**spoiler alert** I feel frustrated with this entry in the Dresden Files.
Let me explain: I have loved Harry Dresden since I read the words "Chicago W...more**spoiler alert** I feel frustrated with this entry in the Dresden Files.
Let me explain: I have loved Harry Dresden since I read the words "Chicago Wizard P.I." on the back of the cover of Dead Beat. As a character, I've loved his wisecracks, good sense of humor, and resilience. As a fellow loyal Chicagoan, I'd totally kill vampires with him. I've also loved Harry's crew and side-characters, and man, was I glad to see Thomas, Murphy, and the gang again after their absence in the previous book (also known as The Most Depressing Book in the Damn Series. Harry got back into what he does best: kicking ass, taking names, and unfolding giant supernatural conspiracies. This particular book dealt with the faerie courts, which I've always felt were the most boring of the Baddies Harry faces.
A consistent theme of the series is Harry resisting the temptation of extra power (and it always was a good theme, with Lasciel), and it continued nicely with Harry's passing into the Winter Knight role.
However, the power theme's bumping heads with some preconceived notions about gender. I've read a few blogs that accuse Jim Butcher (or Harry) of sexism, and I never saw it. I don't think there's anything sexist about finding violence against women abhorrent. Harry's horrible with women romantically, but I always felt that the female characters in the series were strong, nuanced, and clever. I've been dying for him to hook up with Karrin Murphy forever, even though Butcher's kept them distant for a while. Molly's crush on him has always been respectfully dealt with too.
But then, these kinds of quotes started popping up:
[On Men] "Our innate strengths aren't the same. We are the might hunters, who are good at focusing on one thing at a time. For crying out loud, we have to turn down the radio in the car if we suspect we're lost and need to figure out how to get where we're going. That's how impaired we are."
Reductive opinions about male emotions?
[While frustrated with Molly] "But something in me wanted to... I don't know. Put her in her place. Take out my frustrations on her. Show her which of us was the strongest. And it had a really primitive idea of how to make that happen. But that was unthinkable. That was the mantle talking. Loudly. Hell's bells. As if I didn't have enough trouble thinking my way past the influence of my own glands already."
I really had a problem with this, not only because "Winter's Mantle" started becoming Harry's excuse for rapey and violent thoughts towards women, but that he already thinks he can't control his glands. Ok, I get it - Harry's fighting against being like Lloyd Slate, he doesn't want to become the next Hitler Winter Night, etc. I found some of these comments unsettlingly out of character.
Butcher, please don't try to traumatize your character into becoming a solid asshole.
**I received my copy through Goodreads First Reads.**
This book is so disturbing, but in an awesome way. Michael Olson clearly has his eyes on the most...more**I received my copy through Goodreads First Reads.**
This book is so disturbing, but in an awesome way. Michael Olson clearly has his eyes on the most depraved parts of the internet, and makes fascinating insights on how unknowingly internet-goers participate in advertising, and worse, human trafficking. It's a pretty scathing view of viral marketing. I'm also glad that this book shows how hideously misogynistic the gaming world and the business world are.
The protagonist James Pryce isn't exactly Rick Deckard, but he's definitely a noir anti-hero. In the prose, I felt positive echoes of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson. Well done, Michael Olson. (less)
**I received my copy through Goodreads First Reads.** If you love a little Japanese noir that's harder than Murakami, and takes a turn towards the edgi...more**I received my copy through Goodreads First Reads.** If you love a little Japanese noir that's harder than Murakami, and takes a turn towards the edginess of Battle Royale, this is a good one for you to check out. (less)
I'm a bit puzzled why the Conan Doyle Estate picked Anthony Horowitz to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. His nerd credentials include Hercule Poirot...moreI'm a bit puzzled why the Conan Doyle Estate picked Anthony Horowitz to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. His nerd credentials include Hercule Poirot for TV and a few other mystery-related items, but I'll bet there are more committed Sherlockians who could've taken on this task. I suspect it's his ability to imitate ACD's writing style, which is cool if you're into Canon, but uncool if you're a modern reader. Here are some pros and cons of this imitation.
