Review: ‘Small Favor’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

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Small Favor

Dresden Files #10

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 1/14/2009 (original release date: 4/1/2008)

Length: 13 hour 49 minutes (a 541 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

Sample chapters

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The back cover blurb:

Wizard Harry Dresden’s life finally seems to be calming down. The White Council’s war with the vampiric Red Court is easing up, no one’s tried to kill him lately, and his eager apprentice is starting to learn real magic. For once, the future looks fairly bright.

But the past casts one hell of a long shadow.

Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, calls in an old favor from Harry. Just one small favor he can’t refuse–one that will trap Harry Dresden between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, and strain his skills and loyalties to their very limits.

And everything was going so well for once…

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

Nearly a year after the end of White Night, Harry is conducting a lesson with Molly Carpenter in her parents’ back yard. Kids are throwing snowballs, Harry is chatting amiably with Charity Carpenter, all is well and all is well. And then it’s not.

Harry, Charity and the kids are attacked by creatures Harry’s never seen before. The whatsits, as he thinks of them, go after the kids to distract Harry so another of them can sucker punch him. He manages not to get killed but does manage to get his nose broken which of course gives him two black eyes, leading everyone he meets throughout the rest of the book to ask what happened to him, which makes for some amusing dialogue. Charity Carpenter turns out to be the hero of the tussle, killing a whatsit with a nail gun and a hammer. The rest of the whatsits flee. Faeries… they don’t like the iron so much.

A little research and Harry learns that the creatures were gruffs and that they’re agents of Summer. Harry can’t figure out why Summer would send hitters after him but as the book progresses, he’s pursued by increasingly older brothers of the first gruffs. It gets… interesting.

In the meantime, Murphy calls him in on a case involving a building which had been blown apart and Harry soon realizes that the destruction involved magic. LOTS of magic. In order to try and figure out what might have occurred, Harry calls upon Toot-toot the pixie to help him gather some information about what any little folk in the area may have seen. Toot returns almost immediately and tells Harry to run. When a pixie thinks something is more important than a donut, it’s wise to heed their advice. Harry runs but soon becomes lost in a whiteout… and realizes that he’s not alone.

Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness has popped in from the Nevernever to ask a little favor of Harry. He still owes her two favors since he took her case in book #4, Summer Knight and should have the option of refusing when she asks. Only this time, he’s given little choice but to do what she wants, which is for him to be her emissary in a delicate matter of kidnapping. Or mob-boss-napping, seeing how it’s Johnny Marcone who was forcibly taken from the destroyed building, which he owns and was apparently using as a safe house earlier that night. Mab wants Harry to find Marcone and since it’s in Harry’s best interest to do as she bids, he takes the case.

Having just become an emissary of Winter, Harry is almost immediately threatened with a shotgun to the head by none other than the Summer Knight. Fix is worried that Harry’s actually taken up the mantle of the Winter Knight and is intensely relieved to find that Harry has done no such thing. Still, it rather pisses Harry off to be so threatened by his friend. Throw in the fact that Fix didn’t warn him about the gruffs and Harry’s quite testy, though he quickly comes to realize that Fix is once again under compulsion not to reveal certain information to Harry. Fix does manage to drop a hint about the oak leaf pin given to Harry by Lily, the Summer Lady, at the end of book #8, Proven Guilty and Harry surmises that the gruffs have been using the pin to track him. Useful information to have, which allows him to get the gruffs off his back for awhile in order to concentrate on Marcone.

The first order of business toward that end is to find Hendricks and Gard, who were with Marcone when he was taken. When Harry, accompanied by his brother Thomas, finds them however, he also finds a bunch of Denarians trying to kill them and/or kidnap them. Of course! Harry wasn’t having enough of a bad time with the friggin’ billy goats gruff trying to kill him and then Mab freezing his eyeballs to make him agree to doing her a favor… he’s now got to deal with more Denarians! Quite a lot more than he faced in book #5, Death Masks. Great. Fantastic. It’s the typical ‘shit flying at Harry from all sides without cease‘ kind of plot but then by this point in the series, we expect no less from a Dresden book!

Amazingly, this new bunch of Denarians actually try to cut a deal with Harry and convince him to let them take Marcone’s people, promising to leave him alone in return. Like that would ever happen. Either Harry cutting a deal with them or them keeping a promise! Harry declines and manage to escape with Thomas, Hendricks and a badly injured Gard and they head to Michael’s house, hoping the Denarians won’t know to look there for them. Upon arriving at Michael’s house, they find Sanya, who is stuck in the city by the heavy snowfall. Harry then succeeds in enlisting the help of the two remaining Knights of the Cross, who join his cause in an effort to offset, and hopefully to permanently diffuse the Denarian threat.

