wizards

Reading update: book juxtaposition

I am finishing up my review of Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (while eyeing his Two Serpents Rise on my nightstand), but in the meantime, here’s some reading news that is not news about me reading short stories:

wonderbookI’m still making my way through Wonderbook, and I am still mightily impressed. If you are a creative type of any variety, you should get this. It’s incredibly useful if you like to put words down on a page, but if painting or music or some other thing is more your speed, the art itself is worth it just for inspiration. I’ve been writing and drawing again, mostly thanks to Jeff VanderMeer.

I am also re-reading The Drowning Girl: A Memoir by Caitlín R. Kiernan. It’s probably my favorite Kiernan book, but it invariably gives me very strange dreams (stranger than usual), disturbs me, unsettles me, and, going with the theme in the book, haunts me. Also, there is a transgender character. It is amazing, and I am savoring each sentence.

In a rather odd juxtaposition to The Drowning Girl, I am also reading Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett. I have mentioned my conflicted relationship with humorous genre fiction before, and that I only read Pratchett when I really feel like it. Maybe I just needed funny this week to counteract all the shitty things that are happening (see #Ferguson in your latest Twitter feed). There is a delightful Discworld reading chart on io9, and I am sort of using it to re-read or fill my gaps in different story arcs.  I like the witches, but I am pretty sure I have only read Wyrd Sisters and Carpe Jugulum in that storyline.

Perhaps it is also time to do an ‘upcoming releases’ post. We’re heading into a pretty busy fall, and there are some truly cool things about to be released into the reading wilds.

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Re-reading the Dresden Files: Blood Rites

bloodritesMy reread of Blood Rites was somewhat disjointed. I started it on vacation by taking it off my family’s shelves, and then decided not to steal it (still proud of this), so there was a bit of a gap between me reading the first half and the second.

Oh, vampires. I still don’t like you. In a literary sense. You’re just boring, no matter what court you’re in. And while Grave Peril was mostly Red Court with some Black, here it’s mostly White Court with some Black. Presumably, if you want an all-Black Court book, read Dracula.

The overarching theme in Blood Rites is family. And not just the White Court family, although we do get to figure out the Thomas thing and some other stuff. I try to avoid spoilers, you see, though how I can possibly do that throughout the entire re-read is beyond me.

We finally get to meet Murphy’s clan and fill out more of her character sheet. The deeper I get into the Dresden Files, the more I love Murphy. Blood Rites is where we see Murphy outside work and interactions with Harry. She gets an extra layer of complexity as a character. While she is still dedicated to her work and is staunchly lawful good, she shows more of her emotional and vulnerable side. Murphy is also in the books to check Harry and tell him to drop his ‘old-fashioned with the ladies’ bit (which, honestly, seems kinda demeaning after being mentioned a few times).

But the best character in Blood Rites is… THE PUPPY. He is a ball of energy, fury, excitement, all at once. He could be just for comedy, but he is in almost every scene, and so it’s obvious that we are not going to be done with THE PUPPY after this book is over. Let’s call him the Chekhov’s puppy.

I’m moving on to Dead Beat and leaving you with Anton Chekhov, pictured here with his puppy:

chekhov

Re-reading the Dresden Files: Grave Peril

graveperilIn my mind, Grave Peril is really the first Dresden book, with Storm Front and Fool Moon being prequels. The third volume continues the tradition of self-contained mystery, but it’s vastly improved by the fact that most participants get to go on and have major roles in rest of the series. Not only that, but consequential things happens to these participants.

What’s great about Grave Peril is that it starts so theatrically. Everyone is in costume, making a grand entrance. ‘My duster billowing out in a black cloud behind me, Michael’s white cloak spreading like the wings of the avenging angel whose namesake he was’. It’s so over the top.

graveperil1Let’s start with Michael. Michael is honest to god (or God) paladin. He is unbearably lawful good. If Harry has his temptations, Michael is so pure that in any other book, he would be a giant annoying pain in the ass. He does get judgmental (all this ‘living in sin’ business), but he a) at least practices what he preaches and b) not so blindly judgmental that it endangers others. He will come to your rescue even if you do live in sin.

And there’s quite a bit of rescue to be done in Grave Peril. Michael ends up stepping in with not just his sword, but supernatural knowledge and plain common sense (‘Harry, you are not the biggest kid on the block’). Once again, Harry is made vulnerable right when he needs his power most (‘it ate my magic?’), and yet still manages to pull through. It is, of course, a useful story tool to have your protagonist struggle. It would be a very boring series if Harry were just blasting through walls and bad guys in easy mode all the time. And yet he survives and wins by a hair so often, that you start to wonder how he survives at all. Perhaps these nigh-impossible escapes are what creates his image as a powerful wizard: ‘For a guy with two sticks and a pair of yellow ducky boxer shorts, you must think I’m a real danger’. Part of the fun of reading the Dresden Files is watching him get out of these seemingly impossible situations by either drawing on previously unnoticed resources or through help of friends like Michael (after all, every Slayer has some sort of Scooby gang).

Another cool thing about Grave Peril? Great amount of Bob.

And finally, my favorite scene, page 231. ‘Harry. Look at his cigarette.’