Saturday, December 01, 2012

Cold Days by Jim Butcher and Other News of Interest

 Who knew Pete Townshend was in the book business before he was a rock star? Certainly not me!
I think it is fascinating that the man is obviously into literary pursuits, as well as music.

"Are you kidding? That was the best job I ever had. I had lunch with the
old chairman, Matthew Evans, this week, and we both went dewy-eyed about
the old days. He's in the House of Lords trying to stay awake, and I'm
pounding stages like an aging clown. I loved the way the Faber editorial
committee was driven as much by gossip and rumor as ideas. It was fun.
Not what you expect in such an esteemed publishing house."

--The Who's Pete Townshend,
author of Who I Am: A Memoir, in a New York Times interview where he
recalled working as an acquisitions editor at Faber & Faber.

My birthday is coming up this year on 12/12/12, and I LOVE Star Trek in all it's incarnations, so uhm, hint, hint to hubby:

"Federation: The First 150 Years" aims to impress Star Trek fans from the
moment they take it out of the box: the book comes with its own
pedestal, which contains a recorded message from Admiral Hikaru Sulu
(George Takei) welcoming readers to this chronicle of the early years of
the United Federation of Planets.

David A. Goodman synthesizes plotlines from multiple Trek series and
films, covering the period between Earth's first open encounter with the
Vulcans (as seen in Star Trek: First Contact) and the negotiation of
peace between the Federation and the Klingons (Star Trek VI: The
Undiscovered Country). The resulting chronology is frontloaded with the
final Trek series, Enterprise, and the original series, along with its
movie spinoffs. But Goodman also draws upon other parts of the canon to
fill in some of the story; fans of the 1970s animated series will be
delighted to see a section on Robert April, the first captain of the
NCC-1701, James T. Kirk's Enterprise.

The attention to detail is thorough. When Goodman invokes a fictional
historian to describe the mid-21st-century "World War III," he picks a
character from an episode of the original series. He's also willing to
embrace the franchise's sillier moments: one sidebar provides an
epilogue to the episode where Kirk visits a planet that bases its
society on 1920s Chicago gang wars, while another works in the "Great
Tribble Hunt" of Deep Space Nine. There's even a reference to the
"Temporal Cold War" storyline of Enterprise (although it's treated with
some skepticism).

The sidebars also present elaborate versions of alien calligraphy, and
there are additional illustrations to flesh out our view of the
universe. (These are almost entirely drawings and paintings, although
some of them use recognizable promotional photographs as their sources.)
An envelope attached to the inside back cover includes some additional
"primary documents," including a handwritten letter from Kirk--all very
smartly done.

Although Federation is framed as basic history--Goodman writes
in-character from a 24th-century perspective--it is not, strictly
speaking, an introductory text for non-fans. People who've never seen
any of the shows could certainly pick up the fundamentals of the
mythology from this book, but the detached perspective results in a lack
of dramatic tension. If you're already a Trekker, though, it can be both
a handy reference and a fun challenge: How many references can you spot?
--Ron Hogan

My mom and 94-year-old stepfather live in Prescott Valley, Arizona, and I've been trying to get them to visit this new store that is only 10 miles or so away from them. So far, no luck, but it does sound like a fun place!

Congratulations to the Peregrine Book Company, Prescott, Ariz., which this past
weekend held its grand opening celebration, including a welcome
reception, several author talks and signings, a writing workshop and a
poetry open mic event.

My husband is a huge fan of beer, and I think he's going to have to try this next time we're in Portland on a Powell's run:
Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., has partnered with Rogue Ales and Spirits to create White Whale Ale, "a beverage for anyone who has a thirst for books and artisan craft beer"

Powell's described the creation process this way: "This brand-new ale
was truly inspired by a love of literature. At an auction in Chicago,
Michael Powell landed a first edition of Herman Melville's The Whale
(renamed Moby-Dick in subsequent editions), and the book has occupied a
special place in his heart ever since. In part, this special-edition
beer is a tribute to Michael and his family, as well as to the legacy of

"The concept behind the project was to go where beer has never gone
before--by adding actual pages from a copy of Moby-Dick to the brew.
Michael and Emily Powell took sheets from the book and, along with Rogue
Brewmaster John Maier, placed them into the brew kettle."

