White Night by Jim Butcher (Flash Impression)

Happy Saturday!

white night

Summary

Welcome back, everyone! One thing I’ve learned from reading this dynamic urban fantasy series is that it has much in common with Fussili noodles seeing as it is constantly twisting and can fit into a multitude of categories (fussili can be used with

fussili

See? Fussili is fundamental to everything.

thick or thin sauces, it can be used in soups, salads, and casseroles similar to how the Dresden files spans genres from romance, comedy, epic high fantasy, low gritty urban fantasy, detective who-dun-it, and action/thriller, and at least in Skin Game (book 15) an Ocean’s 11-style heist).  This being said, I shouldn’t have been surprised when Butcher flipped a bitch in this book’s story format from the established A, B, C story where A story is something that forwards a meta-plot spanning many books and was somewhat self contained whilst the B and C stories were seemingly separate would weave together somewhere mid-narrative and help build up to the books second and ultimate climax(1).

In White Night we discover that someone is targeting magical practitioners (who turns out to be Grey Cloak [sort of] linking the A and C stories) and then we find out that Thomas is suspected to be working with Grey Cloak and/or is the one targeting practitioners, in Chicago at least, (linking A, B, and C) and then we find out that Grey Cloak is Vittorio Malvora [a member from one of the other White Court families] at the climax.  

Now that I’m looking back at meta trends in the series, I can see that the ABC structure has been shifting since book five but I didn’t notice it until just now:

-The A Story of Death Masks gives the White Council/Red Court war a mini-climax

-The A Story of Blood Rites (“A wild Black Court Vampire appears!”) made a call back to the events of Grave Peril where Dresden makes a personal enemy of Mavra, a Black Court vampire

-The A Story of Dead Beat forwards the Black Court story with Mavera sending Dresden in search of “The Word” but this plot is directly tied with the B story (regarding the Necromancers)

-Then the A and B Stories of Proven Guilty lay the groundwork for new meta-stories from unknown players (The Black Council, the first appearance of outsiders since the end of Blood Rites, and whomever the phobophages are/are working with/working for)

So what’s unique in this book is three stories affect the the final outcome of this book and that outcome reveals that Cowl has a direct connection with House Malvora (Vittorio Malvora aka “grey cloak”) of the White Court which is a link back to Dead Beat AND Proven Guilty effectively making this the first book in the series to serve exclusively the meta-story.  

A story: Who is killing magic practitioners around Chicago and why?

B story: Why is Thomas being scene with many of the targets of the serial killer?

C story: Who is “Grey cloak”?

Thoughts

  • I have a very minor pet-theory: is Ramirez in the black council? Dresden uses the word “cronies” to refer to Ramirez’s subordinates, deaths happen in 5 cities, 4 of which were in Ramirez’s region and Ramirez is least bothered member of the Council about Dresden’s use of Necromancy, which didn’t violate The Laws of Magic but only on a technicality.  I’m sure I could scrape up some more evidence if I wanted (such as Ramirez was present at Camp Kaboom when it’s attacked by the Ghouls, and Ramirez is the only other White Council wizard that has talked to Dresden outright about his “theory” about a Black Court, etc) but it’s a half baked idea. I’d have to do more re-reading/research which probably won’t happen before Butcher finishes the series.
  • Speaking of Camp Kaboom, Dresden has been getting more violent as the series progresses and he wen’t to like “Holy Shit” level on those Ghouls which is an interesting detail because we’re seeing where Dresden’s humanity lines lie and what he’s capable of doing
  • Finding out that the girl Marcone visits in the hospital at the end of Death Masks is the daughter of his Secretary/Lover(?) makes for a deeply intriguing sub-plot between Marcone and Hellen: Marcone doesn’t know that Hellen knows that Marcone is inadvertently responsible for killing her daughter nor does Hellen know why Marcone hasn’t told her about why he keeps it a secret.  
  • Lasciel’s Shadow deconstructs herself to save Dresden from Grey Cloak’s psychic attack (an act of altruism something she professed not to be capable of since she is not a person and only people change) and then promptly is not seen/heard from again in the series (up to Changes at least, which is the book I’m on as of writing this 22 Sept 2018)
  • Speaking of Lasciel (or “Las”), she’s apart of a group of entities that Dresden has named including Bob the Skull, Ivy, and Demonreach (next book, Small Favour) which is interesting but I don’t have enough material at this point in the series (White Night) to talk about further

Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • Lasciel tells Dresden that the cosmic alignment at the time of his birth gives him the potential to have control over outsiders?!?!
  • Thomas opens a boutique posing as a gay Frenchman to feed ethically which is really funny and interesting
  • Dresden has mentioned having a headache for a couple of books now and that’s odd since his injuries, sans the hand, always heal in between the events of each book and I’m interested to see what that pans out to be
  • Bob mentions that there was a flaw in Dresden’s model of Chicago, which causes it to fail early in the book, but is “mysteriously fixed” by the end of the book however neither Bob nor Dresden know who did it or when

Conclusion

White Night was a real change of pace for this series on multiple levels from story structure to content of the story itself.  It felt rather intimate in that it primarily explores relationships: Dresden and Thomas,the relationships between the Houses in the White Court, the still somewhat ambiguous relationship between the Vampire Courts, and the Fairy Courts’ role in the bigger picture with regard to the shifting scale of cosmic balance.  This book being so heavy on plot building, I have trouble picking it out in my mind from others because it doesn’t have a semi-self contained story like all the books before it did which also made it a bit difficult to write about. However overall it was a great pallet refresher between the high intensity of the last few books and the events of the next book.  

 

Stay tuned next week when I cover Small Favor ie “Dresden v Nicodemus: Round II”

-fin

Footnotes:

  1. An example that comes to mind specifically is Death Masks where the A story was kicked off with Ortega confronting Dresden in chapter 1 and their A story climaxes with the duel at Wriggly field which precedes the final battle with Nicodemus on the train which wrapped up the B story (being Dresden being hired by the “Vatican” to find the death mask) and the C story (how were these people showing up at the morgue whom had seemingly died of every human illness at the same time) which being the chronologically final climax of the book was appropriately more epic in both scale and scope relative to the individual book.  

 

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Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (Flash Impression)

Happy Saturday!

Proven_Guilty

Summary

Wow so Dead Beat was a fucking trip, right? Zombies, dinosaurs, and polka.  How can Butcher follow up something as big and bad and epic as that? Altered-enough-to-be-copyright-safe movie monsters, that’s how! Also, I’m officially abandoning the “Flash” part of these “Flash Impressions”, as in “flash” implying 1,000 words or less, mostly because I have too much to say about these books and I’m having a really good time writing about them so extensively.  However the main reason I wanted to do them so short was to be able to keep a deadline and I thought I wouldn’t have much to say about the books that hasn’t already been said (however since I haven’t really read extensively into Dresden Files forums or fan theories I have no idea how original my ideas are).

A Story: What is going on with the Summer and Winter Court w/r/t the White Council’s war with the Red Court?(1)

B Story: What is this “black magic threat” The Gatekeeper is asking Dresden to investigate?

C Story: What sort of trouble is Molly in?

Thoughts

(***Spoilers ahead, duh***)

Okay so I have mentioned many times before I take inspiration from my favourite YouTuber, Ross of Ross’s Game Dungeon, and once again I am taking a frame out of his…video? The page and book metaphor doesn’t translate well to media mediums I guess. Anyway I like his idea of assigning the weird games he covers in Ross’s Game Dungeon Awards and the last few Dresden Files books have been worthy of awards.  Blood Rites won “Best Deaths”, Dead Beat got “Best Law of Magic Loophole”, and now I’m giving Proven Guilty “First Tear” for the final scene between Dresden and McCoy acting as a mirroring scene in the beginning, where in the beginning McCoy asked Dresden out to a meal but Dresden still being mad at McCoy denied then in the end Dresden asked McCoy to a meal.  This series has tickled and poked my feels but this one really hit me hard for some reason. I guess I’m a softy for a redemption story between a mentor figure with legitimately good intentions who has to reveal a not well received hard truth to his mentee.

