Author Archives: Chris

Golden Fool

I have really a lot of thoughts about Golden Fool, which (unless something changes) marks the approximate midpoint of Hobb’s travels in her world of assassins and Elderlings and dragons. That clause looks like the kind of clause you say to fill time, but I meant it to actually convey something, which is that the many swirling thoughts and confusions I have not yet expressed are probably in the right place. After all, if I don’t find myself with more questions than ever and my previously held answers upended in the precise middle of a story, when should I find myself in that predicament?

But anyway, the series and the world continues to be both really good and to not bother me as much as it has in the past, on an emotionally depressive level I mean. So those are both things that are great! In addition, they are pretty much the only things I can say that are not spoilers. Well, that’s not quite true. My one line not very spoilerly summary goes like this: this is the book where Fitz learns how to interact with humans again.

Everything else below the cut, though.

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Death Masks revisited

So, uh, massive spoilers for not so much this book but for the entire series through Peace Talks, which is not yet published as of this review. Don’t read farther unless you don’t mind.

Without yet having checked my previous review of Death Masks, I assume that I liked it quite a bit[1], since all of the Dresden books have hit me pretty favorably. And yet, reviewing the audiobook relisten in my head, mostly what I think of it is… well, that’s not fair. It’s still extremely positive. The war with the Red Court is really heating up, we get the first real glimpse of the Denarians, Marcone is humanized[2], there’s some big movement with the Knights of the Sword that, if I remember my timelines correctly, has only recently paid off. Plus, they finally introduced Molly, who appears to have set off the chain of events leading to Harry’s procreation. A lot of really important things happened!

The problem, if there is a problem, is that everything I’ve said (or almost everything) is groundwork for future books. Whereas my actual experience of Death Masks as a book was: you know, it was fine. Butcher has already written better single book mysteries and anyway it only reached half-resolution, and only via deus ex missourian at that. I mean, unless you care how the Shroud of Turin thing turned out, which I suppose is fair enough. The problem, briefly expressed already a paragraph above, is that this makes me sound sour on the book, and I’m not! It was, y’know, fine.

Anyway, the by far more important part, my timeline update. The book occurs in February of year 3, seven months after the book prior. And various events lead me to conclude that okay, probably Harry’s daughter was conceived during this book, rather than being 6 months old already. Which makes her birthday in November of year 3 rather than Augustish of year 2. (Because, see, I’m still making this calculation easy on future me. Woohoo!)

[1] Guess: correct! Shockingly.
[2] Which has stuck with me ever since even if the details of how it happened had not.

The Canal (2014)

When I started thinking last night about my review of The Canal, I was pondering whether I could really capture the spirit of the the movie’s slow disintegration of reality without delving deep into spoiler territory. See, there’s this sad faced Irish film archivist, played by a guy I had never heard of before a couple of years ago, but who plays an oppressed Jew in The Man in the High Castle and also the Watcher-equivalent in the Charmed reboot, and so basically he’s all over TV now, reliably playing the same sad faced character type (although to be fair the meat behind each of the characters is substantially different). And he learns that his house was the scene of a sensationally grisly century-old murder the same week he receives an emotional shock, which sends him into a haunted (whether literally or metaphorically is at the heart of what the movie is about) downward spiral.

It’s basically treading the same ground as Paranormal Activity, except if it’s not found footage so much as an external camera recording the guy creating the footage, and if it were crossed with a crime drama. Which, that’s not a “crossed with” I personally have seen before, and it’s fair enough. Only, while I was back at the beginning of the first paragraph thinking about how to explain all that in non-spoiler fashion, I came to an unexpected realization, which I can only explain by for sure getting into spoilers: it is that I don’t actually care about any of that, because of a critical flaw at the heart of the film’s conceit.

Thusly, a spoiler space break.

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Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl

I scrolled to the tail end of my watch list on Shudder last night, because it’s been a minute or three since I watched anything there that wasn’t hosted by Joe Bob Briggs. The movie at the end was conveniently short (since I was halfway thinking about going to sleep early instead) and in English (since I wanted to get my outstanding review handled before the plot got very busy[1]), so perfect placement, and thusly did I watch Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, which is one of those recent modern movies with a heavy ’70s aesthetic[2]. Check the poster to your right, for example.

