In the darkness the trees are full of starlight (henwy) wrote,
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight

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Vindication: Not nearly as sweet when you can't gloat.

I spent a good chunk of my first day in Ohio distracted by my recent discovery that the new Dresden Files book Ghost Story had been published without my knowledge and had been out for 2 months in book form and a month as an audiobook. In the final hours before I had to leave to get on a plane, I frantically tried to find a way to somehow transfer the full audiobook to my netbook. I wasn't expecting to have a problem since in the past, I would simply hook up my little portable hard drive to the two machines and copy the file over. Of course, it just happened that I couldn't find that farging hard drive anywhere despite lots of searching. I'm starting to think against all odds that I might have left it behind in Indianapolis at the PoS motel I stayed in and almost got murdered at. Well, okay, the latter might be a slight exaggeration but I figure when a known murder hammers on your door at 1am in the morning with an AK-47 and you stagger to answer only to open the door and find no one there, you pretty much dodged a bullet. I meant to actually report on that whole clusterfuck in the gencon recap but who knows if that'll ever happen.

Anyway, I searched relentless for the drive but was completely unable to find it. I even searched around for any one of the multiple USB keys I know are somewhere in this room. I haven't bought one in years but I've accumulated a couple which I seem to only be able to locate when I have no need for them. In the end, I had to McGuyver a fix that required me searching my old digital cameras for memory cards, finding an adapter and then copying the files onto a microSD chip. I wasn't able to get the info onto my netbook because the only port it has are USB ports and so I loaded the files into my cell phone instead and spent most of the day holding the damn phone to my ear to listen to the audiobook. All I can say is that in the end, it was worth it.

I really liked the previous book before Ghost Story, though I'm sure it bothered a lot of fans. Jim Butcher went out of his way to basically fuck up every part of Harry Dresden's life, including destroying some of the most iconic things about his character. You almost felt that in Changes, he had actually put together a checklist of what mattered to Harry and then systematically went about stomping on them.

  • His basement apartment with his Wizard Lab and all his accumulated possessions: Check Destroyed by a moltov cocktail which burned everything down to the ground.

  • His office and business as a private investigator: Check Blown to smithereens when the ridiculous amount of explosives set into the walls by the Red Court Vampires was detonated.

  • His car the Blue Beetle which had survived everything hell and damnation could throw at it: Check Smashed absolutely flat as a damn pancake.

  • His body which had survived all sorts of crap in the past including napalm: Check He actually breaks his back and would have likely ended up as a paraplegic for life.

  • His daughter who he didn't even know he had: Check Captured by the Red Court of Vampires to be used as a human sacrifice in an occult ritual.

  • His soul and his integrity, which he had maintained despite impossible odds and temptations of every sort: Check He ended up becoming the Winter Knight in order to obtain the healing his body needed and the power necessary to challenge the Red Court and rescue his daughter. In following through on that goal, he knowingly manipulated his daughter's mother and his former lover into a situation where he killed her in cold blood.

  • His life: Check In the last moment of Changes, Harry is shot and killed by a sniper rifle

From halfway through even before the truly heinous things started happening, you knew that the stage was being set for a point of no return. It was clear the plot could never return to what it had been. Too much had been destroyed and even if it all ended happily ever after, any attempt to simply replace everything like it was would have been trite and empty. And of course, it didn't end up happily ever after. After reading Changes, I immediately rushed to the Butcher forums online to see what other people thought of the book. I saw a lot of whining and complaining but mostly concerning what I thought were rather trivial things. We all knew Harry wasn't dead dead, or that if he was there would be some plot machination that would bring him back in some form. After all, he's the protagonist and there are supposed to be another 10 books or so. No, what people mostly complained about was the death of the Blue Beetle or his Lab or other crap. Meanwhile, what had bothered me greatly and shook my view of the series and of Harry's character was the moral implications of what he had done. In my opinion, he had crossed a line. A fucking huge line.

Even before the climactic last couple of chapters where Harry sets up Susan for death and kills her, I thought he had already gone too far. I fully understood that he wanted to rescue his daughter, needed desperately to rescue her. Maybe I couldn't fully understand the motivation since as a orphan, he had promised himself that he would never let a child of his suffer the loneliness that he had gone through himself. Even so, he was willing to let the world burn to the ground to save that one little girl. It didn't matter how many hundreds or even thousands of other little girls ended up dying in the aftermath of his actions if it meant that his could be saved. I can understand the impulse but the sheer recklessness shook me. And that was before he actually killed someone who loved him in cold blood to accomplish his goal. There was no way I could reconcile what happened. It was evil with a capital E to me. No excuse. No justification.

I went on to the Dresden forums and posted about this saying that, in essence, that Harry had crossed the line. That he had gone too far and had fallen from grace. I wasn't even sure if I could ever view him as a good person after what he had done. What I wasn't expecting was the blowback I received from the diehard Dresden fans there. They lined up one after another to offer excuses and justifications for what had happened even though the point was made very clear in the book that Harry knew exactly what he was doing and consciously set up Susan so he would be in a position to take a knife and end her life. If it had been a spur of the moment thing born of unthinking instinct and reflex, there may have been some wiggle room but there was not. Despite that, uniformly the forum denizens tried to mitigate his crime, his sin.

It's this backdrop from Changes that I approached Ghost Story and also why I was so incredibly happy at what I found. I was worried that Jim Butcher would simply write off some of the events in Changes and their moral ramifications. I was worried that he too would try to justify what Harry had done as necessary and never acknowledge their evil. My worries in the end were in vain. Maybe being dead clears the mind but repeatedly, Harry's ghost reflected upon his actions in Changes and saw them for what they were with fresh eyes. He saw the evil in them, reflected in the cold light of reason, and made no attempt to dissemble or weasel out from the implication. I only wish that I could find those same forum assholes who spent all that time trying to convince me that his actions were somehow justified and not unbelievably reckless and evil at the time. As far as I was concerned, it went a good way to redeeming a character that I was worried might be lost for good. If we don't acknowledge the evil and mistakes we make for what they are, what chance is there that we can ever fix or atone for them.

As for the rest of Ghost Story, I think hands down it was the best of the Dresden Files so far. I enjoyed every part of it and I think it was incredibly clever how it all wrapped together. I won't go into too many details since it's at least possible some of you out there haven't read it yet. I figure there's no excuse at this point not to at least have read Changes and so I don't feel bad about the spoilerpalooza above. I would like to write a more in depth review of Ghost Story, but I think I'll wait until it's been out for a few more months. So if you haven't gotten the book yet and started reading, it's your last warning. Of course, by then it's very likely that I'll have forgotten it on my messy to-do list, but if all else fails I'll review Ghost Story when the next Dresden book comes out. If you want to know where you can get a copy of the book or the audiobook, let me know and I'll set you up.
Tags: audiobooks, book club: dresden files, computers

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