Now Dresden names the Black Council a bit earlier in the final scene for the first time (one thing my boyfriend mentioned to pay attention to is Dresden’s skills: to make banter even in the threat of mortal danger and to name things, which after reading The Kingkiller Chronicles and Dresden’s continual mention of the power of names, makes me really think) but it’s the first time we really understand their potential reach/threat and I believe Dresden when he says Morgan isn’t a traitor however Butcher is building up the current Merlin as one of the Black Council but I am so hesitant to take the easy bait because Butcher is such a self proclaimed and demonstrated troll…though maybe it could be someone so likable like Ramirez.

Speaking of shadowy White Council members, the way The Gatekeeper behaves both in the beginning of this book and the end of this book makes me think he’s either A) a fae or B) (more likely??!!!) breaking the 6th law of magic by being a creature who travels through and against the currents of time. The Gatekeeper, like Marcone and Kincaid, is one of those characters who I am DYING to see more of! He/she/them/it is just that perfect balance of mysterious, sparse, powerful, and morally ambiguous where I’m really fucking hooked on his character.  Please don’t let me down Butcher…please?

Whilst we’re mentioning time travel, Charity must be a fucking Time Lord or something. Not only does she forge his weapons and armour, she also spars with him, ON TOP of raising 9 children and maybe having a day job.  I have one kid, a day job, and a couple of spouses and I just barely find time to write and draw. Charity must be a Time Lord or something. Also I had no idea Charity was such a badass. Like Michael has mentioned how she has forged his battle armour(2) which metallurgy is pretty fucking insane.  

The Miscellaneous Thoughts:

-The Scale model of Chicago is one of my new favourite magical gizmos which is both interesting in concept but has some real potential for intriguing applications towards solving mysteries.  Also Dresden REALLY needs to get laid.

-I love the copyright-safe movie monsters, I really appreciated the “Great Pumpkin Monster” which I might be missing the reference but it made me think of the robot chicken sketch of Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin Monster. 

Conclusion

I was told that Proven Guilty was a more “intimate” novel and I wasn’t really sure what that was supposed to mean until I got deeper into the book and realised that what he meant was that this book was a deep exploration of Dresden’s darkening psyche and the effects it’s having on his friends and loved ones.  Not only is Dresden growing darker, we’re given the feeling of suddenly becoming enveloped in a dark conspiratorial cloud where we don’t know who our protagonist(s) can trust, what characters we (the readers) can get attached to or should suspect of great treachery, but most of all Butcher is building this creeping sense that something is lurking just at the edges of visibility with in this foggy confusion and it is big, bad, and very very mad.  I feel like the closer I get to the books I’ve already read in this series before beginning this binge, the less I am confident of knowing where the series is going. Not a lack of confidence that the series has a clear direction that only Butcher knows for sure but a lack of confidence that anything I theorise will have any truth to it because consistently Butcher has surprised me with each book being bigger than the last but not always in obvious ways.  As I have discovered a sort of format for his books, the ABC story lines, I am still struggling to recognise the overall cadence of the series however my excitement to see what comes next grows with each book completed.

 

Stay tuned for next week when I cover White Night, which so far is the spookiest book so far.  It feels the most, troubling because the deaths are so unsettling in how not-supernatural they appear.  I’m interested to see where this one is going to leave us.

 

-fin    

Footnotes:

  1. I just realised there are so many fucking courts in the supernatural aspect of the Dresden Files world.  White, Black, Red, Jade, Winter, Summer, maybe more.
  2. Seriously, what the hell does Michael get paid? I mean to support a family of roughly 9 members, to have access for materials to forge battle armour and weapons much less access to a forge, and all the travel/medical expenses that Michael must incur from being a Knight must be costly.  Maybe I should ask /r/theydidthemath however by my (very) rough calculations it would cost around 235,000USD a year just to raise a family with two parents and 9 children in Chicago, IL (metro area) (source: Economic Policy Institute, Family Budget Calculator, even though it only has a max option of 4 children, I just doubled it and added 14,000USD) and assuming Charity is, somehow, an extremely well paid Metallurgical Engineer (122,591USD source) and Michael is a very well paid Carpenter (66,736USD), they would be struggling at best if they’re very frugal. However I suppose having faith pays off.   

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (Flash Impressions)

Happy Saturday!

deadbeat_large

Summary

THIS IS IT, FOLKS! THIS IS IT! IT’S THE MOTHER FUCKING ZOMBIE T-REX EPISODE! 

Sue_facing_Chicago

I’m disappointed that in every “Dresden rides Zombie Sue” picture, none of them feature Butters in his polka suit. 

I have been looking forward to this book pretty much since I started the Dresden Files.  I don’t think I was aware that the zombie t-rex meme was literally a scene from one of the books but when my friend Brad who Introduced me to the series told me so, I have been deeply excited for it.  I figured this would be a nice contrast to the last post about Fool Moon (book 2) which might be the weakest book in the series.

A Story: The Black Court blackmails Dresden (via Murphy) into finding The Word.

B Story: What the fuck do zombie herding Zombies want with Butters?

C Story: Is Shiela Harry’s new squeeze?

Thoughts

(***spoilers ahead, duh***)

My primary thought here is summed up in the scene where Butters and Dresden are are in The Beetle and Dresden screams in pure elation to be alive and general horror of the given situation they just barely escaped.  This scene reminds me so strongly of the scene in Rick and Morty S03E06 “Rest and Ricklaxation” 

From here on out I will never be able to unmake the association between Rick/Dresden [the cynical type who understands the nature of everything] and Butters [who kinda knows about the nature of everything but has an unrelenting sense of innocence])

This leads into my next thought that up to this point in the series Dresden has been over his head every single book. However there has always been a MacGuffin or a piece of information that allows him to forge a piece of plot armour/weapon that enables him to survive. Though this is the first book where I was thinking to myself “for realz how is Dresden supposed to get out of this one? He literally threw a car on his nemesis and he didn’t die. And there’s like 3 more of them. Plus they can summon zombies AND ghosts AND corpse steal AND  mind control. Srly.” So for the first time in the series he is completely out muscled, out brained, and out magiced (is that even a word? Well it should be). I felt Dresden was so cornered I was getting sympathy claustrophobic until he agreed to let Lasciel help him, which is when things really change.

Speaking of change, apparently Marcone changed future history by saving Dresden’s life, as according to Guard Dresden was supposed to die by the ghoul in that back alley (which would have made for an anti-climatic climax to the series(1)) however now this makes for some interesting implications in the future. As in, will Marcone have to pay a price for altering someone/something’s “grand plan” and almost more importantly regardless of why Marcone says he saved Dresden and subsequently changed the future, a question is raised: why does Marcone keep saving Dresden’s life so regularly? Is it because he senses Dresden is a man who is running out of not completely evil options and will eventually view working for Marcone as the “least of his evil but necessary options” which would benefit Marcone greatly? Or is it because Marcone has someone in his network who is invested in keeping Dresden alive and by proxy Marcone is keeping Dresden alive, again to protect his (Marcone’s own interests)? Or does Marcone have another secret that wasn’t revealed to either us, the reader, or Dresden via the soul gaze? Or, speaking of soul gazes, did Marcone see something in Dresden when they soul gazed that fundamentally changed him/confirmed something he suspected about Dresden (since we have never seen the soul gaze from the perspective of someone looking in on Dresden but from the reactions throughout the series it’s something pretty goddamn profound).  As you can tell, the Marcone Mystery is really wearing at the back of my mind throughout this series.

