he has countless flaws that he has to overcome, making his character-development really fascinating.

That said, I'm not even sure I would call this a "Harry Potter parody". It's more of a re-imagination, showing just how much a simple change in Harry's environment could change the story, and if I have to deal with some author-tracts and the deconstruction of the original setting, then so be it.
comment #17239 Gborr 14th Dec 12
Somebody else said it far better than I did: "I have totally avoided Methods of Rationality because even the premise struck me as mean-spirited. A screed about how children's fantasy doesn't apply sufficient scientific thought is, to paraphrase Vonnegut, like attacking an ice cream Sunday in a full suit of armor."

Really, the whole thing is just bitter as hell and screams "I'M SMARTER THAN ROWLING PAY ATTENTION TO ME!" No wonder TV Tropes loves it so much.
comment #17550 DominusTemporis 4th Jan 13
I honestly don't see it as mean-spirited. I don't read it as an attack on the original series, but an extended what-if that ends up being an interesting story in its own right (and, most of all, a funny one). Harry is ultra-rationalistic and finds himself in a world where people can transform into cats and time machines are used to solve trivial problems. Naturally, he freaks out. And it's hilarious. And Quirrell is awesome.
comment #17897 Vilui 30th Jan 13
"I have totally avoided Methods of Rationality because even the premise struck me as mean-spirited. A screed about how children's fantasy doesn't apply sufficient scientific thought is, to paraphrase Vonnegut, like attacking an ice cream Sunday in a full suit of armor."

This isn't how I see the story at all. On the contrary, I see it as focusing on how applying critical thinking and a fresh perspective to a situation helps to make it that much more awesome. Rather than tearing the original Harry Potter down, it's an attempt to make the absolute most of its composite parts.

Before he even started writing HP Mo R, Eliezer wrote an essay (http://lesswrong.com/lw/ou/if_you_demand_magic_magic_wont_help/) on fantasy and how it relates to the idea of actually using and appreciating the awesome powers and experiences that are really available to us all the time. Harry's success owes largely to the fact that he constantly looks for opportunities to make the most out of his situation, rather than following the lead of everyone else.

In the original series, Harry accomplished the things he did by taking initiative, exploring his environment, and trying to resolve problems, but he only managed to take initiative and try to solve things that were clearly pointed out as problematic, and investigate things that other wizards noted as mysterious. Mo R Harry takes the initiative much further, trying to find out everything about his environment that he possibly can, in order to resolve the biggest problems he can hope to tackle.

The opposition that Mo R Harry faces is much, much greater than that which the original Harry did, because the whole story is predicated on the idea of thinking carefully about how to milk everything for the best results it can deliver, and a Harry who goes to such efforts can deliver so much more than was ever asked of him in the original canon.
comment #17903 Desertopa 30th Jan 13
^^^ Pretty much, yeah.
comment #17904 kay4today 30th Jan 13
@Desertopa: I liked that essay of his, probably because it's similar to my own approach to fantasy and magic. I disagreed (like always) over his assessment of those who believe in the supernatural. Also, saying "I'm not trying to knock magic itself" once clarifies your point, but saying it several times more is a Suspiciously Specific Denial.

This blog post argues against the idea of Harry Potter facing severely difficult challenges.
comment #17922 doctrainAUM 31st Jan 13
I read it as the fun adventures (though certainly not all of Harry's adventures are fun) of a kid who is dropped into a new, magical universe and. Completely unconstrained by its common wisdom, bringing a new knowledge base to the table, and equipped with the mental tools to understand the new world he's in, begins turning everything upside down.

An in-universe MST 3 K, in some respects. And in that, IMHO, it succeeds very well.

Sure, Yudkowsky doesn't hold back with the anvils (and he likes quoting his own writings just a little too much), but a lot of his targets are issues that have generally been noticed by many, many others and are entirely deserving of anvils (the good/evil/irrelevant trichotomy of Rowling's magic houses, for one).

