Sunday, January 9th, 2011
9:50 pm - It's Complicated  
It's a complex world,
Sometimes I feel like a ch... ch... ch... chimpanzee,
It's a complex world,
So hard for a casual guy like me.
"Complex World" — The Young Adults


Changes — Jim Butcher

A friend (I'm pretty sure it was serenada) once referred to Stargate SG-1 as a show with "mad continuity." The same can be said for Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books, where old characters and subplots constantly return with a vengeance, many of them simultaneously. Add in the fact that Harry always seems to be beset from about four or five different directions at once and the big piece of magic Harry unleashes has to be more spectacular than the one in the previous book*, each plot becomes more complicated than the last. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It certainly makes one want to read the earlier books to catch up.

* The Harry Dresden of the books, especially the later ones, bears only a passing similarity with the Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files. The book Harry is way more powerful. It's very similar to the differences between George Reeves' Superman, who dealt with small time crooks who threw their guns at him, and the comic book Superman of around the same time who spent his spare time juggling planets for amusement.

Changes is more of the same, turned up to eleven. The title is deliberate. Butcher burns Harry's entire life down to the ground, one piece at a time. There was at least one point where I was tempted to walk away, just because the troubles Butcher had piled onto Harry were starting to make Job's seem like a spa day. I persisted, though, and it was worth it. I think. Depends on what happens next. The ending is both a fulfillment of a long, multi-book endeavor AND a cliffhanger, sort of like the end of Buffy season 5. If I didn't already know there were more books on the way, I might suspect it was the end of the series.

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Gilded Latten Bones — Glen Cook

This is left over from last year's list, and I bring it up because Cook's latest Garrett book bears some similarity to Changes. It's been several years since Garrett retired as a detective, and he's living a quiet life with his true love, Tinny. Except it's not all that quiet what with all the arguing. Neither one is very happy. Then a nearly successful attempt on the life of his best friend pulls Garrett back into his old life. The similarity is not that. In fact, Garrett is rebuilding his life after a change took it away. The similarity is that along the way Garrett seems to run into practically every friend and acquaintance he's made over the entire run of the series. All are aging, many badly. Saucerhead Tharpe is developing a gut. Belinda Contague is starting to sag. Playmate has cancer. There is a thread about aging all through it, almost as if Cook is wrapping things up, and very different from the usual Garrett book.