At this point in the series Dresden has begun a noticeable descent into darkness: he has voluntarily used hellfire more than a couple of times, has accepted a decent amount of help from Lasciel, and has not only memorized The Word (a tome of dark, mostly necromantic, magic), used necromancy (even though it wasn’t on a human and therefore

the-bird-is-the-word

This is some deep shit.

wasn’t a violation of The Seven Laws of Magic and maybe the most notable/significant is Dresden’s promise to Mavera of the Black Court who incited this whole search for “The Word” that if she EVER threatens him or one of his friends again, he will not stop in the face of anything to become an Evil Overlord Demi-god and his first victim will be Mavera. This to me shows a crack in his morale armour making a specific exception to break everything he believes in to exact justice on an evil creature.

Speaking of dark magic, Cassius uses (or should I say wasted) his death curse on Dresden saying “Die alone”. However as Dresden’s father tells him in a dream, if i recall right, what we all kind of know after a certain point in life: we all die alone. Just like being born, or even life from your own perspective honestly, is a journey you have to walk in some sense alone.  Friends, lovers, family aside, we all have to live in our own personal cage alone the entire time. Sometimes we have company but they’re always intrinsically separated from us in our personal journey as we are them by the same bars that bind all of us individually. In that ironically sad way, we are all united in the fact that we face both life and death alone. So as pessimistically as it sounds, I am viewing it as an optimist that Cassius wasted his death curse on Dresden by “cursing” him with the infallible fact that the fact is: we all die alone and therefore Cassius changed nothing.    

Moving on to a brighter subject, the nature of white and black magic, is thrown in to an interesting new light when Kumori (Cowl’s, one of the Necromancers, apprentice) tries to justify Necromancy with her personal “perversion” of the black art using it to bring one of Marcone’s people who was at the brink of or beyond death back to life allowing him a “second chance”.  I don’t know if Dresden is convinced but I feel like his fundamental ideas about Necromancy has been challenged similarly as when he learned that his mentor and sort-of father figure, Ebenezar McCoy, holds the office of “Black Staff” for the White Council (ie he is the go to guy to “pervert” the use of white magic to kill people for the White Council, or maybe he uses Black Magic to kill, at this point in the series (I’ve read through “Proven Guilty” book 8 and some future books) we don’t know how he kills as the “Black Staff”. All we know is that it makes Kincaid so mad that he has an almost show-down duel with him on sight.

Whilst on the subject of Kincaid, holy shit: I mean the groundwork for it is laid (pun not intended) for Kincaid and Karen, in Blood Rites to hook up however it still surprised the hell out of me.  Mostly because when Dresden has used The Sight on Karen and Kincaid, he always sees Karen as an avenging angel figure and then at the end of Blood Rites he sees Kincaid as a 20 foot (6.098 meteres) fucking demon.  Talk about a match made…somewhere other than heaven. However maybe Karen is getting dark enough to be attracted to someone that dark, because if I remember correctly the first time we see Dresden use The Sight on Karen (by accident) she was a blazingly white and clean avenging angel but as the series progresses and he sees Karen again with The Sight, multiple times, he sees her as progressively more blood stained and worn by the horrors she’s seen and had to commit (because of Dresden).  This even more makes me wonder not only “What do other wizards see when they use The Sight on Dresden but what does everyone see that’s so profound when Dresden Soul Gazes them? Wheels within wheels…

The rest of my thoughts are kind of miscellaneous:

-I have to say I am really disappointed that Shiela turned out to be Lasciel in disguise. I’ve been rooting for Harry’s…Hairy…

bad joke

-Pro-foreshadowing: When Dresden is being attacked by the former Denarian Cassius “Snake boy” attacks Dresden and Dresden thinks “Gee right now would be a great time for a knight of the cross to show up and save the day” and then A WILD BUTTERS APPEARS! Which, since I’ve read Skin Game, I know Butters will become the next wielder of Fidelacchius or the Sword of Faith.  I heard in an interview that Butcher was planning, originally, to kill the poor little bastard in Ghost Story.

wild butters

Speaking of Butters, The Zombie T-Rex was made possible BECAUSE of his polka suit and because of Butter’s and his polka suit the “Best Dresden Contraption Award” goes to: Blood Rites and Dinosaur Sue (the Zombie T-Rex).

I really liked the Erl King and how he respects Dresden as a “fellow predator/hunter” and invites Dresden to join The Wild Hunt and I really like how Dresden turned him down creating, inadvertently, another figure who wants to kill Dresden but is so much of a background character that I can see us, the collective reader, forgetting about the Erl King until he pops up again.  

Conclusion

In conclusion Dead Beat was one hell of a fucking ride.  It was like a good punk rock show: hard hitting, fast as fucking hell, and deeply satisfying that you got out the other side (mostly) unharmed(2).  I had trouble understanding how Butcher was going to top himself after such a fucking amazing book but he pays the bill with Proven Guilty with a less “overly epic” novel but a book that my boyfriend described as a “more intimate book”.  

Stay tuned for next week when I cover the heartfelt, intimate, and at times troubling (not in quality but in the way Butcher makes you feel for the characters) eighth book of the Dresden Files: Proven Guilty or as I refer to it as “How Dresden overcomes temptation and gains an apprentice”

-fin

Footnotes:

  1. It would be annoying to see the series, with so much potential, end here with such banality. Maybe if it was me, sure a ghoul throwing a shuriken into my leg would end my story given my bitch status but this is mother FUCKING Harry Dresden.  Don’t try to a fly a pair of Hoover flags (“‘Hoover flag’ was an empty pocket turned inside out” source: Hooverville wiki) and try to sell me an early death for Dresden. He clearly has way more entertaining strife to come.
  2. For the record, I am frequently spinning one or many NOFX cds when I’m writing these/writing in general. If you haven’t listened to them yet, I’d recommend either their their concept album “The Decline” or the politically hard hitting and hilarious “The War on Errorism” 

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (Flash Impressions)

Happy Saturday!

Fool_Moon

Summary

I’m going to do my best Alex Jones impersonation and start with an apology: “I’m sorry 

alex jones 2

Surprisingly relevant Alex Jones meme.

but if I’ve been sucking Jim Butcher’s dick for the last several weeks then this is the point where I have to pull out and spit a bit.  I started this flash impressions series with Grave Peril because I have access to the audio-books of all the series sans book one and two which I have visual versions. At the time of beginning this series, I was listening to Grave Peril whilst reading Fool Moon and had already read Storm Front (of which I may or may not cover, I haven’t decided yet).  I thought I was going to finish Fool Moon soon after Grave Peril. But I didn’t. Then I finished Summer Knight and thought I was gonna be done with Fool Moon soon. But I didn’t. The pattern repeats until I have literally read 5 books in the time it took me to finish Fool Moon. I’m a slow reader but that wasn’t the issue here.

 

I know everyone I’ve talked to says that the first two books in the series are “meh” which is so well established that Jim Butcher himself has an introduction on the audio-book version of Grave Peril acknowledging his awareness that the series didn’t “really pick up speed” until [Grave Peril].”  Since I started the series so late (my first book was Skin Game and I detail the rest of my non-chronological experience in my post about Grave Peril, I had a lot of trouble understanding this wild concept that there were “meh” Dresden Files books, but in the face of the truth I was forced to believe.

I haven’t been looking forward to this one, folks but in the name of [at least semi-] completionism this one is necessary but more importantly I think it’s necessary for the sake of understanding: what changed from Grave Peril on that was so different in original books?

A Story: Why is Kim Delaney looking for information on a set of 3 magical circles?

B Story: Who’s going around killing people during the Full Moon?

C Story: What does Marcone have to do with everything?

