I have to admit: it’s been days since I finished reading “Skin Game“, and I’m still feeling a little bit devastated by the fact that the next Dresden Files book doesn’t really exist yet. Thankfully, “The Magician’s Land” by Lev Grossman is helping me through it (although reading its ending will inevitably devastate me too, given that it’s the final book of a trilogy; but you know, bridges, crossing, getting there). But that still doesn’t change the fact that I’ll have to wait and find out what happens next to one of my absolute favorite wizards.
Before I begin this review, I feel compelled to remind you of a rather obvious little detail: I am a huge fanof the Dresden Files series of books. What this means is that this review will not be objective at all. This book is also the FIFTEENTH in the series (excluding that collection of short stories that have been previously published in anthologies) about the wizard/private eye who gets into all sorts of supernatural trouble thanks to his heightened sense of right and wrong, which means that you probably will have trouble relating to all the spazzing that I’ll be doing later in this post.
If you haven’t read the series and are a fan of fun/geeky urban fantasy, then I encourage you to pick up this series. The first book or so admittedly has some clunkiness in the writing style, but I promise that it becomes AMAZING the longer you stick with it. And that’s because *non-spoilery spoiler* Jim Butcher plays one freaking long narrative game – there are things that he sets up in, say, book 7 that pays off in book 15. As my father had put it, Mr. Butcher has one hell of a poker face when it comes to narrative developments.
If you HAVE read the series and want to come spazz with me (because I’m serious – this is a review in blog post title only), then click the button to the next page.
Because I’ve been sick for a while, I found myself cutting back on more and more of my extra-employment activities (such as learning how to code and doing a full-on face cleanup routine every night). I haven’t stopped writing, but I limit myself to my nightly journal writing and my thrice-a-week blogging regimen – I haven’t really written any fiction since last week. What I HAVE been doing a lot of lately is catching up on my Dresden Files re-read.
I finally FINALLY got to Cold Days. I should be reading the latest installment (Skin Game) by next week.
Of course, as exciting as this book series is, I am totally aware that my brain is prone to getting bored – and that could get in the way of my reading progress. Which is why I’ve figured out a new way to motivate met to read as much Dresden as I can:
I will watch all the Dresden Fan Videos
Every time my brain says “nope, you better stop reading”, I will go to YouTube, type in “Dresden fan videos” and get those suckers to jumpstart my desire to read again.
This is clearly one of the many MANY perks of liking a book series with a fairly rabid fanbase. Even if you run out of books (or run out of steam trying to read the books), you’ll find something to keep the flames of ferocious fandom glowing – and it’s GLORIOUS.
Wanna see my favorite Dresden Files fan vids?
You may be a long-time fan or completely unaware of this series; but if you’re a fan of comedy and urban fantasy, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these videos either way. These can be somewhat spoiler-y, but I like to think that they’re spoilers that will make you go “wait, WHAT? how does THAT happen?”
At the moment, I’ve only seen TWO major efforts towards bringing Harry Dresden to life (I’m not counting the Syfy one, I CAN’T), and I just…I just want other people to see them.
Tower of Turtles’ “Night Light”
This one is a very loose adaptation of the book “White Night”, and I think this is a decent (albeit more serious) take on Dresden – audio issues and semi-hokey sound effects aside. And guess what? It has a SEQUEL coming up! If you have the time, you should also check out their short “A Carpenter Christmas”. Because Maaaaaaeeeeeeeve!
Like most people, I first came across these guys when they did the book trailer for Skin Game. Oh, there may be quibbles about casting; but it’s pretty undeniable that they cast a guy who can do Harry Dresden’s sense of humor some major justice. Matthew Merback is to Harry what Andrew Garfield is to Spider-Man, as far as I’m concerned.
I may not be a practicing Catholic – heck, I can barely be classified as a Christian anymore – but my upbringing was definitely strongly influenced by the teachings of Christ. In fact, some of my favorite songs while I was growing up were actually songs I learned as part of a church choir.
I mean, listen to this:
This and pretty much every Christian ritual I’ve experienced are there to give you a sense of uplifting inclusiveness. Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo – many people in many congregations use their faith to exclude, shame, and outright punish “others”. As wonderful as the actual religion is, as cool as Jesus Christ is, many of its believers suck as human beings. Even priests fuck it up despite all those biblical examples of helping the downtrodden. Pope Francis may be doing fairly well in rehabilitating the Church’s image, but so many OTHER leaders in the Catholic community have trouble with practicing what they preach (which should include “loving your neighbors” on top of loving God).
Maybe that’s the reason why I appreciate FICTIONAL Christians. While a whole lot of them may be played for laughs, many of them still serve as great examples of the principles of Christianity (some even make Catholic symbolism cool).
After talking to my dad, who basically shares my appreciation for fictional Christians, I ended up with a list of my absolute favorite fictional Christian characters:
The Confessor (Astro City) – A Roman Catholic priest who once gave in to temptation, he atones for his sins by fighting as a costumed superhero vampire. It’s less cheesy than you think.
Father Brown (Father Brown Stories) – Also a Roman Catholic priest, Father Brown uses his insight into evil, born out of years of listening to confessions, to solve crimes. I just love how he proves that being faithful doesn’t mean being irrational.
Ned Flanders (The Simpsons) – Homer Simpson’s generally genial neighbor, while the butt of many jokes and the victim of many injustices, still tries his best to be a good person to everyone. It’s very admirable.
