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It's one day and a few hours until the due date for a whole stack of college applications and I'm... stalling. Stalling like a stalling thing. I'm tired of being a responsible adult, so I'm wallowing in fiction. Specifically the latest Dresden Files book, Ghost Story.

Wow. Weird, weird book. I picked it off the shelf at the library, sat down on one of the chairs near the exit for just a little taste of it before I had to leave, and then three hours later I turn a page and find myself staring at the Author's Note going what the hell?

Ghost Story is definitely a setting-up kind of book, where plotlines are laid down and underlined for later exploration but very little is actually solved. Lots of character descriptions, flashbacks (actually my favorite part by a mile), and little asides about what the world at large is like now that Dresden and his stunt at Chichen Itza have thrown it all to hell. I get that it’s necessary we had all this exposition with the six-month timeskip, so the world’s tensions could build up without having to wait around for the good part to show up. Thing is, for a book where Dresden finally repented for being a blow-‘em-up reactionary, there were a lot of boring fight scenes, which read mostly like filler. I skim-read a lot of them without even really noticing.

Part of that was that this book dealt with a lot of ethereal, imaginary stuff, without any solidity beyond what Dresden’s perception shaped of it. I mean, it's to be expected--the main character is a goddamn ghost--but it meant I had a harder time mentally holding onto the more involved portions of the book. If you did one of those infographics of word usage where the more common a word is in a text, the bigger the letters, 'energy' would be like eight feet tall.

But what I liked, I liked. Sir Stuart the doughty spirit was a delight. As was Butters. And Bob, you have no idea how happy I am Bob's being looked after by someone who lets him have fun.* Evil Bob kind of amused me in that his spirit form looked like Nazi Ghost Rider and talked like TV-Bob. I mean, he's a scary, evil fuck and everyone will be much, much safer when he's blasted to smithereens, but I appreciate a good villain.

Molly's mental headquarters as an original flavor Star Trek bridge, complete with cheesy sound effects and the bridge throwing everyone to the side whenever a bad hit comes by, that was delightful. Sanya's accent emerging from Chekov Molly's mouth, the Russian accent she's most familiar with replacing the one in the show, that was excellent writing, gold star. Old Star Trek is often a much smarter show than people give credit; it says something that she’s a secret Trek fan and Dresden goes for, as Uriel states it, the much more black-and-white Star Wars.

Favorite part was easily the flashbacks to Young Harry, who is hilarious and painful and oh-god-honey-no saddening all at once. I hadn’t realized how much time he’d spent between his dad’s death* and Justin's semi-adoption. I'd remembered he'd been orphaned at age six, but he's what, twelve when Justin picked him up? And fairly young, but older than I'd expected, when he first did magic, even if only on accident. (First casualty of Harry Dresden’s magic powers? Himself, crashing across a lot of blacktop. I am completely unsurprised. I can only imagine the epic road rash he must've gotten.)

Also hadn't quite realized that he’d actually attended a normal high school for a long time. I’d known he hadn’t finished high school, but in the past I’d assumed that was because Justin had picked him up at some point and personally tutored Harry and Elaine. In retrospect, school makes more sense. They’re supervised out of the house so Justin can do his wizard villain thing, they’re isolated in a way that leaves them terribly uncurious about the outside world and how many un-mundane things are in it, and they’re bored stiff enough that they’re eager for his tender mercies. Did Molly—clever Molly, who chafed under her parents’ restrictions—did she ever finish high school, or her GED? Did she ever talk to her friends again after the Dresden took her under his wing?

What Harry did to her... fuck, I don't know if I'll ever quite forgive him for that. Molly Carpenter sure has gotten a raw fucking deal. I still think a lot of Molly’s issues would have been headed off at the pass along ago if her family weren’t damn strict and extremely Catholic. What’s it like to be the inadequate eldest daughter of ridiculously saintly parents, who thinks wrong and reacts wrong and doesn’t feel at all cut out for the youth-group-and-softball life of a big religious family that oh, by the way, openly disapproves of magic, premarital sex, immodest attire, and anything particularly ‘different’?