Thoughts

(***spoilers ahead, duh***)

So my primary thought about this book is the strength of the “A, B, C story” format that I’ve noticed that Butcher uses.  The trend I’m noticing is that the A Story is usually a continuation of a story line from a previous book which links this book to the rest of the series and the B and C stories are intimately linked and lay the groundwork for future books’ A Stories.  I realise that Fool Moon was Butcher’s second book, like ever, and as a fellow writer I’m aware of how rough things can be in the beginning however I felt the strength of the A Story could have been maintained if he kept Kim Delaney as Dresden’s apprentice until maybe Death Masks so we’re able to develop a real relationship with them as a partnership. My thought was that Butcher could have her killed by Nicodemus or one of the Denarians whilst running a lead behind Dresden’s back in a way to try and be helpful, that way we can really pull out Dresden’s senses of loss.  Book 3 he loses his girlfriend Susan, Book 4 he loses his long-lost-thought-dead first love Elaine, then by the time we get to book 5 Dresden is pretty heart broken and has grown a sort of affection towards his apprentice through sheer bonding (and maybe she always had a crush on him or something) so when we lose her to the Denarians not only does it cement in our mind that Dresden has to be emotionally fucking broken but now Harry has a FIERY HOT HATE for the Denarians which would raise the stakes with everything that eventually happens with Dresden and his accidental relationship with Lasciel.  This would also help reinforce Harry’s reluctance to take Molly under as an apprentice AND reinforce his extreme reluctance to take her as a lover (despite his other reasons being that he knew her since she was a child and that she’s his best friend’s daughter AND Charity would probably murder Dresden). However such is the nature of the printed word: it usually could have been done better but it lives as is. As for stories B and C, they stand up well enough. They play the roles they normally do in the other books and that is apart of the formula that works so well in the Dresden Files books.

The rest of my thoughts on the book are kinda miscellaneous:  

-Detective Rudolph flips a bitch after this book which is okay in that it felt necessary since Dresden doesn’t have an antagonist on the police force after he and Karen kiss and make up. however his staunch non-belief in the supernatural isn’t explored up to the point in the series I’m at (currently reading Proven Guilty) which is odd because he was literally at ground zero when the loup-garou Harry MacFinn is LITERALLY tearing through brick walls and eating a lead breakfast.

I understand it could be a case of extreme denial via trauma of something he doesn’t understand and from necessity (it’s mentioned many times that if you’re at all involved with the police force and you start spouting off things about mystical beings or magic that you’re going to do time in the mental ward for “psychological evaluation” to see if you’re still “mentally fit” for the job) however they don’t say that either. I guess it’s just up to us to make those assumptions, eh?

-Harry is just so damn whiny about the physical abuse he takes in this book.  I’m not saying I’m some super-soldier-glutton-for-punishment-juggernaut or something because I’m not(1), but seriously there were entire fucking paragraphs where Harry is going on and on and on about how he is hurt, tired, and is losing the will to continue fighting much less living and it came to such a whining pitch fever by the final battle that I was literally struggling to push through the final climactic battle of the book.  Harry does this through the series but mercifully he gets much tougher and only mentions it at times when it raises the tensions and sparingly at that.

-The scene with Harry consulting the demon chaunzaggorogth is…strange at best.  I’m not really sure how I felt about a demon “putting on an act” for the laughs, then practically pulling out a pair of reading glasses and sitting down cross legged to get down to business now that he’s filled his “sufficient struggle quota”, then getting genuinely mad when Dresden sends him back? It all was a bit bipolar/humanizing for a demon-consultant compared to the other demons he’s dealt with who are usually more consistent in either being smooth until provoked or generally creepy in their cool anger.  

-Where did the FBI agents get their belts? For real. Dresden goes on about how only a very powerful wizard could have made these but that’s never explored in the rest of the book nor at any point in the series up to the point I’m at (currently reading “Proven Guilty” book 8(2)) are were-wolves of any flavour presented as antagonists.  In fact the only were-wolves we see in the Dresden universe are Billy and The Alphas who by the end of this book become Dresden’s allies.

Conclusion

“First is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the treasure chest” is only 33% accurate in this first trilogy of the Dresden Files series.  I remember liking Storm Front okay which is a vastly superior (comparative) superlative to Fool Moon. That being said, I now know why the first two books of the series are so far disregarded to nearly be completely discounted as cannon however Fool Moon has served as an excellent comparative learning tool in my journey to experience this entire series and pick it apart for it’s literary quality.  

Anyway stay tuned for next week when I cover a much better book (possibly the best yet) “Dead Beat” because you haven’t experienced zombies until Butcher has done them up. I mean fucking Zombie T-Rex…awesome!

Footnotes:

  1. Honestly, I’m a bit of a bitch. I couldn’t handle getting my junk waxed without crying out in blood curdling pain generally reserved for people who are actually experiencing torture like bamboo shoots being tucked under one’s fingernails.
  2. ***UPDATE*** Okay now that I’m further in the series, they have mentioned once about “Where did those FBI Agents get them belts?” however as of Ghost Story book 13, not counting but I have read the first anthology “Side Jobs”, they still haven’t gotten back to that particular story thread, I recognise it’s not technically a plot hole since it is acknowledged but not addressed plus loose ends become a more regular move later on in the series as a way, I’m guessing, to build up to the “bigger bad” of the series, however I am keeping track Butcher

Flash Impressions: Death Masks (book 5 of the Dresden Files)

Happy Saturday!

death mask cover

Summary

It’s impressive how Butcher seems to create an increasingly big story whilst maintaining a very episodic format which is making these summary sections equally increasingly intimidating however here’s the simplest version:

A Story: The war with the Red Court vampires continues

B Story: Dresden is hired by a vatican priest to find the death shroud of jesus (meme of jesus face on toast “It’s kinda like this but not edible.”)
C Story: Murphy consults Dresden about a man who died from all the diseases. At the same time.

Thoughts

(***spoilers ahead, duh***)

So this entire time I’ve been using my go to reference site, wikipedia, whilst completely ignoring the fandom site Dresden Files Wikia.

dresden wikidresden wikia

The plot on wikia is much more comprehensive, good for me since I have short memory, and the “new plot points” feature is really brilliant for keeping track of important events and when they happened.   

This might be me not being as observant from the beginning however it seems like Butcher is getting really pro at pacing by using the A, B, C story formats and introducing each story line in as many chapters.  However I can’t decide whether having the A story run parallel but relatively separate to the intertwined B and C stories is a strength or not but it does work to make the story feel so much bigger whilst at the same time helping keep the episodic storytelling format.(1)

We finally meet the other two knights of the cross, I believe it is mentioned before this book that there is a knight for each nail from the cross (2 for the hands + 1 for the feet = 3 holy swords) which makes for an interesting piece of lore building and by the end sets up the possibility for Butters to become the next knight (as per skin game).  I personally think that Sonya’s sword, Esperacchius or the sword of hope,(2) and back story of being an atheist and former Denarian (a possessor of one of the 30 silver coins, each represents a fallen angel en service to Nicodemus)(3) may prove an interesting potential parallel for Dresden, now that by then of the book he posses one of the coins and is taking a noticeable darker turn in his character (it’s light in this book but I will point out the more details in later books where it has become so stark that it’s striking).

Speaking of parallels, there has been some interesting parallels drawn between Dresden and Marcone from the beginning.  Part of me sees them as balance characters in the way Batman and The Joker are, as in even the “good one” is still a vigilante psychopath enacting justice at his personal discretion with little-to-no oversight(4), where they

batman joker

I think I’m still somewhere in between Puberty and Adulthood.

contrast each other in their methods however hold the same core values. Batman and The Joker: One bad day can change everything for a person; Dresden and Marcone: Do no harm to children. However part of me sees the seeds of darkness growing in Dresden and as the series progresses there are an increasing number of times where Dresden saves Marcone and vice versa or (my personal favourite) Dresden and Marcone work together against a big bad because it suits both of their interests (even if their interests are not mutually shared) which both happens at the climax of this book leading to my favourite Dresden/Marcone scene (roughly paraphrased):

“Michael attacks Nicodemus. Dresden to Marcone: So what’s the plan? Wait for Michael to distract Nicodemus and shoot Nicodemus in the back? Marcone to Dresden: Yup.”