Despite the 20th C gothic setting, which is teenager gets away from her creepy stepdad by taking a summer job as caretaker for her mother’s shut-in sister who lives in a big empty house but refuses to leave her bedroom or for that matter even open the door to be seen by anyone due to agoraphobia and also she has a heart condition, despite all those horror movie trappings, this easily could have been mistaken for an awkward teen lesbian coming of age art film. Because there’s the alluring raven haired beauty at the grocery store, and wait, she’s interested in me, the quiet shy wallflower, as a person? And she’s a free spirit who doesn’t wear a bra when changing clothes into the flapper gear in the basement of the big empty house? And she’s maybe interested in me as more than just a person?

But this is a horror movie, and the shut-in aunt is downright creepy, and long story short there’s more going on than coming of age, and for that matter more going on than a plausibly haunted 20th C gothic empty old house. But like indie arthouse flicks in general, it is definitely more concerned with mood and atmosphere than it is with plot, and the result is I’m not entirely sure whether I was satisfied or not.

But I think so. The final shot of the movie does a lot of heavy lifting, is all I’m saying.

[1] Which goal, incidentally, I think I accomplished? I missed an early key transition, but since it had been expressed in the plot summary, no confusion!
[2] The House of the Devil, for example, although that’s more mid ’80s aesthetic.

The Bonehunters revisited

Jesus, I read The Bonehunters eleven years ago. No wonder I don’t remember things from these books. And then, helpfully, I didn’t say much about it, except for that I really like the book and the series. Facts which remain true, so that’s something.

To be fair to past me, it has gotten functionally impossible to discuss these books without spoilers, though, you know? So, prior to the cut, I can say a few things here.

Thing one: I remain pretty happy with the narration. The original guy was probably better, but they fixed the pacing issues I hated so much, and the new guy learned how to pronounce things, so all in all, it’s gone well.

Thing two: I’m pleased that the timeline jumps are mostly over? Well, that’s an assumption, to be sure, but I think a true one. The first four books alternated between relevant simultaneous timelines (plus one random major flashback), then the fifth book is all flashback to before any other events, and this sixth book is dealing with the consequences of everything that has happened prior, setting up an explosive… man, I don’t know. I remember bits and pieces of the next book, but I know I liked it too, and then to be honest I’m not sure if I ever read the eighth one or not. I definitely forgot the really important climax of this book here, so who knows?

Thing three: no, that was all except for spoilers. So thing three is the cut.

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Powers: Z

Considering how close I am to the end of the published Powers series, you would think I would not have gone three and a half years since the last one I read. That’s just weird. Even more contrary to expectations (well, mine at least), that gap is not the problem I had with the book.

Powers: Z is… well, okay, they’re all about murders. But this is about the murder of the guy who killed Hitler at the end of World War II. Who you would think would be popular enough to have been mentioned by now, especially since apparently our immortal main character used to hang out with Z during and after the war. But okay, comics retcon all the time, and that would not have caused me to blink if the rest hadn’t been so confusing. Which I cannot really explain without massive spoilers, and I’ll just respond if someone asks instead of assuming they’re needed.

But my problems, at broad strokes, included a) my occasional inability to distinguish between the present and flashbacks to the 1950s, b) caused in part (probably) by those flashbacks not actually being very important from either a plot or (worse) a character development perspective. Other than the basic “look, these guys were mobsters in the 1950s, and the people in the modern day plot are also mobsters” parallelism, there just really wasn’t anything there. Finally, c) the fifth issue in the book ended with some really big dangling plot threads, whereupon the sixth issue covered a completely new murder with no apparent tie to or resolution of the prior story, all for the sake of a last second character-driven cliffhanger. Which I sound negative about, but I would not if I hadn’t ended up feeling so much like I didn’t get a complete story in the service of said cliffhanger that I actually spent some research time seeing if there was a missing issue or a misprint of my book or something. As far as I can tell: there was not.

But all the Amazon reviews of the book are very positive, so maybe it’s just me regardless? I have no idea.

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be, part one

There are two things working against me here. 1) I am not used to reviewing reference books, and 2) I’ve been reading The Expectant Father slowly because the chapters are divided by months, and I’m trying to not read the whole thing in a row so I have a better idea of what to understand in the moment, instead of all at once and then I forget things by the time they’re relevant. As such, I’m only about four chapters in and have something like two-thirds of the book to go, since there is a big delivery room chapter. So this is at least part of why the review is split into two pieces.

Anyway: I do not know how valuable of a resource it is in terms of actual learning / time-specific knowledge. I think it’s probably closer to good than bad along that axis? It spends time talking about how things are for the interloper, how things are for the host, and how things are for me, and man, who knows if any of it is actually right, is my point. But it’s probably good, is my other point.

