Category Archives: Words


519RnNkaTkLThen I read the one other book that is between me and being caught up. Downside: Ascension is the next to last book in that Fate of the Jedi series I’ve been reading, and I started the final book since, which means the story bleeds together a little. Plus also, nevermind 43 years of in-universe spoilers, it’s also reaching the point where it’s hard to mention anything and not hit big-time in-series spoilers too. Once again, not a ton to say about this one, long story short.

A thing that is noteworthy, though, is the tone of the series. It’s never been exactly grimdark; I mean, it’s Star Wars, for crying out loud! But the first two thirds of the series were all very serious, with an Imperial ex-admiral as chief of state for the current governing body (Galactic Alliance), and the Jedi in disgrace, and all the slavery talk I’ve mentioned previously, and a new incursion of a planetful of Sith, and a weird dark god trying to take over everything. Not that the final third hasn’t been like that, but there was a note of hopefulness throughout that has been firmly quashed. Not to the extent that I have any serious concern for the wellbeing of the galaxy or really even of any of the main characters (well, maybe a little bit), but to the extent that it doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars movie.

Upshot: I’m still glad this timeline is due to collapse in a month and a half.

The Walking Dead: Life and Death

81CYT1T10KLSo, uh, it’s been a while, right? I was in the middle of a move, and early in that process (so, like, late September / early October) I read two books. Since then, I’ve slowed way down on my reading, with no time for movies in ages, and I haven’t even unpacked a game system yet, which means I’m not as far behind as you’d think, even though I am massively out of date.

That said, I’m not sure you’d have gotten much a review of the latest Walking Dead out of me regardless. Because Life and Death proves what I’ve been saying for more than a year now: this series is over, it’s just continuing to shamble forward like an implausibly on-the-nose simile of some kind. Something something new high stakes enemy that is the same as all the previous high stakes enemies that I used to care about? Blah blah Carl is still cool, and I’ll keep reading, but man. This should have ended after All Out War, period.

A thing that’s more interesting to me is why I forgive this kind of behavior from superhero comics. There’s no reason why The Walking Dead can’t be an open-ended series in which new threats continue to emerge, challenge our heroes, and fade away. Contrariwise, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t bother me that superhero comics follow this exact same formula, only on a more repetitive track. I started to say that, well, tWD is more realistic, and that’s why it bothers me, because realistic stories are more obliged to have conclusions. But, um, worldwide zombie apocalypse does not actually fall under the realism category. It might seem like I’m that far gone, but I’m not. (Or maybe I am, and that’s the answer? Disappointing, if so.) I guess I could be trained by expectations for superhero stories to last forever, so they get a free pass because it’s always been that way. Or maybe I’ve been trained by other graphic novels I’ve read over the past ten years that do have endings, and would not have cared if this was yet another in a series of ongoing plots.

Whatever the case, Kirkman definitely missed his chance for a graceful exit, and while I’m not exactly hate reading these yet, it’s definitely hard to recommend them as any good. They’re, you know, fine? I’m just not sure I care that much anymore, and that’s sad when you consider how good it used to be.

Last minute new theory that I should test with future books: maybe I get bored with post-apocalypse once it doesn’t feel like an apocalypse anymore. There’s just a substantial difference between people on the run from undead and human menaces at every turn, and people who are plotting a war with a large-scale enemy while also holding a giant weekend trade days flea market.

