Ghost Story by Jim Butcher – Spoilers galore!!

I’m sure there have been many books written from the point of view of a dead protagonist.  That stalwart of chick shows Desperate Housewives is narrated by a dead person, most vampire fiction is from the point of view of the vampire who is, technically, dead.  But I can’t remember a time when I last read a book where the protagonist dies at the end of the previous one and then the next book is from the Point of View of their ghost.

That is the premise of Ghost Story (well it seems obvious now from the title that that was going to be the stor, der!!).  Now I am going to assume that if you are reading this review you are totally caught up on the whole Harry Dresden series and have either already read Ghost Story or are about to and don’t mind me spoiling the ending because that is what I am going to do here so no complaining in the comments!

At the end of the last book Changes, our intrepid hero Harry Dresden, finds himself finally rescuing his daughter and returning to Chicago where he has to hang out on his brother Thomas’ boat because his place was firebombed by the Red Court and no longer stands.  He has finally said to Murphy that they should get together (booyah I say!) and is waiting on the boat for her to arrive when bam! he is shot and falls into the depths of the lake and it all fades to black.  Now Butcher does not out and out say that he dies but it is pretty much implied.

The screams were heard for miles as we had to wait a year for the next installment and Ghost Story is it.  It takes up (we think) where it left off, with Harry thinking he is in Heaven or the other place H E Double Hockeysticks and he is soon disabused of that notion, being told that he has to go back to the mortal plain to find his killer.  The lives of three of his friends depend upon it.  Sigh, a wizards work is never done so of course Harry agrees, I mean, after all he’s been through it would be too much to ask to enjoy his afterlife wouldn’t it?  (Of course that would be a very boring book so no dice there)

When Harry gets to the mortal plain he finds that as a ghost he cannot affect anything except other ghosts, and his magic has deserted him.  Considering that the thing I like most about the Dresden books is when Harry goes all ‘Forzare’ on the bad guys I was a little sceptical that this would have the same impact as the other books.

I do think this is a good book but I think this is more for the true fans of Harry, who like some back story.  I particularly liked where we see some of young Harry and how he was betrayed by Justin.  It satisfied something in me which I didn’t know I was missing.  The action heats up more in the second half of the book when his friends can see and hear him through the help of some magical creations and a couple of people who can naturally hear ghosts.  Then it gets back to some classic Dresden with the wisecracks and the quips flying in the usual style.

There are a couple of pop culture references (usually prevalent but in this instance very pivotal) to Classic Trek and Princess Bride which resonated quite deeply with this particular fan girl so it was comforting to know that Butcher too is a fan boy.

After going on at the top about spoilers, I won’t go into the ending too much, but needless to say that the general ending was pretty much how I thought it would go but the method was all I was missing.  Very entertaining but again a cliffhanger ending.  I have got to wonder just how long this series is going to last.  13 books so far and the story doesn’t appear to be close to ending.  And when is he going to get rid of those swords?  Sorry, now I am just fan girl ranting.

I recommend this book for fans of the Dresden Series.  I don’t know what you would think coming into this fresh without all the background information.  You would most likely be totally lost in the first chapter and give up in disgust.

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The Anticipation is Killing Me

Well, I finally got the notice from the library yesterday the Ghost Story by Jim Butcher was ready to be picked up.  I have been dying to read this ever since it has been published but being on a savings kick and only allowing myself a certain amount of dollars to put toward my reading addiction, I certainly could not afford a hardcover edition (not at Australian prices anyway)

So I put my name down for the book at my local library (yay Moonee Valley council – you rock) as they have a great range of SF/F and generally get the latest books in pretty quickly, but shock horror, I was number 5 on the list.  When you multiply that by 3 weeks each person, it is generally a long wait to read it.

Instead of getting frustrated by just going out and buying it, which I nearly did but stopped myself in a dramatic moment online (well it was dramatic for me and I stand by that tale) I decided to reread the series from the beginning.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Dresden Files series, Jim Butcher has written one of the most wonderful Urban Fantasy series I have read in a very long time.  Ever since I picked up the first novel at Borders (back when they had cheap SF and were still open) I have been obsessed with this series.  Fortunately Jim Butcher is quite prolific and there is generally less than a year to wait for the next book.

It is also quite a long series, with Ghost Story the 13th book released.  It is quite a task to go back and reread the whole series and I bogged down at book 4.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still enjoying them, but I kept getting distracted by shiny new books that I hadn’t read before, and I kept telling myself that my booking of Ghost Story was ages away so I had plenty of time to get the rest read.

Well, I have it now, and I can’t decide whether to jump to the book preceding it and read that first or just go ahead and start it.  The second one I hear you all calling out, why would you bother rereading something?  The thing is, I read so fast and so many books, that a lot of it doesn’t really stick the first time out.  I do like to revisit books, especially those I loved, and I continually find new and interesting things about the characters and the worlds the author has created.

This has been very much the case with the Dresden Files.  Everytime a new book comes out I find myself revisiting the whole series.  Maybe in this case, the anticipation will get the best of me, plus I only have the book for 3 weeks and if I don’t read it now I will find myself running out of time and not finishing it before it needs to be returned.

