Friday, August 19, 2011

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

OMG, I am soooooo behind.  I actually started this review on August 3, 2011 then got wrapped up in other things.  I've finished another four books since that date and will likely finish yet another tonight or tomorrow.  I have GOT to get caught up.  So here we go:

At long last, the wait is over.  I'm not sure I have ever wanted to kill a writer quite so much as I wanted to kill Jim at the end of Changes (Dresden #12).  I mean there are cliff hangers and then there are cliff hangers.  Jim had us clinging to the back of an SR-71Blackbird... you know... the jet that goes Mach 3+ at 80,000 feet?... for MORE THAN A YEAR!  I don't know about you, fellow Dresdenites, but my hands were getting pretty tired by the time Ghost Story (Dresden #13) published.

Despite that tiny little exageration there, I will say that I was okay when I discovered the release date had been pushed back.  My thinking was that if Jim needed more time to polish Ghost Story, then I wanted him to have it cuz, frankly, Changes was positively superb and I just didn't see how he was going to be able to write a second consecutive book of that caliber without a significant expenditure of time and effort.  So did he pull it off?  Well that depends on who you ask.  Since you're reading my review the answer is... no... but it was a valiant attempt.  Ghost Story IS a great book, but it's not without flaws. Changes set the bar pretty high, and for me, at least, Ghost Story just doesn't clear it.

This is a great and highly necessary book given the final pages of Changes, but even so, at the end I couldn't help but feel that I had just read a whole lot of filler.  Don't take that the wrong way because it was very enjoyable filler.  It's just that this book does little to move the greater story arc forward.  We have a cataclysmic event at the end of Changes that must be resolved before Dresden's story can proceed.  Unfortunately, Ghost Story's ending somewhat manages to make the ending in Changes pointless.  For those of you that have read this book (and are devout fans of Jim), I can already see your rationalizations forming.  For those of you who haven't read it, give us just a sec okay (and don't click on the spoiler text, unless you want to read SPOILERS)?

» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

Back... thanks for your patience.  From a technical stand point, not much has changed.  Jim's prose is the same as it's always been, his pacing remains breakneck, and the book has as much humor and witt as you would hope for out of a Dresden book.  Obviously, this is book 13 in a series, so I wouldn't recommend starting here if you've never read a Dresden book.

I flew through this book, so it's possible that I just needed to slow down some, but there are spots near the end that get to be a little sticky and confusing although not too bad.  There was a point where I missed a fine distinction that made me think Jim was breaking a law of magic he had just set out in the book.  I discussed it with some friends on the a GoodReads discussion board (you can see it here, but again this involves spoilers), and there were others that noticed and thought it might be a discrepancy as well, but we eventually got it sorted (I want to stress that the confusion was MY mistake and although others made it as well, as near as I can tell, Ghost Story IS internally consistent).

Jim leaves open plot threads in this one so don't expect it to finish with everything neat and tidy, BUT we were mercifully spared any major cliff hangers.

Overall this was an excellent book and while I'm not giving it a five, it's definitely a strong four.


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