Skin Game

91WhO9pwfPLI read Skin Game in early September, wrapping it up whilst out of state on personal entertainments, only to find myself firmly entrenched in the emptying, cleaning, and packing of my house ever since I got back. Well, and sometimes work. (Also, I’ve watched a handful of basically terrible movies on streaming television that I shouldn’t ought to have watched and will not be bothering to review.[1])

The upshot of this is that while I know what happened in the book and can say that I liked it and still want to read more (once they exist), I do not have the sense of immediacy that I’m used to having when writing these reviews. Or maybe it’s being diluted by the incredible stresses of selling and moving house. And eventually buying, one expects. So instead of that, I’m going to talk about the series.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about having read 15 books, a short story collection, and a graphic novel. (Pete tells me there’s maybe three more graphic novels and/or ongoing comics with material I’ve not read.) Because here’s the thing about the Dresden Files. They are a bunch of entertaining, largely standalone books, as I’ve probably conveyed extensively since 2007. But they are also telling a long-form, overarching story about this man and his place in his world, and that story is perhaps beginning to buckle under its weight. Everything that happened in Skin Game was predicated on events from previous stories. And there’s nothing wrong with that! ….except the part where I’m almost certainly missing more and more nuances because of not remembering enough details to know, for example, how important this or that player is.

And this isn’t even a problem with the story not being complete. If I were reading all of these in a row, I’m pretty sure I’d be losing details by now regardless. And there are something like ten books left? It’s… it’s a daunting undertaking, is I guess all I’m saying. But they are good. I honestly can’t even tell if I’m complaining or not? All I know is either my memory is not up to this task, or my willingness to immerse myself in long, long stories deeply enough to not miss things has waned sharply over the course of my thirties[2]. Or, you know, some combination of those. In this case, clearly, I’ll just have to get used to missing things or being a little confused by them. Because I have no intention of stopping, or even of waiting until the series is finished before I resume.

[1] “The world’s first NC-17 found footage movie.” Sorry, guys, but I’m pretty sure if it had been actual porn it would’ve had more of a plot than that. ….and that was the good movie of the two.
[2] Which, notably, encompasses the lifespan of this site in fairly close parallel.


51PsKh7O1yLYep, still on pace to clear out my current pile of books, or at least most of the series I’ve already started but which are possible to finish. Conviction is the seventh in a nine book series, which means things should start coming towards a head. And I cannot dispute that exactly this has happened. The Jedi have meddled in politics to the extent that they seem poised for the same downfall orchestrated by Palpatine decades ago, Luke Skywalker seems poised to pull a Whiskeyjack at any moment, the fragile truce with the Sith has ended in a spectacularly bad way, and the slave thing from the last couple of books is… well, okay, that’s about the only thing that is going well. Long story short: while it’s hard to credit a Lucasbooks storyline ending in disaster, this one feels a lot more likely than the time extra-galactic entities invaded or the time yet another Jedi-turned-Sith started yet another galactic civil war.

Anyway, though, none of that is particularly important. I’m focused on the title of the book, instead. See, conviction has a couple of meanings right off the top of my head. There’s the one about a guilty judgment being rendered in court, and there’s the one about having a strong principled reaction to a topic. Both of these could plausibly apply to the book. On the one hand, a leftover plotline from the previous Sith civil war series is the trial of the Sithlord’s apprentice, who was manipulated into murdering a very old, very popular Imperial admiral. As you might imagine, this is the book wherein the trial wraps up and a verdict is handed down. But then also, you’ve got the slavery thing and the foolish Jedi political gambits thing and also you’ve got Vestara Khai, who I’ve previously mentioned is a present day Sith apprentice who is gradually being turned toward the Light, or at least it seems so. Plenty of space for the principled stand kind of conviction in any or all of these situations.

And seek it though I tried, I could not really find any obvious example of the latter in any of those slots. Which means that the entire book is named after an event that was maybe 5% of the current book and which has been maybe 10% of the series as a whole, and seems to have no real bearing whatsoever on anything that’s actually going on out in the galaxy meanwhile. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised to report that what I’ve considered a dangling thread from a previous series is actually pivotal to this one instead? But man, there’s no clue that it will be, except for the literary one that it’s in the books at all. It may be a bad sign, that not being enough to satisfy me.