And certainly Harry is far smarter than any eleven-year-old has any business being, even if the plot wouldn't work without it. On the other hand, one might note that he was already a messiah figure in the original books, so if you have a problem with god-child figures you might be reading the wrong source material to begin with. ;)
comment #18200 KingRaptor 14th Feb 13
(Of course, the fic/author do have definite issues with race and gender issues. Link reproduced from YMMV page: http://www.journalfen.net/community/the_hms_stfu/492170.html)
comment #18201 KingRaptor 14th Feb 13
H Arry isn't a Sue. Maybe you should stop skipping and actually read before you judge no? Stop claiming it sucks when it's obviously an alternate universe mon ami. Au revoir et chier.
comment #20938 addikhabbo 30th Aug 13
@King Raptor: Yes, because noticing that hypergamy exists definitely means you have "gender issues".
comment #22450 StarintheDust 10th Dec 13
Well, he IS smarter than Rowling. He even corrected her Latin mistakes, even though she went to Exeter and he didn't.
comment #23621 Linna 30th Mar 14
Aside from the literacy skills necessary to write any cohesive work of fiction, intelligence of the author has almost no bearing on the entertainment value of a story. Nobody is debating that Yudkowsky is smart. Although trying to prove he is smart by referring to one instance in which he corrected someone else, is as terrible an argument as me claiming to be smarter than the President because I once correctly predicted the outcome of a football match and he didn't.
comment #23639 Elmo3000 1st Apr 14
That was just one example and mentioned because that was a mistake someone who has not studied Latin really shouldn't have had to correct someone who has on. So more like you correcting the President on matters of the law, which he has a Ph.D. in and you don't.

It seemed a bit tactless to mention that she obviously doesn't understand maths and science, that her plots are full of holes and can only be resolved by giant Dei ex Machina, that she has no logic skills to speak of and that her writing is tedious and full of boring clichés.
comment #23643 Linna 1st Apr 14
See but

What does writing skill have to do with intelligence.
comment #23645 MFM 2nd Apr 14
An intelligent person would have done something she is better at, or made herself good at the thing she wanted to do. I've tried to read The Casual Vacancy, and it was even more tedious. Why did you only address the last point and ignored the other three?
comment #23647 Linna 2nd Apr 14
Does anyone aside from snide elitists looking for flaws to refer to so they can falsely try to quantify the quality of a piece of work by the intelligence of the author actually CARE that she got the Latin wrong? Because I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess 'no.'

She doesn't understand maths and science - again, no bearing on the writing. Her plots are full of holes - well, I'll give you that. Time-turners and Goblets of Fire... blech. But I find they're not enough to ruin a story unless you have unrealistically high standards for children's books. Dei Ex Machina - again, you have a point, but if we had to get rid of every piece of work that used one of these there would be practically nothing left. As for her writing being tedious and boring, well, I know you might immediately start saying 'Lowest Common Denominator', but a few dozen million people, including a few I'm sure are smarter than Yudkowsky, would disagree with you.
comment #23649 Elmo3000 2nd Apr 14
That's their lookout. ;)
comment #23650 Linna 2nd Apr 14
Actually that addressed two of your points: plots full of holes and tedious writing.

As for the other two, they're so vague that there's really no addressing them, especially considering they're not that relevant.
comment #23659 MFM 2nd Apr 14
They are if we're discussing intelligence. Offering an opinion that you find my view "laughable" is not actually the same as refuting my argument.
comment #23662 Linna 2nd Apr 14
Putting quotes around laughable as if I said it, when in fact I said no such thing, isn't helping your argument.

And I'm actually discussing the relevance of intelligence to writing skill specifically; I apologize if that wasn't clear from the get-go. Your original point was that the author of this story is smarter than Rowling, and I'm not sure of the relevance of that to anything.
comment #23663 MFM 2nd Apr 14
Oops, the "laughable" thing was from another thread. I must have got them mixed up. Sorry about that.

To answer your question: it does not seem likely, based on everything I've read, that an author is capable of writing a character who is more logical or intelligent than him- or herself. Rowling writes boring characters from scratch – her most interesting character was practically a caricature of a man she resented, seemingly for the crime of being smarter than her and a science teacher. She seems to dislike science. Yudkowsky, on the other hand, writes intelligent characters, though not everyone will be able to identify, and I love that about him.

Did that answer your question?
comment #23668 Linna 3rd Apr 14
Although I don't necessarily agree with your viewpoint, I do understand it clearly now, and I can't really fault you for it. After all, if I did, this comment section would just turn into an argument over personal preference, and Lord knows TV Tropes has enough of that.

So, I guess I'll just bow out at this point and thank you for clarifying.
comment #23669 MFM 3rd Apr 14
I think Yudkowsky does an absolutely wonderful job of writing intelligent characters. The problem is, he does a terrible job of writing characters that are interesting, or likeable, or... anything that made me want to root for anyone on either side of the story. Rowling's Harry Potter is not smart, but I can hope he succeeds in defeating an evil adversary. Yudkowsky's Harry Potter makes me want to punch him for being such an egotistic, pretentious, 'I've nailed a soapbox under each of my shoes in case I ever need to make an Author Tract unprepared!' brat who speaks the way no 11 year old in existence has ever spoken.

I can identify with him, but I honestly don't want to.
comment #23672 Elmo3000 3rd Apr 14
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