Whilst I’m on the subject of Marcone, it is interesting to FINALLY see why he was after the Death Mask (he lays it on a young child in a hospital across town whom we later learn was a kid caught in the crossfire of him and a rival gang leading to his “no children” policy) which begins to humanise Marcone.  I personally really like Marcone and want to see more of his character in the series because I believe there’s so much more to his character that’s still a mystery.

The rest of my thoughts are kinda miscellaneous:

-we first meet Nicodemus and he will appear every fifth book (apparently)

-I guess Susan is knocked up during the rather erotic bondage-ish scene in Dresden’s apartment after the brush with the Denarians at the Art Show because by Changes we learn that Dresden has a daughter with Susan.

-the battle at Wriggly field was confusing because I thought Ortega pulled his gun first and that Kincaid saw that he was cheating and shot him but it was actually Martin which may be a homage to the whole “Did Hon Solo shoot first?” debate seeing how often Dresden references Star Wars or it could be because I’m listening to them as audiobooks and mostly listening to them at work and misinterpreted the entire thing. Either way it was a really cool fucking scene.

-Dresden has a denarian coin buried under the concrete of his sub-basement which I thought was going to play a much more minor part in the story however in the future books Butcher has made it clear that that isn’t a “remember this for later” detail but plays a regular and active role in the next few books(5)

Conclusion

This series keeps getting better.  It’s kind of weird. I keep expecting Butcher to “cap out” at some point but every time I finish a book I’m like “fuck that was great, how does it get better?” and then it does.  I’m trying to wrap my brain around it without building up unrealistic expectations (I mean I really had serious concerns about this after the events of the next book: Blood Rites).  

That being said: tune in for my flash impression of Blood Rites or my alternative title: “Puppies, Porn Stars, and Vampires”

-fin

Footnotes:

  1. This is in contrast to many of the fantasy series I’ve read, which I make no claims to be an extremely well read fantasy lit fan (Sword of Truth, Wheel of Time, The Engineer’s Trilogy, is all I can name off the top of my head), where each book feels less like an episode in the series and more a direct continuation of the story as if the entire series could be a single book if that was a publishing possibility.  
  2. Michael wields Amoracchius or the sword of love and Shiro wields Fidelacchius or the sword of faith.  
  3. There are 30 coins to represent the 30 pieces of silver Judas was paid to betray Jesus which at the time was about 5 weeks worth of pay or adjusted for inflation about 30-cent-judas-sells4200 USD. (source: Mark Harrison, IT Consultant, once and future CTO answering, “How much were the 30 pieces of silver Judas received to betray Jesus worth in today’s money?” at www.quora.com) Like seriously, I’m not a Christian but Judas is a dumb bastard because he could have asked for way more fucking money.  It was like he accepted a particularly small sum just to be a jackass.  However I guess if there were like 1200 Denarian coins, that would put Dresden in a really hot spot. 
  4. I guess the Police or the Justice League are that universe’s form of “oversight” for Batman and other more questionable DC super heroes however how much power does the Justice League have over Batman when he has a secret dossier on each member which includes a detailed plan on how to kill them and similar problems with the police as in they don’t know his secret identity and even if they did Bruce Wayne is so fucking rich he probably already has a small army of lawyers on retainer to prevent any sort of “police crackdown” on the Batman anyway.  
  5. I’ve been having trouble with laptops lately (I’m on number 5 in 3 weeks), which makes me worry that maybe reading the Dresden Files is aggravating my natural technological Murphian Field (I am not intentionally rough on phones and laptops and computers however they have historically had less than a friendly relationship to me, as in I cannot keep a phone or laptop alive for longer than a year. However phones have been getting better, I recently had a phone for 2 whole years but laptops still tend to crap out on right around month 12-15). You know what they say though, “Fifth is a fucking charm.” Anyway my intention was to write one of these after I finish each book however I’m almost finished with book 8 “Proven Guilty” as of today (8 september 2018).      

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (Flash Impression)

Happy Wednesday!

This is the beginning of this new series I’ve decided to do about the Dresden Files Series.  Normally book reviews are this blog’s bread and butter however whenever I considered doing a review of any of these books I kept thinking it’d end up going something like this:

“This book was fantastic.  Everything about it was fantastic. See this single sentence? FANTASTIC!” It would become book reviews via meme.

 

 

However I’m not particularly interested in sucking Butcher’s dick for the next few months (my jaw would get so tired) since I am reading/listening the Dresden Files binge style until I am done.

You maybe wondering why I’ve got this conviction to binge this book series since that hasn’t been my style since the beginning but I have a history with these books; as in my

skin game

Think Ocean’s 11 but as an urban fantasy novel. And Hades. Like the Greek God of the Underworld, Hades. Awesome.

friend Brad has been reading these books since the beginning and since we met he had tried to get me to read these books.  It wasn’t until Skin Game, book 15, that he convinced me to get started.

 

Normally I’m kind of a sequence freak when it comes to series, as in I have to begin from the beginning and progress in order, no exceptions.  I ended up making an exception for this series and it’s lead me to this point.

I tried to get the first books from him but he didn’t know where he had copies of the first two books so he just lent me the next book that was laying in his car (“Ghost Story” [book 13] maybe?) which was another book somewhere in the middle of the series and it went on like this for another few books until we had a falling out and I had other books to read.

Fast forward several years, a couple of moves, and many books later to now where I share an audible account with my boyfriend who has the entire Dresden Files collection sans the first two books, Storm Front and Fool Moon (of which I have non-audiobook versions).  I read Storm Front a while ago and am currently reading Fool Moon whilst I was listening to Grave Peril which is where I will be beginning this series (Grave Peril, that is). BTW SPOILERS AHEAD.

Grave_Peril

Book 3 of The Dresden Files

In Grave Peril there is an interesting form of clairvoyance experienced by one of Dresden’s clients, Lydia, called Cassandra’s Tears(1) which manifests as visions of the future but not knowledge of what precedes or follows the vision which reminds me of my general experience thus far with the Dresden Files series.  I frequently know events that will happen (such that Harry will eliminate the entire Red Court of Vampires which includes his girlfriend in this book, Susan), relationships between characters that haven’t been (as in Thomas, who makes his premier in this book, being Harry’s half-brother) and characters who are series staples who have yet to appear (such as Maus) but have no idea when they happen or how or why.  Right now in the series I exist in a several timelines: I’m currently experiencing the events of book 2 (Fool Moon), I just finished book 3 (Grave Peril), and I just began book 4 (Summer Knight), and as mentioned I’ve read several books in the “future”.

It’s generally accepted that Grave Peril is the “break out” book of the series, as in this is the book where the series takes the shape and sets the tone that will be maintained for the rest of the series.  As I’ve mentioned before this I read book one am reading book two and I can’t entirely place my finger on what’s exactly different about book 3 but I believe it has to do with relationships. Michael, who plays as one of the many counter-balance characters, isn’t present until Grave Peril; Murphy is skeptical but generally supportive, where as in Fool Moon she’s out right hostile towards Harry because she believes he’s a murder; and until the introduction of The Red Court of Vampires in Grave Peril, the first two books feel like they’re lacking a sense of a overarching continuing struggle and are the most “stand alone” feeling books in the series.