White Whale Ale, which was brewed in honor of the bookstore's 41st
anniversary, is available at Rogue Hall on Portland State University
campus and the Rogue Distillery and Public House, located near Powell's
flagship store. Commemorative bottles may also be purchased online at

I spent the last two days reading "Cold Days" the 13th Dresden Files novel featuring Chicago's favorite wizard, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. I have to admit that I was none too happy with author Jim Butcher two books ago when he shot and killed Harry on the last freakin' page of the book, leaving readers who are wild about Harry all up in arms over Butcher killing the best magical detective/hero ever to walk the pages of a book. It was all reminiscent of the furor over the death of Sherlock Holmes over the Reichenback Falls, with A. Conan Doyle getting lots of angry letters from people who loved Sherlock just as much as modern-day urban fantasy fans love Harry.
Butcher responded by claiming that the ending wasn't a cliffhanger (yeah, right) and wrote an entire book where our hero was a ghost, floating around trying to help people but being clearly limited by his non corporeal form.
I must admit I was as frustrated as Harry was, because part of his charm is the sheer brute physicality he brings to magic and to saving others from harm. Harry's not averse to pounding the crap out of the bad guys, or blowing them to smithereens, or burning them up with his trademark "Forzare!" (I am not sure I'm spelling that right). And if you love Harry (and any woman reading the Dresden Files can't help but fall in love with Harry), you also find his wit, his self-effacing humor and his long, lean tall, dark and handsome body all a very drool-worthy part of the fantasy.
So I was really looking forward to this book, because at the end of "Ghost Story" Harry returned to his body on Demonreach Island, brought there by Mab, Queen of the Winter Fae whom Harry'd made a deal with in order to save his daughter two books ago. He agreed to be the Winter Knight, but in dying had hoped to thwart Mab's plans for turning him into a slave/assassin.
Fortunately, after some harrowing weeks of "rehab" that Harry barely manages to survive, readers are treated again to the full court press that is Dresden at his best; witty banter, terribly short deadlines to save the world, and interactions with all the great characters surrounding Harry that we've come to know and count on to have his back, including Karrin Murphy, the ex-cop, Molly Carpenter, Harry's apprentice who has a mammoth crush on him, Waldo Butters, the ME with a heart of gold. Thomas, his brother, the white court vampire (White court vampires are all succubus...succubi?) and even Mac the bar owner who is somehow linked to the Fae but considers his bar neutral ground and brews the best beer in Chicago, according to Harry. Mouse  the Foo dog also makes a reappearance, thank heaven, and we learn that Santa Claus is not just a jolly old elf, but an ancient fae who goes on the Wild Hunt and has some connection to Odin one-eye, the Norse god. There are some parts of the book that are so funny, they're priceless, especially the "Santa smackdown" and the brief moments when Harry sets to pondering his messy lot in life. "But you can't go around changing your definition of right and wrong just because doing the wrong thing happens to be really convenient. Sometimes it isn't easy to be sane, smart and responsible. Sometimes it sucks. Sucks wang. Camel wang. But that doesn't turn wrong into right or stupid into smart." Harry Dresden, from Cold Days.
 I also believe I found an error in the book, which is rare because Butcher is such a master storyteller and so meticulous about his prose that typos are unheard of in his works. But on page 301, Titania says "I have not exchanged words with my sister since before Hastings" and Dresden calls that the "Next-best thing to a millennium's worth of estrangement." However, if Titania means the Battle of Hastings, which was in 1066, isn't that a lot more than a millennium? I could have misinterpreted her remark, of course, and she could be talking about something I've forgotten from one of the other books. At any rate, the book's fine prose sails along with speed and grace to a somewhat satisfying, if surprising conclusion. Now all we need do is wait for the next "coming storm" on the horizon to see if Harry and company will survive yet another supernatural onslaught.
I was a bit bummed that Harry and Karrin still haven't managed to be lovers, when both obviously love and respect one another, but it seems that it is never the right time for them to be in love, which makes me terribly sad for our hero Harry. It also makes me sad that he's afraid to seek out his daughter and build a relationship with her, when the man faces down demons and dragons and things that go bump in the night all the time. Sigh. Seems that Jim Butcher wants to save Harry finally getting happy for another day. Okay, Butcher, haven't we fans waited long enough? C'mon man, pony up some lovin' for Harry, before he becomes too old and bitter to enjoy it! Anyway, this novel deserves an A+, and I'd recommend it to all Dresden File fans, like myself, who just can't get enough of that wise-crackin' wizard.

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