I’ve just finished James Potter and the Curse of the Gatekeeper, the second in G. Norman Lippert’s series on the Son of Harry. At the end of the book there’s some additional material, including a statement to the effect that Lippert’s work reflects whatever he happens to be reading while he’s writing it. He suggests that this is true of most people, and it’s certainly true of me. My sentences get much longer when I’m reading Austen and I get a lot funnier when I’m reading Wodehouse. (Knowing this I try to read little else.) I bet it’s not true of JK, whose style is awfully consistent and distinctive (if not always excellent) but that’s beside the point, which is that here lies the explanation for why Lippert’s first JP novel is so much better than the second. During the writing of the first, he explains, he was reading That Hideous Strength, one of the most thrilling and intelligent pieces of science fiction ever produced. During the writing of the second, he was reading Chamber of Secrets, a ball of fluff. Gatekeeper is a good enough book, but it doesn’t touch the reflective heights of Elder’s Crossing.
At another point in his closing statement, Lippert threatens not to finish the series. Probably an empty threat, as he himself admits. Still, I think those of us who would like to see him write more, should haul ourselves over to Lulu and purchase his Petra Morganstern novel (during the composition of which he has clearly been reading Cinderella), enabling Lippert to quit his day job and devote himself solely to us. At the same time (eschewing desperate proposals inciting Jackrroo’s scorn), let’s put our heads together and suggest some reading material that will raise the third book back up to the standard of Elder’s Crossing.
For my part, I would like to see a little more school in these schoolbooks, and will therefore start out with some standards in the genre. Norman please read for me: Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Stalky, Malory Towers, and “Such, Such Were the Joys.” All these are solid school; what’s more, all of them will deepen consideration of the best idea in Elder’s Crossing, the Progressive Element, for they all raise the question of what it is to be educated to rule an empire.