Speaking of Cassandra’s Tears and relationships, I think I’m having a unique experience following Harry’s love life with Susan.  For example, I knew going into Grave Peril that Susan becomes a half vampire of The Red Court and that Harry will eventually eliminate the entire Red Court which colours the scene early in the book where Harry tells Susan “I love you” for the first time with a shade of tragedy where as if I was reading the series for the first time in order it’d be a touching scene.  Then later at the end of the book when Harry finds Susan and proposes to her, knowing that she’s going to spend the next several books in Central America, it’s more of a horrorific scene as in “NOO DAMNIT HARRY DON’T DO IT! THIS ISN’T GOING TO END WELL!” and conversely from Susan’s point of view, she must know that she’s pregnant with Harry’s child when she leaves him for Central America due to the age of their child (who becomes a plot point in Changes (book 12) which I know but Harry nor the sequential reader knows.

I am aware of the concept of Harry and company “leveling up” as the series progresses which I believe happens for the first time in this book (I don’t remember Harry experiencing/acquiring anything that enables him to “level up”, but I could be wrong so feel free to correct me in the comments) when he absorbs the powers of the Nightmare which enables Dresden to enact one of the most fuckinsg badass climaxes of the series to memory, disturbing generations of vampire victims rising against in a fury of rage and sound and spirit to reap vengeance on the present members of the Red Court.

That’s all for my flash impression of Grave Peril.  Future flash impressions on the remaining Dresden Files books will be shorter because I won’t be explaining how I got to this point and why I’m doing this.

Tune in next week for my flash impression of Summer Knight.

-fin

Footnotes:

  1. “Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy, but was also cursed by the god Apollo so that her accurate prophecies would not be believed.” (source: wiki Cassandra – Gift of Prophecy)

 

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher (book review)

Happy Tuesday!

Okay guys, I admit that things got a bit weird last week with my Valentine’s Day post (The Golden Ass: A Valentine’s with Something for Everyone) but to your, very likely, welcoming this week I don’t have anything nearly as topical nor as weird (but if you like weird, trust me there is plenty of weird left in the tank).  No this week I have something fairly pedestrian in comparison to last week’s book, something more fantastical but in the traditional way.

This book, Furies of Calderon(1), is another series from the wonderful and imaginative Jim Butcher (best known for The Dresden Files books, I wrote a review of the first book in the series and can be seen here: Storm Front by Jim Butcher and my friend wrote a review on the comic omnibus which covers the events of the first three books here: Spoiler Free Book Review Dresden Files Graphic Novel Omnibus One).  I got this book as a xmas present from my best friend Evan and was extremely excited when my other reader friend Marc told me the backstory to the conception of this series:

How did you come up with the original idea for CODEX ALERA? We’ve heard rumours that it involved a bet on whether you could combine the Roman empire and Pokémon… is that true?

The bet was actually centered around writing craft discussions being held on the then-new Del Rey Online Writers’ Workshop, I believe. The issue at hand was central story concepts. One side of the argument claimed that a good enough central premise would make a great book, even if you were a lousy writer. The other side contended that the central concept was far less important than the execution of the story, and that the most overused central concept in the world could have life breathed into by a skilled writer.

It raged back and forth in an ALL CAPITAL LETTERS FLAMEWAR between a bunch of unpublished writers, and finally some guy dared me to put my money where my mouth was, by letting him give me a cheesy central story concept, which I would then use in an original novel.

Me being an arrogant kid, I wrote him back saying, “Why don’t you give me TWO terrible ideas for a story, and I’ll use them BOTH.”

The core ideas he gave me were Lost Roman Legion and Pokémon… Thus was Alera formed.”

(Source: “Jim Butcher chats about Pokemon, responsibility, and Changes” by Beth Johnson, guest reviewer for fantasyliterature.com)

See this series hit a golden triad of nerd-topia for me: Jim Butcher style fantasy, anime, and action/adventure.  Plus after being recommended by two different reader friends who’s tastes I trust to be closely calibrated to mine (but both of their tastes are heavier on the fantasy side, I’m more of a realism/so-fucking-weird-it-leaves-you-wondering-what-you’re-doing-with-your-life kinda freak(2)), I knew I was in for a treat.

Furies of Calderon is an early Jim Butcher work, or at least it feels like it.  Being published in 2004 he had a few Dresden Files under his belt and his experience shows in this book however that’s not to say there are no flaws with the inaugural piece in his 6 book series(3).  This book has some imperfections which doesn’t hold it back from being an excellent fantasy adventure by it self but does keep me from being driven towards the 2640 page commitment that entails the rest of the series.

So O.K. Corral style here is my thoughts on the book: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly style.

The Good:

Even this early in Butcher’s career he’s really good at misdirection or leading this reader to think that things are more grim than they are but still leaving clues to the observant to keep it fair. Let’s take an example from the second chapter after Alera and her mentor Fidelius are captured by the enemy and in a compromising position:

Aldrick drew his sword and said, “The old man [Fidelius] isn’t necessary.” He went outside the tent.

A moment later, there was a sound not unlike a knife sinking into a melon.”

(Furies of Calderon, 24)

At this point we as the readers have developed a 1.5 chapter (24 pages) bond with Almara and Fidelius and then we are lead to believe he was executed stage left however we later discover that he was faking his death and there was a literal melon being stabbed to simulate the sound of a man being cut through the gut.  It’s small details like this that make me appreciate an author more because they’re thinking about the reader’s experience reading the book a second time.

Butcher also does a good job at inciting curiosity such as only partly explaining how the “Fury magic system” works, who some characters are like (Fade? Aldrick? The fucking furies mapentire Marat “species”[are they even human?!]) and locations like most of the map beyond “Vallis Calderon” specifically what lies beyond “The Shield Wall” (okay, I admit to being a “Game of Thrones” fan(4) and I guess I’m conditioned to have curiosities about a mysterious northerly wall).

The Bad:

Okay so Jim is capable of bad writing, as I learned from this 650+ page novel.  Thankfully the bad isn’t concentrated in parts like books I could mention(5) however the mercy is spread among hundreds of too many pages in a couple of paragraphs segments:

[Pirellus] was lean with hard, fat muscle, and bore a slender, curved sword of metal blacker than mourning velvet in his hand.”

(Furies, 477)

Goddamn that’s a deadly sexy description of a serious swordsman.  This is our introduction to one of the most deadly swordsman in the cannon (as far as we know) and he was challenged by one of our main characters, Almara (as we have met from chapter one) however Butcher kind of ruins the sexy tight writing he showed us with spoon-feeding the reader exactly how deadly this Pirellus is

Pirellus was a master metalcrafter, one of the finest swordsmen alive. If he chose to engage in the duel, he could kill [Almara], and there would be little she could do to stop him. And yet it was necessary. Necessary to convince him of her sincerity, necessary for  him to know that she was willing to die to get him to act, that she would sooner die than fail in her duty to Alera, to Gaius. She stared at his eyse and focused on the task before her and refused to give in to her fear or to let it make the sword tremble at all.

(Furies, 480)

Notice this isn’t the beginning of a paragraph nor even close to the last page where we got a very distinct description of the swordsman and his prowess. It’s three pages later of sword-waving (in the metaphorical sense, Amara is a biological woman after all) and a very long paragraph of describing how deadly this Pirellus is, we are FINALLY granted some action (a page later mind) and that’s not even between her and her perceived adversary.

This nicely segues into my final and main complaint about the book which is a general complaint across most of the book but becomes most evident after page 490: the book is too long and accomplishes too little.  I’m inclined to believe Butcher was paid by the page/word for this novel because the “climax” of the book was about 150 pages and the falling action was around 20 pages). In almost 700 pages, Butcher accomplished what could have been finished (with some tight editing) in around 400 pages (give or take, I didn’t count strictly but even given space for world building, there’s still a significant amount of purple text even for a fantasy novel(6)).