Seeley Booth (Bones) – As the hyper-rational Temperance Brennan’s partner in all respects, this FBI agent tends to be more “absolutist” when it comes to questions of good or bad. But instead of making him unbearably righteous, it makes him sympathetic as he tries to be a good person in the face of his job. The complexity is compelling.
Michael and Charity Carpenter (The Dresden Files) – Michael is a Knight of the Cross; he fights demons using a sword with a nail from Christ’s crucifixion. His wife Charity makes ALL his armor, and helps him practice fighting. They do this with SEVEN children and a house in the suburbs. Why do I love them? Lemme give you a Michael quote:
It’s one of the things that makes us different than they are, Harry. The blood on their hands does not make it right to bloody my own. My choices are measured against my own soul. Not against the stains on theirs.
Holy shit, right? No pun intended.
So I guess my point is that sometimes it takes fiction to help you see the best things about having faith, the best manifestations of faith – like recognizing one’s mistakes and attempting to make up for it, like living by your principles, like using your gifts to help others.
Call me a cynic, but having a hierarchical “community” may not be the best way to go about this. Maybe we need to tell more Catholic/Christian stories that are less “preachy”. But that’s just me.
Do you have favorite religious characters? Why do you like them?
I didn’t create these characters. A genius named Jim Butcher did. I’m just borrowing them for this writing exercise, and I don’t want to make money off of them. I don’t think I even begin to do them justice. I’m also not sure if I got the details right. I’m just hoping that I didn’t mangle this too much.
A Daddy’s Girl
My name is Margaret Angelica Mendoza, and I think I may have killed someone.
Not on purpose, naturally. I am not THAT kind of crazy. I do not think am. At least, I do not think I am right now.
All I know is that I really wanted Davey Rossum to fall off his tree house, because he yells mean things at me every day and Mr. Carpenter says I should not get into fights. Mr. Carpenter is very nice, but he also does not see how evil Davey Rossum is, and how much he deserves to be laughed at. One always has to stand up for personal honor. That is what my Papa used to say before he…before he went to heaven. Honor your honor. I cannot do that without at least wishing my enemies ill.
I wished so hard that he was knocked right onto the street, with a car almost running him over. Thankfully, all the cars that would have hit him broke down. But I still do not know if he’s alive.
I’m in my room right now, curled up against Mouse. Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter have been whispering to each other for hours. They would stop talking whenever they catch me trying to eavesdrop. All I can hear from the conversation are the words “matter of time”, “she’s ELEVEN”, and “father’s daughter”. I do not think that they actually knew my Papa, so I am assuming that they meant my REAL father. The one I was told about when they killed Papa and Mama and took me somewhere dark. I had always wondered about him, but do not want to ask questions. I am not sure I want the answers. All I know about him is that he has many scary enemies and that he does not want to be found.
Something moves in the corner of my eye. It’s not dangerous. Mouse would have tensed up if it were, and he did not – he just stood up and trotted to the window, tail wagging. I peer outside, to the backyard, where I see a young woman with short, pale-gold hair, dressed in a blue and white dress. She looks familiar. It takes me a moment to realize who she is.
She tilts her face up at me, and holds her fingers up to her lips. She wants me to be quiet. Then she gestures at me to come and join her.
Mouse follows right at my heels as I sneak out.
“Hey, kiddo,” the woman says, with a wry smile. “Heard some interesting stuff happened here.”
“You’re Molly,” I blurt out. “They talk about you a lot.”
Her smile starts to look slightly pained. “I know. How’s…how’s dad?”
Mouse starts to nuzzle her hand, and she kneels down to stroke his head. I look from him to her. “Mr. Carpenter is great. He…misses you. They all miss you.” I look down at my sweater and tug it closer. It’s suddenly very cold. “You…you should come in and see them.”
She stops petting the dog, refuses to look at me. “I…not yet. That’s not what I’m here for.” She takes a breath, forces her eyes towards me. “I’m here for YOUR dad.”
I freeze, feel even colder. I hear Mouse bark excitedly, as if he’s happy to hear such news. “Is…is he okay?”
“He’s fine,” Molly murmurs with a smile. “Although he won’t be when he realizes that you can do what you do. He’ll worry himself sick, but he’d be too chicken to talk to you himself. It’s the way he is.”
I grind my teeth, then stop. “That is wishy-washy bullshit.”
She starts to crack up. It sounds a little like the twinkling of icicles. “Oh, you have no idea. I’d tell you stories about him, but I’m not sure he’d want me to do that yet.”
It takes a few seconds for her to sober up. “You don’t know it yet, but you’re a daddy’s girl. You really are,” she says firmly. “And that’s going to get you into a whole lot of trouble if you’re not careful.”
I narrow my eyes. “What kind of trouble?”
“All kinds,” she responds. “It’s like a family trait with you guys. You can’t help it. That’s why you have to know what to expect.”
I take the idea into my mind, and roll it around for good measure. “And how do I get that?”
Her hand folds over mine.
Later on, the Carpenters tell me that Davey Rossum will be okay. They hold me close and tell me not to worry, that it is not my fault. I see their eyes and know they’re worrying for me. For the first time since I was placed with them, I understood why.
“She misses you, ” I say. “Your Molly.”
They do not ask how I know. They just smile at me. I smile back and do not tell them that their daughter has become my godmother.