Hack/Slash: Dark Sides

71Fg3NXPbBLAmong many reasons for my quest to stop being behind on ongoing series is how much I hate unavoidable incidental spoilers. Example: since I have purchased ahead on volumes of Hack/Slash (habit from when the Amazon gold box used to offer random small discounts on things I was likely to buy anyway), I know that the series is drawing to a close.[1] This presents certain problems with my ability to justly detect foreshadowing.

I like to think, for example, that if I had seen the destruction of Cassie Hack[2]’s ubiquitous nail-studded baseball bat with “Kiss It” burned into the shaft at the hands of a maniac wielding a flaming sword, I would have maybe speculated that it was a sign that the odds eventually run out. But then again, I wouldn’t have, because Dark Sides was an anthology edition with multiple stories authored by people other than series creator Tim Seeley, so really I would have just expected to see it back in action next book as an at most side-mentioned replacement, more likely as an ignored continuity glitch.

But, you know, none of the stories were too bad and all of them advanced the main plot that has been building over the last two or three books (Vlad’s history and Cassie’s, er, complicated relationship with the harder-than-usual to kill Samhain, I explain as though anyone actually cares), so I can’t complain. Well, I can complain about yet another crossover with a differently-skinned cheesecake vs. monsters comic, because those never entertain me much or convince me to check out whatever comic is being crossed over with, and are instead just a huge waste of my time. But that was only one issue out of five, so.

[1] Well, sort of. Apparently it’s also starting back up again? But that’s more or less beside the point.
[2] I point this out in basically every review, but: you remember her? Gothy pin-up girl who wanders the country with her partner Vlad killing supernatural bad guys, like a parallel comics version of the Winchesters if Dean were hypersexualized and Sam stood around looming over people.[3]
[3] Ah, Supernatural jokes that maybe two people reading this will appreciate. I kill me!

Cold Days

5146UKREBPLSee? I said screw it, I’m catching up, and that’s what’s happening! You can measure in months instead of years since I read Ghost Story, and yet here we are, right back to Harry Dresden. Downside of Cold Days: every single thing I could say to set the stage is a massive, massive spoiler for previous books, and it’s only going to get worse.

The Dresden Files have definitely reached a tipping point. This is the book where Butcher has set the stakes and the stage. Lots of small books could still be written if he wants, but damned if Changes doesn’t continue to prove the accuracy of its title time and time again. Example: I dropped the noir tag from this book, because Harry Dresden isn’t really a detective anymore. I think he might still act as one sometimes, but his roles in the world have definitely changed. It would be weird if that aspect was the one that pushed you away from the series, but it’s definitely worth noting that it’s not the same series anymore.

Buckle up, I think it’s only going to get bumpier from here. Also, an oblique spoiler: the title continued to amuse me, start to finish. Very, very cleverly done.


51OaY2ueMYLOkay, I got fed up. It’s time to actually catch up with all my old partial serieses. At least this time I’m only a little over a year between books, instead of three? Anyway, right. Star Wars. Luke and his son Ben versus ancient evil older than 25,000 years of civilization, plus also uneasy Sith alliance, plus also Jedi Order in political quagmire, plus also slavery.

Vortex is totally a middle of the series book. Plots advance in retrospectively inevitable ways (at least, if you want the series to ever end, and at the two-thirds mark, turning a corner was something that had to happen), Sith apprentice Vestara Khai continues to be the best thing about the book, and… you know what, something just occurred to me. I think the series may be trying to finally take a hard look at the difference between the light and dark sides of the Force.

Because, look. It’s easy to say Sith are evil and Jedi are good, and that’s the Lucasian end of the debate. And that kind of works if you also say that there are only ever two Sith, because of how they hoard their power and their trust. What would be the point of a non-evil apprentice if you yourself are evil? But when you expand it to a society (the Sith used to be a species, even if that is no longer particularly the case), well, everyone isn’t evil. Not possible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fuel your power with anger instead of peace, and of course not all anger is evil. Righteous anger is a concept that exists for a reason. So on the one hand the series is showing multiple Sith, all of whom are shaped by their society, some of whom are evil, but some of whom are looking for revenge for probably real slights at most, understandably mistrustful of their longtime enemies at least. And on the other hand, the series is also showing Jedi who have reached different but clearly ethical conclusions about an intractable debate, and then being forced to proceed.

