Monthly Archives: January 2021

Battle Ground

I have logistical thoughts about Battle Ground. Because it’s obvious that this and Peace Talks are in fact one book. Sure, there are one or two structural plot elements to make them feel like they are each a whole book, and that’s a good thing; but if you rearrange those or ditch the plot elements leading to them, you don’t hurt the overall story of the proposed single book. But man would it have been an enormous book, you know?

All that to say, a three month gap between these books is not bad at all[1], so I’m not complaining exactly, but the delay to get here was… also not insane, but it was large, and what I’m really saying is it reminds me of George RR Martin’s scenario writ in miniature, except you’ll note that after his split in two single book, he never wrote anything else again. So I’m concerned, is the thing.

But back to this actual book. This is a title that delivers. I mean, I guess they both are? Peace Talks was easily 80 percent or more a book about all of the Accorded Nations getting together to hash out a peace, while they could[2]. And Battle Ground is about the moment when that ticking clock has run out. So if what you are looking for from this book is an all out war between Dresden and allies vs the bad guys de l’année, I can assure you that you will get it.

And while you’re getting that, you’ll also get a great deal of broader plot events and character development moments. From all kinds of characters and all kinds of plot directions. This is a legitimately huge book in the greater sequence of the Dresden Files series, and I’m still all wrapped up in it. I know people have turned away from these over the past decade, but for my money, it’s still a very solid piece of story-telling, and I will continue to find out what happens next for as long as I’m able.

More below the footnotes + cut, to be considered at least mild spoiler territory, mostly for the series rather than the book.

[1] Especially at the rate I’ve been reading this year, which is to say that my three new summer books took me basically two thirds of a year. Look, things are and have been weird.
[2] Some of them, it occurs to me, with vastly more hypocrisy than others.

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The Room (2019)

The Room grew on me, both over the course of the movie and possibly in retrospect over the last few days since I watched it as well. The premise at first appears to be a pretty by-the-numbers riff on the monkey’s paw. A couple moves into a stately, remote farmhouse and while doing renovations finds a secret room, which they quickly (if a little implausibly) learn grants wishes. Wish for something in the room, poof, it appears. Then, for a good 10-15 minutes, the whole movies appears to be about to collapse into a Lynchian commentary on bored American decadence[1], but before this can happen, someone wishes for the kind of thing that you maybe shouldn’t ought to wish for.

And then, mere moments later by the plot clock, the terrible rules of how wishes in the room work are finally revealed, and what follows is a slow burn escalation of bad decisions and impossible choices.

I’m carefully staying away from spoilers (unlike imdb’s three sentence description), because I think that not knowing what was coming is the majority of what makes the movie work. But outside of the identity horror and other bad things that the writer went for, I think the real lesson of the movie is that if I had a wishing room that followed these rules… Sure, I wouldn’t be able to instantly and safely retire[2], but I’m pretty sure I could make a happy and comfortable life for myself without very many needs to be met.

Because I would not make terrible, obviously doomed to turn out badly wishes. That’s why.

[1] Not that any of the characters are American, going by accent. But it definitely has that jaded feel, in the moment.
[2] The IRS alone, you know?

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

After recently rewatching the other two Narnia movies[1], I have now proceeded to watch for the first time The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This was one of young me’s favorite books, in retrospect because of how it involves episodic exploration of unknown parts in which random events occur. Examples: captured for slavery! found invisible monsters with weird tracks! cursed dragon hoard!

And I guess what I think is, without a cohesive throughline, that’s a bad look for a movie? Because “we’re sailing to the edge of the world and also looking for some lords who went this way before, because of some plot thing or other with green mist that frankly none of us[2] can be bothered to really remember well” is not a cohesive throughline. But it’s a perfect long-form episodic throughline, where you talk about the so-called main plot for maybe five minutes every other episode but mainly focus on the island of the week.

As far as the nuts and bolts of the movie… Aslan: mainly around to tell Lucy she should like herself for herself instead of wanting to be glamorous and older, and to take all the credit for making Eustace[3] a better person, even though let’s be real, it was finally having a friend that turned him around. Because Reepicheep is the best mouse, is what. But despite an interlude about heaven and who deserves to be there and when, the Christian trappings of this movie were… no, I’m doing this wrong. Christian trappings were all over the place, but at the expense of any actually useful Jesus values like forgiveness and loving your neighbor.

Ugh. Christian trappings. Goddammit.[4]

[1] They’re… not great. Like, my reviews might speak well of them? My counterpoint is “seeing this book for the first time on a screen” is its own special thing that takes away from noticing that it’s still only okay. And here I refer only to the first one. The second one is nowhere near as good as that.
[2] Okay, maybe me more than them. I would normally here say, well, maybe I was just too busy with work to pay attention. But I watch really a lot of TV and a good number of movies while working, and actually keeping up with the main plot has never been a problem before. So there’s a decent chance that the lack of new sequel was for a good reason.
[3] Eustace is a Pevensie cousin who is a right twit, until later when he is improved by the power of Narnia. If Aslan wanted to teach a Pevensie a lesson, it should have been teaching Edmund that, you know what, you were a right twit once upon a time too, so maybe cut a bro some slack? But CS Lewis is more offended by girls who want to use make-up and date than he is by toxic masculinity, and so here we are.
[4] get it