Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Dresden Readthrough: Ghost Story

We continue our readthrough of Jim Butcher's uber-popular urban fantasy series The Dresden Files today with book thirteen, Ghost Story. The continuing plan is to do a book a month on the first Tuesday of each month, and with 16 books on the publication schedule between now and when our readthrough is over, our reading list should be pretty full for the foreseeable future.

As for Ghost Story, in many ways this was my favorite book in the series so far, and in many ways it was easily the most frustrating.

So, spoiler alert, Dresden's dead, baby. The final scene of the previous (non-short story) book was Dresden dying, and we open with the Dresden version of the afterlife. Harry's a ghost in a ghostly version of Chicago, and we get a good amount of time with his dealing with this new existence before we get into the meat of the story, which is really less an urban fantasy than a straightforward fantasy book steeped in death and destruction. It's a really interesting turn for the series on a whole.

What I loved, for starters, was that the Dresden/Butcher view of the afterlife is a pretty interesting one on a whole. I won't speak to its true originality, but it felt new and fresh to me as I read it. Seeing Dresden cope with this situation, meeting a lot of new characters, having him interact both with the new world he inhabited and the old one left behind? All of these things were really well done and presented throughout. It's not so much that the series needed a shift in tone or plot or anything, but it's a welcome one and a nice addition to the canon.

What's maddening about this book in particular, however, is that the consistent rules in place that one assumes to exist only seem to benefit Harry. While we're long past the idea of the story working for Harry's benefit, this takes it to a really absurd conclusion. He's dead because of something he did on purpose to screw over Mab, which just happens to be convenient to the story and to his own needs while dead, and that he somehow excises that memory from himself which either means that he also excised the memory of what he knows about death or that he just happened to fall conveniently into a situation in the afterlife that worked to his overall benefit when it comes to Mab? I'm especially annoyed by this because I love watching the other shoe drop, and this felt like a really convenient end-around.

And don't even get me started with his adventures in the Molly treehouse scene.

I feel as if I'm really overly negative about a book I actually really enjoyed, but I just don't get a lot of these choices in this instance. It really stopped the book from being the great book in the series it could have been, and that's frustrating. With that said, though, the book yet again did what just about every other entry has so far, and that's get me really excited to get to the next tale. With only two books left before I'm caught up with everyone else, though...

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