Harry Dresden versus the Ghosts

June 22, 2012

Okay, another great book recently wrapped up, “Grave Peril,” by Jim Butcher. (Mild spoilers follow, I think.) As an aside, this is the first Harry Dresden book I read on Kindle, as opposed to on an audio-player, (yes, I know that the Kindle can be used to play audible.com books, but it’s not really good at it in my opinion.) It was still really easy to dive into, and I kept hearing James Marster’s voice in Harry’s dialog and narration.

I was told by a friend that the Harry Dresden books really pick up with this one, and was a little surprised and concerned, since I’d liked the first two in the series so much. But now, I can see what he meant. Harry is still the same dry, witty sunnuvabee, and there’s still a lot of great action and adventure. But Jim did manage to turn the dial up in a few important ways:

He took away what Harry was good at when it counts. This is a good trick for those of us who write fantasy, I think. In one of his early encounters with the big bad, Harry gets most of his wizardly power eaten, and so he has to struggle through most of the second act as a shadow of his awesomely magical self, while the bad guy gets to use his own tricks against him, because, as Bob the spirit puts it, ‘You are what you eat.’ This raises the stakes in a very personal way, and forces Harry to be much more creative and ingenious, as he has to figure out how to do more with less, or maybe with no wizardry at all.

He took away something that matters to Harry even more. I’m not going to say anything more spoiler-ey here, except that it’s about somebody we know Harry cares about. And this time, the consequences aren’t all cleared up by the end of the book. Again, it’s about raising the stakes, this time, on a personal level – show what matters to your character, then have them lose it.

He’s setting up plot elements for later in the series. This one doesn’t just apply to the loss I mentioned above, though it does count. Also, though the main bad guy has been defeated, some of his allies are stronger than ever. They’re pissed with Harry, and with all white wizards on principle, which means that the other white wizards are also pissed with Harry for dragging them into a war that they didn’t want to be part of.

I’m looking forward to Harry Dresden #4, “Summer Knight”!

 


Reading 52 books in 2012 – January-ish milestone.

January 28, 2012

The challenge to read 52 books in a calendar year is another something that I came across on Stringing Words, where Eileen and Roma have been starting threads for tracking our yearly readings for the past few years.

I didn’t join in the 52-books fun until July the fourth of last year – at which point I had only 12 books that I could remember reading in 2011 to date, so I was going in with a huge lead to make up. But I had fun reading and keeping track of what I was reading, and by the thirty-first of December, I had thirty-four books listed, which means, I guess, that I read twenty-two books during the second half (or so) of the year, and wasn’t really on pace to get to 52 even if I hadn’t started behind. But that was just the warm-up lap, not really for serious.

This year, I’m bound and determined to get to 52, and I plan to not let myself slip behind. So far, my count stands at six books:

  1. Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear.
  2. Door to Alternity: The Unseen Trilogy, by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte.
  3. More than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon.
  4. The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells.
  5. Long Way Home: The Unseen Trilogy, by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte.
  6. Vampire Diaries: The Struggle, by LJ Smith.

The books from the ‘Unseen trilogy’ are all e-books that I bought a long time ago, and was reading on particular portable devices that were properly authorized to access their DRM – Door to Alternity was in an old Adobe DRM format, (before the new ‘Digital Editions’ standard,) and would read happily only on my palm tungsten, and ‘Long Way Home’ was Microsoft Reader DRM and was authorized for my HP pocket PC. I could probably have read either of them on a PC as well, but it’s been nice reading while riding the bus to work or back home every day.

And the other four titles, I read in audible format, from audible.com¬† I’m still working on ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ in paperback, but it seems like I only pick that up once or twice every week or so.

If you’d like to join in the challenge, you can come over to Stringing Words and sign up to the forums there, and/or check out a blog dedicated to the challenge: Read 52 books in 52 weeks.


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