That’s it, I’m decided, I am reading it now, anticipation be damned!

Review of Riese Kingdom Falling

Much as I dislike writing negative reviews I felt I had to post this.  I was given an ARC of the DVD of Riese Kingdom Falling to review for Ethel the Aardvark, the MSFC club magazine.  This review will be included in the zine.

Riese: Kingdom Falling was originally a series of Webisodes originally released November 2009.  The creators broadcast them on their website and after popular demand they made several episodes.  Syfy jumped on the band wagon and bought the broadcast rights so all the webisodes we withdrawn from the website.

The episodes were re-cut and a voice over by Amanda Tapping was added.

The basic premise is as follows:

Riese is the last survivor of a royal family whose rule was deposed by a secret religious sect.  She is now on the run, continually hunted by the sect and she is the last hope of the small resistance left fighting for survival.

She is accompanied on her journeys by her wolf Fenrir and she must evade the assassins sent after her while she discovers what their true objectives are.

I never saw the original webisodes so I can’t comment on their quality as opposed to the final product released on DVD.  What I can comment on is that although I saw a lot of potential in these episodes I cannot say that I enjoyed the show at all.

In fact, I lasted maybe 30 minutes and then simply had to turn it off.

I think my main problem with the show was the voice over.  Voice over’s can be very important, indeed, in a show like Dexter for example they are necessary as the character behaves very much differently to what he is thinking so we do need to know what is going on.

But voice over’s can be unnecessary as well and I think that is true in this situation.  I will give you a for example.

The main character Riese, has arrived at a small town to get treated for a wound.  She is in a hospital and notices some oddities about the maternity ward.  She leaves but comes back later to investigate.  As you see her walking down the corridor of the hospital, very obviously sneaking around to see what is going on, the voice over says: ‘Riese returned to the ward as her curiosity was strong’ or some such words to that effect.

It made me so frustrated that they couldn’t trust their audience to figure that out for themselves.  Also the narrator was talking about Riese in the third person.  Third person narration really grates on my nerves.  Perhaps if they had of had Riese actually doing the narration it might have made more sense but really, this sort of story didn’t need any narration at all.

The other thing that bothered me about the show was the constant referrals back to the map of the world.  It was obviously the director’s attempt at showing us that the action was taking place at different part of the country but really, once you have done it the once, you don’t need to keep on doing it.  Every single time the scene changed, the map shows up to remind us that yes, the action is taking place in a different part of the country.

And don’t get me started on the country names.  All ripped off from figures of Norse mythology, countries like Baldur and Freya (I’m guessing on the second one as I gave up reading them after a while) and of course, Reise’s wolf was named Fenrir.  As I stopped watching early I can only hope the Norse influence was of some significance but if the early parts of the show were any indication, was only an indication of the laziness of the writers in trying to come up with some names for a fantasy series.

I’m sure this show would appeal to some, indeed it must have appealed to a whole lot of people as it got produced on that fact, but after watching the wonderful HBO series version of Game of Thrones, and knowing that the quality of fantasy TV out there is of such high standards, where they don’t assume the audience is stupid, I get really frustrated with shows like Riese, where the creators have obviously not researched the genre at all.  This is reminiscent of eighties sword and sorcery and the genre audience is much more sophisticated now.

A lot of reviews that I read mentioned that fact that Riese is steampunk.  I didn’t think that it was at all.  To me Steampunk is set in Victorian times, or at least in the 1800’s.

This was a fantasy setting, on a fantasy world, nothing remotely to do with Earth.  The so called ‘Steampunk’ settings were simply the fact that even though this was supposed to be sword and arrow technology, there was somehow a modern hospital in this country village.  I think that was purely a budgetary consideration as they couldn’t afford to create these sets from scratch.

It didn’t come across as steampunk to me, it cam across as a jarring break in the fantasy setting, something that pulled you out of the story.

I could see the potential for a story there, the lost princess, fighting for her lost throne, the loyal fighters, struggling along without hope, looking for their princess, the evil religious sect leader, hunting down the princess, getting closer and closer.  And of course the loyal wolf, who will bite and rend anyone the princess tells him to.

Then again, if someone wrote this story the publisher would tell them to stop writing clichés and take it back and totally change it up.

I will let you decide as the club will have a copy for loan in the library.  If you disagree with me please feel free to let me know as I am always happy to be proven wrong, but somehow I don’t think I will be in this case.

The reason I posted this is that I felt that the publisher was eager for a review.  I wondered what they really thought of their own product and how on earth they could have thought they would get a positive review just because they gave me a free copy.  I have read mostly negative reviews of this show but there have been some massively positive ones and I can only think either that these people have very different tastes to me, they are very young and don’t have a critical bone in their bodies or they are fixed.  I am not judging as I am sure every artist out there props up their scores with a few reviews from friends and relatives.  That’s why I try to steer clear of reviews for books of friends.  (No relatives at this stage – I am trying to be the first one published in the family – no luck so far)

Anyway, that is my opinion of this very so so series.  No wonder it didn’t actually make it to TV