Monday, August 15, 2011

Ghost Story - My Review


To Air, for introducing me to Mab by onion-colored light

I should have known. The signs were all there. Even the dedication was a clue as to what was to happen. But I get ahead of myself. . .

Ghost Story is the latest book in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. In this novel Harry Dresden is dead and is sent back to find his killer. Of course for Harry this means getting mixed up in a whole bunch of ancillary adventures that eventually lead him to his purpose.

The soul of Harry is given a choice to either move on or find his killer. This is done by non-other than the father of his love interest Karrin Murphy. Really though Harry doesn't have a choice (a recurring theme throughout the novel). Jack Murphy tells Harry that if he doesn't figure it out three of his friends are going to get hurt, maybe killed. That's enough for Harry and he signs the paper that effectively puts his soul in eternal jeopardy (of course Harry doesn't know that when he signs).

Harry is sent back to Chicago and we see that his version of Mystery Inc. has an unsteady alliance. Murphy is bitter and on a razors edge. Molly has appeared to go completely insane. Butters now "owns" the spiritual entity known as Bob and Thomas is nowhere to be found. Sounds like a typical day in Chicago.

The story pits Harry up against the Corpsetaker once again. The crazy lady, even as a ghost, has a plan to get back into mortality and then wreak havoc on everything. Harry decides he has to stop her and moves with the plan.

During this time there is a lot of back story that gets filled in. Harry's memories are perfect because there is nothing in his brain that can prevent the memory because, well he doesn't have a brain at the moment. We go back in time to when Harry first met "He Who Walks Behind". A demon that has it in for Harry, or so we are led to think. This gives us the impression that this may be it for the novels. Butcher does a great job of tying up loose ends (most of them anyways) and I thought for sure as I read that this would be it (but the dedication still left me wondering).

Eventually we get to the climactic battle between the forces of good and evil (or in this case the Hall of Justice and the Legion of Doom as Harry might have put it). This pits the Corpsetaker against Molly in a battle of mind and will. Harry goes along for the ride and enters into Molly's Star Trek Bridge (the original Enterprise Bridge). It's here that we find out who had Harry killed.

In order to understand this part one has to go back to "Changes" and understand that Harry made a deal with the Devil; OK, with the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab. Harry agreed to be the Winter Knight and serve Mab. There is usually only one way out of that arrangement and that is death. Harry sets it up so that Molly alters his brain so he has no memory of setting up his own death. But while on Molly's "Bridge" he is inadvertently told that Molly killed him. Molly blames herself. Harry then brings up the memory of those fateful events and realizes that he plotted with Molly to make sure he would not know that death was coming. He placed a phone call to Kincaid (protector of the girl Ivy and the Archive) to take him out after he finished the work of saving his daughter in "Changes".

At this point cue in Uriel. The Archangel is actually the one that has seen to it that Harry is sent back. It seems that there is a rule that no supernatural being can influence the choice of a mortal by lying. In Harry's case it happened just before he made the decision to become the Winter Knight and set up his murder. Uriel shows him this and explains the situation to him. Of course choices have influenced the events of the novel and even now the choices made by Harry have led to Molly being rescued and the Corpsetaker being taken out by a lot of Wraiths.

Uriel wasn't finished though. He shows Harry how all the people he cares about are going to be OK. He gives Harry a choice. He can work for Uriel or he can move on. Uriel makes it very tempting to work for him. However, he tells Harry something that should have clicked in Harry's head before he makes his choice:

You are a soul. You have a body.

Harry chooses to move on and wakes up in pain. Real mortal pain. You see when he was shot he fell into the cold, dark waters of Lake Michigan. Cold and Dark are the realm of Mab and of course she couldn't let her newly volunteered knight die. She has been keeping his body alive with the help of Demonreach. Demonreach is the spirit of an island that Harry bonded with in a previous novel. Harry is Demonreach's guardian so Demonreach also has a stake in the game. Once back Harry is informed that Mab is not happy with the deception and that Harry will pay for it. However, there is a very important point made here that Harry learned while in the spirit world. His soul is his own! No one can take it from him without his permission. No one can change it but him. Yes he will serve as Mab's knight but he will do it his way and we all know that Harry will do it that way.

Butcher is a fantastic writer. He uses pop culture for relief during tense moments. Quotes from comic books, to movies such as Star Wars and The Princess Bride make Harry realistic and believable. It also makes for an entertaining novel that deals with dark topics.

I also have to say that this novel was somewhat different than the other Dresden novels. It provides the reader with valuable information about Harry's past. It describes a world we have yet to really understand (that of ghosts and spirits). It has humor, yet tension. All in all I would give this novel 5 stars. And of course I'm really looking forward to the next adventure of Chicago's only Professional Wizard (if he still works like that).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

USA 1 - Mexico 1

I have to admit, I'm liking Jurgen Klinsman. Why? Because we seem to be on the same page. Let me explain. I watched last night's match. It was Jurgen's debut as the manager and I wanted to see what his thoughts would be on formation and general style of play.

A 4-5-1 formation was new to this team and I thought it had possibilities to control the midfield and get some good scoring chances. However, the team didn't seem to take to it right away. Instead of moving the ball forward when the opportunity presented itself, the US played the ball backwards. I pretty much was screaming at the TV (yes my wife knows and yes I understand they can't hear me) to move forward or play to the open man going forward. The result of the first half had the US down 1-0 with no shots. Now in soccer any shot that comes close to goal is counted. There are actually two stats, shots and shots on goal. The US had ZERO shots at all in the first half.

This is where I started to like Klinsman. He was interviewed at half-time and asked what they needed to do. The biggest thing he mentioned was to move the ball forward! Just like I had been screaming at the screen for them to do. He must have gotten his point across because the US did much better in the 2nd half with moving the ball forward.

The other part I like is that Klinsman is not using the same old players. Now granted this was a friendly and a time to look at new players. However, Klinsman brought in some players that under Bob Bradley probably wouldn't have even gotten a look. The players that Klinsman brought on definitely had a positive impact, especially Breck Shea. It paid off also as the US got the equalizer to the game through the efforts of the substitutes.

Klinsman has also stated that he wants to look more at the "latin" players in the US. This will be a positive as these players bring a style that will fit well with what American fans want to see. It also puts on notice that the same old same old types and routes to the national team may not cut it anymore.

One thing that Klinsman mentioned that I hope he will expand was the growth of the game in the lower economic regions of the country. In every other Soccer nation talent is found wherever it is located. The US must do the same. However, the US has a large rural population and there is talent there as well. I hope that Jurgen and US soccer will not only look to the inner city as it were, but also to the farmlands and rural communities. Why do I say that? Because I grew up in one and we had some talented players who with the right coaching and effort could have brought that talent to at least the collegiate level.

The game last night and Klinsman's comments give me hope that the National team can improve. World Cup qualifying starts next year. It's not about qualifying (that should be a given at this point) but rather about building a team that consistently goes deep into the tournament. The US may have found the right man to build that legacy.