PRO: Horowitz did his research. I despise sloppy pastiches. So does the internet. If you're co-opting a character, please show the source material some respect. I think Horowitz does that, and it shows in the timeline. This case is supposed to take place during the "Adventures..." story set, and he references characters from "The Red-Headed League," etc. He has his details down, and doesn't try to insert random ones to twist the material in his favor, like a masturbatory fanfic writer. He treats Inspector Lestrade respectably, and his Watson isn't of the doddering Nigel Bruce variety. (PS - Sorry Nigel. Gotta keep it real, man.) So points for care.
CON: The writing style imitation is... nice, I guess. This is a dark story. There's a pretty horrible secret behind The House of Silk. Horowitz was trying so hard to follow ACD's style that the book missed out on a lot of atmosphere. I guess he gets a pat on a back for accuracy, but few points for actual appeal. People like me read this stuff for Victorian fog, cloaks, etc. Instead of trying to imitate a great, do it your way.
PRO: Unusual Mystery/Twists. I won't spoil what the House of Silk is, but it is pretty bad, and for Victorian times, rather salacious. Like, it's so bad, that (SPOILER!!)a certain Napoleon of Crime even deems it necessary for him to get involved. I'll admit, I thought the word "silk" was a reference to Moriarty, due to the description of him from "The Final Problem" that describes him so: "He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them." So silk... spider... yeah. Anyways, I was wrong. Cool times.
CON: Imitation = Too Old School. I read a lot of mystery, and I find it kind of lame when the Big Reveals are dependent on secret information being held in someone's head, rather than clues slowly given to the reader. This is "Old School." You'll find it a lot in British Armchair Detective writing like Agatha Christie and Nero Wolfe. I respect those authors for their literary merit, and recognize the Old School, but to me, It's some cheap deux ex machina easy-plot kind of crap, and not very respectful to a mystery-loving reader. If you don't drop the clues, you don't let the reader participate. Otherwise, they're just watching a master work. This is fine if you like character-driven fiction, but not if you're looking for artful storytelling. Sherlock Holmes is the epitome character-driven fiction. People didn't care as much about the stories as they did about him. People liked the deductions as a part of his personality.
Unfortunately, Holmes is of that Old School, and you have to deal with it in Doyle. But, I don't have to tolerate it in modern writing. These days, Modern Mystery is about laying out the Important Clue in the beginning of the story in an offhand way, and that clue doesn't become signficant until later. I call it the "Slap-Your-Head-Say-Duh!" Reveal - it's much more satisfying for a participatory reader. That type of mystery writing developed with Raymond Chandler and the advent of Noir, when murder became more artful (if you're Chandler).
So, in short: Horowitz is bogged down by imitating Doyle, and misses out on the opportunity to do something unique with this character. (less)
The only story worth reading in this anthology is obviously the one by Neil Gaiman. Neil's story is quietly devastating, but some of the others kind o...moreThe only story worth reading in this anthology is obviously the one by Neil Gaiman. Neil's story is quietly devastating, but some of the others kind of felt like a Sherlockian circle-jerk. Laurie R. King, honey. Please stop.(less)
Alas, this is a graduate of what I like to call the "Dan Brown New School of Mediocre History Mysteries." I mean, come on, it's his fault that history...moreAlas, this is a graduate of what I like to call the "Dan Brown New School of Mediocre History Mysteries." I mean, come on, it's his fault that history mysteries are the adult publishing craze of recent times. The only one worse than this is Kostova's The Historian, which is about a vampire. *facepalm*
You can tell Graham Moore is a nerd, and he knows his Victoriana quite well. While his write shows enthusiasm for the topic, he lacks in actual story elements. This is a weak mystery, plain and simple. The two aligned stories with Conan Doyle/Stoker and Harold/Sarah was an interesting idea, and they nicely threaded together in the end. But to be honest, Harold and Sarah are boring and impotent - Harold in particular. As a protagonist, he's really quite limp - especially for a Sherlock Holmes imitator. Conan Doyle would've snatched that deerstalker cap off his head and beat him with it, if I didn't do it first. Bram Stoker is a great character, and sadly underused. I would've loved to have him take a more active role in the whole thing.