If Jedi can disagree unto death without either of them going “dark side” and Sith can assist in preventing the ascension of an insane god out of enlightened self-interest instead of going “light side”, then the Force is as complex as it ought to be. I’m amused that a fundamental change in how the Force is understood by Jedi and Sith alike might be on the verge of occurring in a timeline that will collapse this December.

Chill Factor

51Z1R4iI8nLIt is pleasing that I have basically infinity comics to read, because sometimes I fail to plan trips correctly and run out of book too fast. In part this is certainly due to being kind of sick and not wanting to do anything besides read, unexpectedly, but also in part this is because the Deathlands books are comic-like in their own way. Obviously, they read extremely fast, but also they are similar in that they have recurring villains and in that they lay the groundwork for future books in the current book, so the overall story tends to feel seamless instead of purely episodic.

Chill Factor sees one-eyed killing machine Ryan Cawdor off somewhere in the extreme north to rescue his son from a sulfur mine run by Russian slavers, while dodging the tender affections of a series of badly thought out but extremely lethal, er, killing machines. Like, you know, hunter-killer security droids. T-800s by way of R2-D2. Because of handwavy reasons, he’s performing this task by himself instead of with his usual crew, and while I don’t mind that, it’s certainly time for one of the other characters to get a spotlight book.

Anyway, if you like this kind of thing, the series continues to deliver. I especially appreciated, in this case, how convincing the environment was, with most everyone’s lives measured in days or weeks rather than months. Between, you know, the constant sub-zero temperatures, the radiation, and being a slave in a sulfur mine. That said, the books don’t exist digitally, so probably it’ll only ever be just me reading them.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man – Revelations

41464JNINZLRevelations is an excellent Ultimate Spider-Man book that fulfills the promise of its title by answering every meaningful question raised in the previous book and then some. It answers both the questions I had already asked and the ones I didn’t think to, and it answers them in satisfactory ways. Just as I would always expect Bendis to provide, crisis of faith aside.

And then, just when it is setting up a whole series of new questions, Marvel as a whole took a sharp turn to the left and is collapsing their multiverse in upon itself, with the plan being basically only one Ultimate book left after this one? At least, I think so. It’s going to be hard to know what to purchase to wrap things up, for certain. So, the flaw of this book is that it ended in a deus ex rushica instead of setting up the latest big deal in the Ultimate universe. This is not the book’s fault, but it sure is jarring.

So, um… I guess the majority of my comics reading will be happening issue by issue in the late 1970s now? Sorry about that.

The Unwritten: On to Genesis

81p2Syxd-YLRight after being concerned that I had no clear idea about what anything actually means in the Unwritten series, I accidentally forgot to read the next book for more than a year, due primarily to a shelving logic failure. This is unfortunate in part because, man, I’m just bad at keeping up with most of these series, but especially because as of the current book, I feel like I have a handle on things. Which says something good about Carey’s ability to know when to stop spinning the plates, at least long enough to explain himself. (Also, he’s better at metaphors than I am.)

On to Genesis, in addition to being a clever play on words, lays bare all the questions you may have had about Tommy Taylor and the mysterious organization with which he has been vying for lo these many years. And it leaves plenty of room for whatever will be happening next, proving that you don’t have to be mysterious all the time to avoid running out of story. I guess most authors already knows this, and I’m looking at television show runners here. Either way, it’s a good lesson!

I won’t be saying anything about the actual answers he’s discovered, because they’re cool enough to deserve not being spoiled. I’m just pleased to be able to report that the series isn’t wandering aimlessly after all. Next time: less than a year away, I reckon!