The Dresden Files #10: Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Read: 21 December, 2014

The Summer Court is sending Gruffs (remember the billy goats? Yeah, those gruffs) after Harry, the Winter Court is sending Hobs, and Marcone has been kidnapped. All this results in a rather complicated (and dangerous!) affair that reveals a lot more about the Fallen and the Heaven/Hell conflict.

The last couple books seem to have been setting up the character pasts, with little more than vague hints about the overarching plot. Here, the characters are established and we appear to be moving into the big reveal.

I like Sanya quite a bit, and was glad to see him make an appearance. I also liked getting a bit more backstory about him – particularly with regards to being a black man growing up in Russia.

Fidelacchius finally became important again, as Harry tries to find a new owner for it. (SPOILERS: I was concerned that Dresden was going to end up becoming a Knight, in addition to being a Warden and everything else. It would have just been so Mary Sue-ish. I kept hoping that Murphy would take it up instead, and was very glad when she was chosen. I was even more glad when she refused it, and gave a perfectly character-consistent reason. I’m still hoping that she’ll become the new Knight eventually (particularly given how Fidelacchius seems to match Murphy’s style of sword), but I’m glad that she didn’t just take it up right away. That would have been very un-Murphy.)

Overall, a solid addition to the series and I’m looking forward to reading the next!

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The Dresden Files #9: White Night by Jim Butcher

Read: 2 November, 2014

Several women with magical abilities have been committing suicide, but Murphy thinks that all might not be as it seems. When she brings in Harry, it quickly becomes apparent that Thomas has been involved.

This instalment may be the most referential to date. Several characters returned, and many of the plotlines that Harry has been juggling over the past few books finally get resolved (or, at least, seem to).

Over the last few books – certainly since Dresden’s first encounter with Lasciel – things have been getting darker. It’s been clear for a while that, at some point, Dresden was going to have to take a long hard look at what he’s becoming. This is the book where that happens, and I’m glad that Murphy got to be a part of it (she calmly and kindly leads Dresden toward the introspection he’s been avoiding, as a concerned friend).

Molly is an interesting sidekick, though largely untouched. She has a few hijinks moments, learns a few lessons, but largely stays out of the fighting. Which is not a bad thing. I think I might feel quite differently about Dresden if he brought her into things so soon.

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The Hollows #2: The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison

Read: 10 October, 2013

I had a lot of negative things to say about Dead Witch Walking, mostly involving contrived plot hinges and senseless decisions. I had been recommended the series as a friend and wanted to stick it through because of that, but I was unimpressed and waited a long time before I bothered to pick up the next book.

I’m really glad that I took my friend’s advice and kept reading! The second book is a huge improvement. The plot is much tighter, the character motives are clearer, the suspense is more believable… All around, it’s a far better book. It also answers many of the questions from the first that had bugged me, and is much better at asking questions for future instalments (one of the complaints I had about the first book was that there were plot elements that I was confused about and only figured out that I was supposed to be confused by looking them up online – nothing in the text had hinted that the mysteries were still open).

That being said, I did find Morgan’s fixation on Trent rather disquieting. There really wasn’t a reason for her to think he was involved in the murders she was investigating, yet she hounds him down anyway. Then her behaviour in the case was utterly incomprehensible (and her realization of how inappropriate she’d been didn’t seem to explain why she’d ever thought her actions were a good idea in the first place). The lengthy arguments with the F.I.B. officers over her wanting to just accuse and lock up Trent without anything more than her suspicions were tiresome and frustrating.

Even so, I can definitely see the series picking up, and I think I can now consider myself “into it.”

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I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Read: 12 August, 2011

Robert Neville is alone, completely alone in a world overrun by vampires.He is alive, but he can’t figure out why he bothers.

I enjoyed the recent movie with Will Smith – mostly because I read into it far more than any of its creators intended. When I talk about the movie with others, it’s like we saw entirely different movies. Mine was a subtle commentary on racism, or perhaps our relationship with the mentally ill. My movie featured a brilliantly executed unreliable narrator and one of the best ironic endings I’ve ever seen. What other people saw was yet another mindless monster flick.

I Am Legend the novel is everything I saw into the movie, only better.

Neville is a fantastic character. He’s going nuts, making stupid mistakes, and drinking himself silly. But it’s never frustrating, and I never felt that I just wanted him to shut up and get on with things. That’s because Matheson has perfect timing, he never allows Neville to wallow for too long.

The sense of isolation and loneliness is palpable. As I was reading, I could really feel Neville’s despair. This makes the story creepy and even terrifying without ever resorting to monster-in-the-closet gimmicks. Quite the opposite – the vampires’ inability to wake during the day give Neville the advantage. He can scavenge safely during the day and then simply wait out the night in his house-come-fortress. The vampires are never the source of terror, the loneliness is.

This was one of the best, most perfectly executed books that I’ve read in a very long time. I highly recommend it for any fans of science fiction, distopian fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction, and horror fiction.

NOTE: The copy I was reading was a first printing and had a truly creepy portrait of a young Matheson emerging from the shadows on the back. Yikes!

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