The most disappointing part of this book is how short it is (yes, I'm actually saying that), because it didn't take any time to dwell on any real thoughts or themes for the reader to consider.I think Moore was trying to mimic Conan Doyle's style itself, which is punchy yet perfunct. Conan Doyle rarely wasted words, space, or clues in his writing - but he always left us with something to think about, and that's why mystery-reading folks like myself hold him in high mastery. The brilliant thing about Sherlock Holmes stories is that they're really simple and microcosmic: they magnify (pun intended?) just a few elements into something quite huge. But, without any feeling, a mystery is really just a simple puzzle, not an actual story. This story has no overarching emotional theme, and that's why it falls short of other books in its class, like, Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. The really salient themes of time, aging, and relevance are buried in the Conan Doyle/Stoker sections, but they're pretty much lost in the shuffle. There is no artistry in a denouement that wraps up neatly.
Unfortunately, this is an amateurish imitation of both Dan Brown and Arthur Conan Doyle. Hopefully in future writing, Moore will find his stride in thematic elements, and write a story about people, not stick figures.
I have the complaint that every Sherlockian has about this book: needs more Holmes! The premise of the book is absolutely fascinating: how could a str...moreI have the complaint that every Sherlockian has about this book: needs more Holmes! The premise of the book is absolutely fascinating: how could a stranger get into a fortified old mansion with a moat to commit a murder? It is wonderfully simplistic in the answer, but the second half of the book (Douglas's story) is woefully tacked on. I wish Holmes himself had headed out to the American West to solve the mystery. (less)
Wow. Damn. I love these stories, and now I see why everyone in England lost their shit over the Reichenbach Fall.
I wonder what it is that makes an am...moreWow. Damn. I love these stories, and now I see why everyone in England lost their shit over the Reichenbach Fall.
I wonder what it is that makes an amazing characters, ones that truly last. As a fangirl, I think character development is the criteria. I hate reading fiction if I can't establish a stake in the people I'm reading about. They feel like friends and family. Sherlock Holmes is llike a friend to me. He never gets boring - he's that ineffable malcontent genius who is secretly very affectionate. Watson is so sweet he makes me want to cry a little. And the greatest charm of these stories is obviously their relationship. Even if Doyle clearly despised Holmes, his mastery in character development still shows. It makes your throat catch a little to imagine how lonely Watson really was without Holmes (and the implied death of his wife, mentioned in The Empty House). The writing made me I could genuinely feel just how happy he was to find out Holmes was still alive.
I hope one day I could create such masterpieces.(less)
True Life: I'm a Sherlock Holmes junky. If he's in it, I will consume it. And to be honest, some of it's good (ie, Benedict Cumberbatch & Co.), an...moreTrue Life: I'm a Sherlock Holmes junky. If he's in it, I will consume it. And to be honest, some of it's good (ie, Benedict Cumberbatch & Co.), and some of it's horrible. This book falls in the latter category. It disappointed me for a multitude of reasons:
1. A poorly developed mystery! The Simpson kidnapping is almost a completely useless plot line, in my opinion, other for character relationship development. It's just boring. There's little thrill to the overarching mystery,
2. I love Watson, and Martin Freeman has made me love Watson even more. I absolutely despise when he's treated like a doddering and senile old man in Alternate Universes. The real Watson is the human half of Holmes, and he actually gets all the chicks in the stories. The lame "Uncle John" character in this story who gets nothing be depreciated by Holmes is not Watson.
3. Talk about a mischaracterized Holmes. King's Holmes shows no traces of the high-functioning sociopath we all know and love. He's soft. I do appreciate her attention to some of his quirks, like his disguises, but her Holmes just straight-up sucks. Sherlock Holmes definitely goes on to be a bigger bastard in his old age (evidenced by everything after Reichenback Falls), not a kindly old man.
4. Worst of all: Mary Russell? More like Mary Sue. If you're a nerd on the internet, Mary Russell is pretty pedestrian fanfiction material. There are no flaws in Mary Russell, and it drives me crazy. A random, super-brilliant teenage girl who always gets the answers right and happens to be buddingly attractive? Catches more respect from Sherlock Holmes than his partner of a bazillion years, Watson? Next, she'll be dating Draco Malfoy and have sparkly hair or something.