The Ugly:

Thankfully there’s not much of this here.  Butcher does make some minor mistakes that did bother me (such as using too many similar names in the same story arc IE Aldrick grrm diesand Asturak, having some flat characters on both the “good” and “bad” side such as Bernard and Kord respectively, having places mentioned by name in the narrative but not appear on the map, etc) however the worst of the lot was at the end of the 150 page climax Butcher pulls a a GRRM and kills just about every character we’ve been following in this  book including my personal favourie, Fade (for the mystery mostly but also he has the best name in this  book) which is a pretty bold move.  Except that it wasn’t.  As the magic system works in this series there are healers who are capable of reviving people from the dead but it’s only available to extremely strong and experienced healers which even then it’s risky to both the healer and the patient.  So after this  long drawn out battle which has left everyone injured, dead, or otherwise indisposed, somehow there’s a healer available who can revive like 6 people (I don’t have the book in front of me but I can think of at least 3 people who are “killed”) which effectively tells me as a reader: THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES! DON’T WORRY NO ONE REALLY DIES!

Final Verdict:

This is a solid, if long, fantasy book.  I have read much worse and I have read much better.  The problem I have is that, like a blog post series, the interest nose-dives after the first installment and I won’t say I fully understand the loss of interest in every case but I can say I understand my personal loss of interest in this series beyond the beginning and that’s largely to do with the pacing of the novel and the ability for watercrafters (the healers of this magic system) to be able to reverse the condition of death even with seemingly-dire-canonical-implied-risks which ends up in being a Chekhov’s Gun full of blanks.  It’s almost like a GRRM book except remove the lasting implications of tragedy.

Overall:

I in no way regret reading this novel regardless of my apathy to continue with the series in general.  If you like high fantasy and like Jim Butcher’s works you’ll very likely like this book however if you’re like me and kinda borderline on fantasy or generally a slow reader (my main reason for not reading more fantasy novels) you might be best off renting it from the library or generally passing on this novel.  It’s an interesting world with some interesting characters but Butcher wasn’t able to cut enough fat for me to remain interested for the remainder of this series.
-fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. I keep mis-reading/mis-typing this title as “Furries of Calderon” which has an entirely different connotation. furry test
  2. A good example of the realism I like is the “dirty realism” of Bukowski (see my reveiws of Bukowski’s “Post Office” and “Notes of a Dirty Old Man”) and a good example of “o-fucking-weird-it-leaves-you-wondering-what-you’re-doing-with-your-life” is Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace).
  3. I am sorry to disappoint however I will not be reviewing all 6 books in this series, which is to assume I will finish all six books.  I very likely will not for reasons that will be outlined.
  4. I specify “Game of Thrones”(GoT) versus “A Song of Ice and Fire”(ASoI&F) because as I’ve read and deeply enjoyed the first two ASoI&F books, I was warned of way way too much purple text (filler content) come book 4 and 5 whilst when I just finished ASoI&F book 2 was when GoT season 2 was ending and it seemed like a good point to segue between the book series and the HBO series.
  5. See The Pesthouse by Jim Crace book review
  6. I appreciate that due to the nature of the fantasy genre, more time and text needs to be invested in developing the world however that does not give license for the author to be redundant in descriptions nor to drop 200+ word interior monologue thought processes of the characters we are following. Let there be some blanks that my imagination can fill, please.

The Golden Ass: A Valentine’s Day Novel with Something for Everyone

Happy Tuesday!

Okay so Valentines day is tomorrow.  I have expressed how seriously I take this “holiday”(1) in the past.

However as a shameless self-promoter and a young writer/artist desperate for ever more attention as a form of validation (for a struggling artist, everyday is like being single and drunk on Valentine’s day: an emotional fucking roller coaster), I always try to jump on whatever will grab me more traffic without completely whoring out my “talents”.  Which this time of year means writing something about Valentine’s day.

This post started out as a simple etymological exploration of the English word “love”(2) and myth of Eros and Psyche, particularly inspired from the brilliant video from Overly Sarcastic Productions: Miscellaneous Myths: Eros and Psyche.

Then I remembered: this is OBOP what’s so offbeat about writing about “love” during valentines week? It’s onpoint but not offbeat.  So I. Dug. DEEPER. And what I found was…really interesting.

the golden ass

The book in question this week is one that, like the word “love”, has a few different faces and lacks the simplicity that a four letter word seems to promise.

NOTE: I haven’t read this book in it’s entirety yet.  I’m working on it but I couldn’t finish it in time however I promise this will not be the last time I visit t his unique piece of literature.  I have big plans for this rare volume.

There are more than a few interesting(3) things about this novel other than it’s rather lewd title.  The first being is that the original title was “Metamorphosis”, which as far as I can tell has very little to do with the Kafka novel of the same name, but then was renamed by St Augustine of Hippo to the more appropriate “The Golden Ass”(4) and the second is that this is the only novel from the Grecco-Roman to survive in it’s entirety.  Some one cared to make sure that this piece of literature survived the fall of the Roman empire.

As promised, The Golden Ass is about an Ass or more specifically about a man who is driven by curiosity and the desire to learn about magic and accidentally turns himself into a donkey and then goes on adventures.  These adventures include adultery, witches rasing a familyreplacing a man’s heart with a sponge, golden showers, murder, necromancy, , thievery, kidnapping, anonymous sex with an invisible being, animal cruelty, catamite priests, cuckolding, incest, and bestiality.  These are just the highlights, folks.  Truly something for everyone.

Now if you’re still with me, you might be wondering “Fin: what does this lewd and strangely appropriately titled piece of ancient literature have to do with Eros and Psyche?”

One of the inset stories in The Golden Ass is Eros and Psyche. I feel like the entirety of The Golden Ass, rather than one hand-picked and relatively tame piece, does a better job of reflecting the complexity, beauty, and occasionally taboo aspects of love.  Love, for me, in every capacity from romantic to platonic has many different forms and facets.  Sometimes love is beautiful, other times it’s gross, but most often love much more complex than just a couple of star-crossed lovers who get a lovely ending or the loyalty between individuals who have grown together and die together.

Happy Valentine’s day.

-fin

STAY TUNED: The next comic in The Adventures of Fin and Louie is coming soon (probably this week), it’ll be the second to last comic before the end of the “Looking for a Friend/Count Rubber’s Keep” story arc.

Footnotes:

  1. Valentine’s day started out as a guilt trip from a Saint named Valentinus (there are two, no one knows who it was about originally) who, according to legend, was marrying Roman soldiers illegally, they took vows not to be married, and then healed the judges blind daughter.  The judge ruled to against the Saint and the Saint wrote a farewell note reading “Farewell, your Valentine”.  At best, being someone’s “Valentine” is like a passive aggressive death curse or something.

2. Which does have an interesting and complicated history which reflects it’s relatively sloppy application because of how ambiguously it can be used from sports (Tennis) to phrases like “for love or money” roughly meaning “for anything” which it self has revealing implications of motivations.  If you’re interested, read more here: “love” etymology online dictionary

  1. I recognise that one of my weaknesses as a writer is the over-use (I prefer “liberal”) of the word “interesting” however this is one of those posts where “interesting” might be the best word to use liberally to talk about this ancient novel.

  2. I understand that St Augustine of Hippo was not, publicly, a fan of Metamorphosis and likely nicknamed the book a less polite title as a way to smear the reputation of the book.  I think the title is an improvement because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have looked into this book in the first place.

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson (Book Rev)

Happy Monday!

If you’re reading this that means I am still, in fact, alive.  I haven’t posted much in the last month because November(1) but I have been reading some good stuff or rather more accurately what I’ve read has been about as good as a bag of mix nuts: about half the total are peanuts and the rest are unique and really nice.  If The Bootlegger was a pedestrian peanut (I’ll be fair, it was consistently good but nothing exciting or surprising), The Rum Diary was a strange shaped and richly flavoured Brazil nut.

20171129_093631-1

The Rum Diary is considered Hunter’s “lost novel” but actually it was the second novel he wrote and didn’t publish until later, the first one being Prince Jellyfish which still remains unpublished.