I understand Charity’s position; I’ve seen her brand of unforgiving faith in those who survived a very unstable, dangerous youth only by clawing their way to some system of absolutely rigid rules to live by. I don’t get friendly, forgiving Michael’s never seeing her need for gently guided space, nor do I quite forgive him for failing to give his daughter what she needed when she was still young and raw enough for it to count.

I always wanted to like Molly. Write her as more of a teenager, strip the excessive sexualization of Molly and her author-inflicted crush on Dresden from the text, and I think I’d like her a lot. Does Butcher really think putting a hit out on her teacher wouldn’t have the plausible mind-breaking guilt factor of putting a hit out on her schoolgirl crush? Jesus.

Speaking of schoolgirl crushes: Marcone’s four-story statement of purpose for Chicago’s continued existence on the ashes of Dresden’s apartment building. ('Brighter Future Society'; gosh, Marcone, pick a more supervillainously ridiculous name, why don't you?) I would love to see what his tax returns are going to look like, because I would bet you dollars to doughnuts he's got it listed as a nonprofit and trying to imagine how he'd label 'supplies for Viking warriors taking a vacation from Valhalla' as a tax write-off boggles the mind. If someone tries to pull a Capone on him and bust him for tax evasion... well, that's gonna be a truly singular case of forensic accounting.

Murphy--something about Murphy kinda wigs me out. I've never been real thrilled with how Butcher writes her, however, so perhaps it’s to be expected. He always has her being very hot-and-cold about the weirdest stuff; I can’t quite articulate the exact problem her character has but it’s been gnawing at the editor’s corner of my brain since Storm Front that he needs to fix something about how she operates. Damned if I can nail down what it is. Talk to me when Butcher publishes the last book and maybe I’ll have it nailed down by then.

And after all that... goddammit, Harry goes to all that trouble to kill his own self out of his debt to Mab and it doesn't even fucking work. Molly is going to kill him. Maybe literally. This time through more direct means. And her family who still loves her is going to dig him up and kill him again.

That is, once he's in arm's reach and done being the Winter Knight. Because I have no doubt Harry's going to weasel out of that somehow. Harry is complete shit at having a boss. He is, however, pretty amazing at overthrowing anything resembling a boss. Mab is the Winter Queen who owns Harry's ass, does that mean his Knighthood is tied to the Winter Queen, or just to Mab? If he does her a big enough favor free and clear, not out of duty but just because, will that mean he has room enough to request she cut him loose? I have SO MANY THOUGHTS and I am going to be grinding my teeth waiting for the next book to come out.

In the meantime, I'll settle for speculative hiatus fic, always a good choice. My giant, speculative, bullshit theory for the future? Time travel. Some villain is going to use time travel to jump into the plot of past books in order to make events happen in ways they shouldn't have happened. Someone else is going to follow them back to make sure things happen in the ways they actually happened. My money's on Molly doing this and dying in the process. She's great at veils, she's already broken a whole ton of Laws, it's a classic heroic-redemption way for Butcher to fridge her, and I am very, very curious about what inspired Nick Christian establish his wildly unsuccessful detective agency and name it 'Ragged Angel Investigations'. 

 


*I did make kind of a face at the ‘somewhere Spider-Man is real’ moment, though. Seriously, dude, the fic writers will manage just fine without 'and the Lord spake unto Bob, crossover fanfic encouraged'. Is the Spider-Mobile real? Did the Clone Saga happen? Is the erasing-Peter’s-marriage-to-MJ-plot canon? Actually, that plotline's positively Dresdenian in its self-sacrificing idiocy, it’s pretty likely that it’s true.

**'You favor Malcolm', says Lea, talking about the past and secrets Harry’s going to figure out a few books from now. I am very suspicious. I still hold out for Harry’s father having been someone not-quite-human in ways much, much freakier than anyone has realized--recall Kincaid, and 'as mortal as I am', when it turns out Kincaid's the offspring of a Hellhound. Whatever he turns out to be, it is going to piss me off a lot. I love the idea of Harry’s dad, Malcolm Dresden, the gentle good-hearted stage magician who never forgave himself for leaving his pregnant wife for work and coming back to a motherless newborn son. However, the text is evasive about him the way it was evasive about Elaine. Hence the suspicion. 

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killerkaleidoscope: close-up centered on a violet daisy on diagonally-cracked gray pavement (Default)
Karolina Keene

August 2012

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