Sunday, February 12, 2012

Butcher's "Ghost Story" Fun Prelude to Upcoming "Cold Days"

It's no spoiler to let you know that Jim Butcher's Changes (reviewed here) had a sequel called Ghost Story (the 13th in the series! Spooooky!), and that the next book in the series has an announced title of Cold Days.

Changes is a hard act to follow. In serialized fiction we wait between sequels for another snippet in the lives of the characters we like (or hate! nothing's better than a good villain!), hoping to see how they evolve. In Changes, Butcher turned Harry Dresden's life upside down. So much change in Harry's life and his allegiances and debts and powers and his relationships with his enemies and his loved ones – a terrific ride. So it's unsurprising that Ghost Story has a feeling that it is the denouement of Changes more than it is a story of the same size. It is, one might think, the high-speed film of a driver's deft gear-shift under horrible road conditions. We're left wondering if we've seen a downshift into passing gear or, or into a slow load-pulling gear ... but as with the end of Changes (in which we surely expected some trick to save Harry from certain demise), we have a pretty good idea into what peril Harry is marching at the close of Ghost Story.

And it promises to be a heck of a peril. And a mess of relationships, betrayals, heartbreak, and supernatural mayhem.

Can't wait.

Spoiler Alert!

When last we saw out intrepid hero Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden in the closing lines of Changes, he was plummeting through the icy depths into the darkness of Lake Michigan with a seemingly-fatal gunshot wound. This, after having his car crushed, his home immolated, the mother of his child murdered, his bulletproof enchanted duster obliterated with the expiration of spells that made it really tough for the big climactic battle scene, and to top it all of his promising date with longtime love interest Karrin Murphy screwed up by a rifle shot in his own chest that prevented him from keeping the date – what was left for Harry to lose but his life?

And as we read this, and review the book-ending dialogue, we're tempted to pin the deed on the assassin Kincaid (who said long-distance rifle shot would be the way to kill Harry risk-free) and to identify Harry's rescuer as Mab, Winter Queen of the Faeries, into whose cold dark realm he was sinking. But that's too, too obvious. Surely it must be misdirection. We convince ourselves it can't be the case. So we speculate. And we ask ourselves just what Butcher has in store for Harry's development.

As Ghost Story opens, Harry is convinced to return to Earth to solve his own murder (which we know from the back cover), a task which (no surprise to the longtime reader) turns out to be a higher-stakes game than one might expect for a spook. We learn about Harry's allies and their struggles without him for the months he's been missing since the action in Changes (and its Karrin-POV short story sequel "Aftermath", available in Side Jobs), and we see as the story unfolds that some of his allies have been experiencing character development of their own while Harry's been occupied beyond the mortal veil.

Slowly we learn, as we suspected, that – as in The Princess Bride – there's a difference between "all dead" and "mostly dead". And that being shot by Kincaid isn't enough information to understand the crime at hand. And that Harry's co-rescuer Mab knows full well Harry tried to cheat her, and wants revenge.

And we wonder: how bad can revenge on Harry be, while Mab needs his services as her Winter Knight? What aid can the genius of Demonreach be to Harry while he fights for his sanity and Mab's victory? Other than due to competition over Harry, why are Mab and Demonreach at odds? What does Harry's relationship with Demonreach really mean? Now that Karrin has taken on a bloodthirsty and merciless view of the evildoers in Chicago, can we possibly avoid Karrin's transformation into Harry's new enemy? (Particularly in light of the fact that he'll be working for Mab? And her likely conviction after Ghost Story that anyone appearing to be Harry is an imposter or under mind control?) How will Molly get straightened out? (Will she be Harry's new rescuer/love interest?) What will the White Council have to say about all this? The Grey Council? Cowl and the Black Council?

The mind boggles. But, that's why we read this stuff, right?

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