The Rum Diary’s narrative focuses on a young American journalist, Paul Kemp, on assignment in Puerto Rico’s capital city San Juan.  Kemp is worried, or in a martyr type way, romanticizes, about the notion of  being “over the hill” whilst living a wet and transient existence traveling the world over as a “vagrant journalist”.

[Vagrant journalists] were professionally deviant, but they had a few things in common. They depended, mostly from habit, on newspapers and magazines for the bulk of their income; their lives were geared to long chances and sudden movement; and they claimed no allegiance to any flag and valued no currency but luck and good contacts.

The book opens with some background to the narrative, outlining the steady success of an ex-jockey named named Al who opened a bar out of his backyard called (wait for it…) “Al’s Backyard”.

“At first he served nothing but beer, at twenty cents a bottle, and rum, at a dime a shot or fifteen cents with ice.  After several months he began serving hamburgers, which he made himself.

Al’s backyard will serve as one of the main stages for the drama of the news staff to unfold as it serves as a place for, as it seems, almost exclusively the cast of characters working at the Daily News, the American news paper.  Having the introduction chapter outline the humble history of this establishment, one which was there before the characters and maybe also before the Daily News, helps to establish a couple of themes which become prominent through  the story: the primary theme being one of establishing the sense that despite the characters feelings, they and their actions are ultimately insignificant because the world they’re operating in is older and better connected then they are and the more subtle theme that authentic work is much less likely to get you beaten, killed, or become an accessory to murder.

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Relevant example of the US – Puerto Rico Relationship

As I’ve mentioned there are many motifs that could be explored in this novel, one of particular interest to me is the relationship of the dog, the character Moberg, and the Puerto Rican children in the narrative, but what stuck with me was the dynamic between Yeamon, Kemp, and Sala.

All manner of men came to work for the News: everything from wild young Turks who wanted to rip the world in half and star all over again — to tired, beer-bellied old hacks who wanted nothing more than to live our their days in peace before a bunch of lunatics ripped the world in half.

Yeamon is the young Turk whilst Sala is the beer-bellied hack which leaves Kemp in a grey “teetering on  the edge of over the hill”  area thematically and literally, being between the ages of the young Yeamon and the over 40 Sala.

This is an interesting technique of building Kemp’s character by contrasting him with two other characters who represent a possible past and a possible future.  This definition by contrast emphasizes Kemp’s journey of self exploration which gives a cathartic context of absolution to a seemingly unusual scene towards the end of the book depicting Kemp throwing him self into the surf and letting himself be washed ashore.

“The surf was high and I felt a combination of fear and eagerness as I took off my clothes and walked towards it.  In the backlash of a huge wave I plunged in and let it suck me out to sea. Moments later I was hurtling back toward the beach on top of a long white breaker that carried me along like a torpedo. Then it spun me around like a dead fish and slammed me on the sand so hard that my back was raw for days afterwards.” 192-3

The significance of this scene seems to be that Kemp desires to transcend the trappings of an idealized past and seeming inevitability of beer fueled burn out via an impromptu performance of a cleansing ritual traditionally preformed in June called “La Noche de San Juan”

On the island of Puerto Rico, which had been named San Juan Bautista, after the saint, by Christopher Columbus, a night-long celebration, called “La Noche de San Juan” is held. After sunset, people travel to a beach or any accessible body of water (e.g. river, lake or even bathtub) and, at midnight, fall backwards into it three, seven or twelve times. This is done to cleanse the body from bad luck and give good luck for the following year. wiki

There’s so much more to this book that I haven’t time to explore but I implore you to get a copy of The Rum Diary and see what speaks to you.

-fin
AUTHORS NOTE:

Life has been very good but busy for me and I am not sure if I can commit to a regular posting schedule for a while.  I’m in the process of moving and my job in in a transitional period also (both improvements) but because of this, I haven’t had much time left over for non-work/non-home stuff.  The next post will be a comic, maybe the next few honestly.

 

Footnotes:

  1. I don’t know, November is one of my least favourite months and looking back last November was similar in posting schedule, as in almost none, so maybe I’ll just be taking November off each year.  Wouldn’t that be something?

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (book review)

Happy Monday!

As I mentioned last week I have for you today a very spirited book review of The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, another one of those books that “…the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall” however in this context that’s not a particularly good thing and it disappoints me to say that.

The Pesthouse, a post-apocalyptic story set in the United States, opens up with some of the strongest writing in the entire book. Consider the opening paragraph:

“Everybody died at night. Most were sleeping at the time, the lucky ones who were too tired or drunk or deaf or wrapped too tightly in their spreads to hear the hillside, destabilized by the rain, collapse and slip beneath the waters of the lake. So these sleepers (six or seven hundred, at a guess; no one ever came to count or claim the dead) breathed their last in passive company, unwarned and unexpectedly, without any fear. Their final moments, dormant in America.” (1)

However this is from the preface from a character named Nash, who is never revisited and very loosely related to the story in a rather irrelevant way which is a shame as he might have been a more interesting or likable character than the lot Crace has cast for us. Once the narrative proper starts with chapter one page eight, the quality of writing

the pest house

Instead of ‘The Pesthouse’ this book should be renamed ‘The Passivehouse because almost the ENTIRE novel is written in the passive past tense voice.

goes down for me because nearly the rest of the book is written in this slow dead-paced passive voice

“Franklin Lopez had not been sleeping in Ferrytown, though [he had] wanted to. [He had] not been sleeping anywhere, in fact. [Could not] sleep. [He had] weathered such pain the day before that [he had] been forced to consider…” (8) italics for emphasis

Notice in 3.5 sentences Crace uses “had” 5 times (I count conjunctions ie the original quote reads “he’d” and I extrapolated it for emphasis as [he had]) and another passive past tense word “could” once. I’ve had creative writing teachers who would not accept your story if it was written entirely in the passive voice unless it was used for specific reasons (an example that comes to mind is the story format of the frame story where a character, usually a lead is remembering back and telling us [both the reader and the audience in the context of the story] their story complete with

pat rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss can grow a sexy beard

foreshadowing because of hindsight insight, an excellent example of this story structure executed masterfully is The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss and The Pesthouse does not present a reason for this stylistic choice.

Without giving spoilers, I found the story to generally drag on until about the final act when the story converges with a strange religious sect when both the story and writing quality improved enough to help me push through to the rather anticlimactic ending.

Overall I really didn’t like this novel because it felt like a first draft of something that could have been much more interesting rather than a cash grab at the Post-apocalyptic America-land trend(1). If this was Crace’s first novel, I’d be much more lenient because this novel does have potential to be something more interesting however it’s his 10th novel in 20 years and not only but he’s an award winning author and a member of the Royal Society of Literature. I haven’t read Crace’s other novels but if after 20 years this is what he can produce, I am not impressed.

Footnotes:

  1. Whilst in the UK and talking with one of my friends on the subject of post-apocalyptic stories, she pointed out to me a distinct lack of non-american set post-apocalyptic stories particularly none she could think of taking place in the UK [I failed to remember, somehow, that Children of Men takes place in the UK] and whilst on the subject of the post-apocalyptic trend in media I do want to note that I would really like to see more stories set in places that are not america for a change or maybe more interesting types of apocalyptic events like H.P. Lovecraftian monsters enslave the human race or aliens visit the planet, unbenounced to humans, and grant all the octopi super high tech helmets that allow them to build structures and complex tools which leads them to creating an alien atlantis which then leads them to land excursions and demanding rights leading to interspecies civil war (they create helmets for dogs and pickles and things too), or maybe all the water on the planet turns to jell-o (or jelly for my UK readers) and it’s like a science thriller race against time to figure out a way to turn the jell-o into water again or something fucking original (zombies are cool and I will likely never get my proper fill of zombie media but seriously there are other interesting crisis to subject fictional humans to).

SPOILERS BELOW

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