What it is definitely good at is making me feel like I have a handle on things. Which is, y’know, shockingly important! Or probably not especially shocking, in retrospect. Hopefully it proceeds along the same continuum as I continue to read it. All will be revealed in the second part of the review.

Summer Knight revisited

I am shocked to see that we finished listening to the last Dresden Files book less than six month ago. It really seems much longer ago. Which means that yay, still accomplishing something here. Anyway: as usual, the first and most important part of Summer Knight is timeline placement. This occurs in June (midsummer, really) of year 2, a good eight months after Grave Peril.[1]

Huh. I just realized why it seems so long: we didn’t really spend any time listening to the book between the August road trip and today. As a result, I do not have a ton of deep insights into the plot of the book, or the way things are going with the series. I do know that a) Marsters is still a good narrator, even if he keeps randomly not knowing some of the technical language of fantasy, and b) Butcher has definitely hit his stride.

Here’s a little behind a cut, mainly because my footnote definitely has a spoiler, so I need to anyway.

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Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

This will be a long one. It will definitely contain a bunch of spoilers, but not for a while and not without notice. Also below a cut, but that’s only so useful unless you’re on the front page of my site, and nobody but me ever is.

Anyway, as you may be aware, there was a final Star War that released about a week ago. I’ve seen it twice, not on purpose. After we already had the Friday morning tickets, a Saturday evening show was demanded, so I had both showings scheduled before I had seen it once. Luckily, and apparently unpopularly, I liked it well enough to not be unhappy about a twice.

The key to not hating the movie is not looking for a sequel to The Last Jedi. I know that sounds nonsensical, but it isn’t. The thing is, these are trilogies. Return of the Jedi (which I can annoyingly no longer shorthand as Jedi) was a sequel to Empire (which I can still shorthand as I please) only in that Empire ended on a cliffhanger about the fate of Han Solo. Really, it was a sequel to the entire trilogy. More, Revenge of the Sith was a sequel to that entire trilogy, not to the second movie. More still, Return of the Jedi was retroactively a conclusion to the entire series to date, all six movies. Likewise, The Rise of Skywalker (however dumb of a name it is, second only I think to Attack of the Clones on the bad title scale) is a conclusion to the entire nine movie sequence. It’s also a conclusion, more or less, to the third trilogy, but that’s definitely secondary. My point here is that it’s fulfilling a different purpose than people seem to want it to have fulfilled; it’s tying everything that has gone before together. And I really think it does this well, on the whole.

And okay, I think that’s as far as I can go without lots and lots of spoilers.

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Fool’s Errand

My Hobbsian (and let’s be honest, to a very real extent Hobbesian) journey continues, with the first book of the Tawny Man trilogy. Fool’s Errand, in addition to being a thoroughly apt title, is a surprisingly focused book. We’ve returned to Fitz’s quiet, retired life (one cottage, one wolf, one teenaged ward, one sporadic booty call), and the Fool has returned from wherever the Fool has been[1], and catching up on the last 15 years of not much happening[2] takes up the first third of the book. Then, the remaining thirds are taken up by, well, you know Fitz was going to get re-involved in the Farseer family and the fate of the Six-or-Seven Duchies, or else how do you even have a new trilogy starring him? But all of the above covers maybe three weeks. Like I said: focused.

So, there’s this one small errand to be undertaken, and if it’s going to cost Fitz everything, that’s pretty much how these things go. Details would go to the heart of what the book and the trilogy are likely to be about, so I’ll stay out of them, but I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve been pounded so hard over the head by a book, regarding a single unifying theme; in this case, letting go.

The thing that surprised me the most is that I never felt the sense of personal misery from the first trilogy, nor of societal misery from the second. This was mostly a straight adventure story, albeit shot through with threads of quiet, persistent melancholy. But what I’m saying is, melancholy is so much nicer than misery.

Anyway, I’ll keep reading these quickly, because I’m coming close to needing to finish out the Malazan books, and I don’t want that big of a gap interrupting this story, in which I am already heavily invested.

[1] I mean, it’s pretty clear where, but spoilers. And I reserve the faintest sliver of doubt, based on notions of the other prophet and catalyst on the other side of the Red Ship Wars not being a mislead, but instead a clue. But it’s a very fine sliver indeed.
[2] Or a well-documented trilogy happening, depending upon where you fall in your beliefs about the books