Harry calls in the White Council to assist with the negotiations for the return of Marcone (since he’s a signatory of the accords), and requests that they bring in the Archive to mediate. Harry’s worked with Ivy before and is perhaps a bit too fond of her, according to Captain Luccio of the Wardens. Harry is indeed fond of the child Archive which means that he gets REALLY pissed when the Denarians, led by Nicodemus, kidnap her, too. It would seem that kidnapping Marcone was just a ploy to prompt Harry to call in the Archive so that they could take her and force her to take up a coin. Yeah. Things, they aren’t going so well.

So… Harry plans an assault on the Denarians, under the guise of a trade: 11 captured coins representing over a third of the Fallen, and the sword Fidelacchius in trade for Marcone and Ivy. The only problem is that Denarians are holding their prisoners on an island on Lake Michigan–in blizzard conditions, mind–and they’ve got an unknown number of minions backing them up. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose. BUT, Harry gets Ivy and Marcone off the island, as well as Sanya and Michael… though when he last sees the latter, his old friend has just been peppered with automatic machine gun fire. And he’s not moving.

And so the time comes for Harry’s checklist, which are fantastic ways to sum things up for a review… so thanks for these, Mr. Butcher!

‘I seized the hilt of Fidelacchius from where the sword had fallen. As my fingers closed around the weapon I realized several points of cold logic, as if having them explained to me by a calm, rational, wise old man who was utterly unperturbed by my rage.

First, I realized that I was now alone on an uncharted island in the middle of Lake Michigan, with nothing but mad men and fallen angels for company.

Second, that I still had the coins and the sword that Nicodemus had been after–and that he was still going to be after them.

Third, that the Denarians were sure to be really ticked off, now that I’d taken their real prize from them.

Fourth… The ground shook, as with the impact of a heavy foot.

Fourth, that since I had confounded Summer’s attempt to track me via use of the little oak leaf pin, Eldest Brother Gruff had probably been waiting for me to use fire magic again in battle–the same magic that I had entwined with the power of the Summer Lady two years ago at Arctis Tor. It was the most probable reason why Mab, the most likely suspect for messing with my head, would have taken my blasting rod and my memories of how to use fire magic in battle–to prevent me from inadvertently revealing my position to Summer every time I got into a tussle. Only now that I had, Eldest Gruff was probably on his way to visit.

And fifth, and last, I realized that I had no way to get off this stupid and creepily familiar island–unless I could get down to the docks and to the boat I’d come in on.’

Before he can do so, he’s accosted by first the Eldest Brother Gruff, who rips apart a Denarian like it’s a firggin’ teddy bear, and then Daddy Denarian, Nicodemus who laughingly thinks that Lasciel is still around. Of course Harry survives both encounters, but I’ll not divulge exactly how he did either. This book is worth reading–or listening to, since James Marsters is as fantastic as ever in his reading–just for those two awesome scenes!

The book ends on a rather worrying note as we’re left wondering at the fate of Michael Carpenter. One thing is clear, if he survives, he’ll not wield Amoracchius again and the sword is given into Harry’s possession with the same directive as he was given along with Fidelacchius, that he would know who to give it to.

And so ends my review of book #10…  I left quite a lot out but we all know how wordy I get so I thought it best to stop here! I’m hoping to have books 11 and 12 listened to and reviewed by the end of the week(…end… ish). Apologies for not getting them finished in time for tomorrow’s release of book #13, Ghost Story, but it kind of worked out for me since I’ll not acquire my own signed and personalized copy of the new book *insert fangirl squee* until next week at the soonest. Can. Not. Wait!

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My own personal summary:

The one in which Harry: is being hunted by the billy goats gruff; gets a favor called in by Mab; sets out to rescue Johnny Marcone at Mab’s behest; gets tangled up with the Denarians–again; calls in the Archive to mediate the release of Baron Marcone from said Denarians; discovers that Sanya, in addition to Shiro, was descended from kings; guilts out over Ivy getting Archive-napped by the Denarians; gets wooed once again by Nicodemus; realizes that his friends don’t wholly trust him and then realizes that someone has literally been screwing with his mind; sets Molly to researching her family tree, which leads her to discover that Michael is descended from Charlemange; tells Murphy about Lash; rescues Ivy and Marcone from an eerily familiar and creepy island; cashes in his boon from Summer and orders a donut from the Eldest Brother Gruff; discovers that a Denarian has been working for the Black Council; cusses out God in the hospital chapel; chats with an archangel which sounds quite a lot like Ebenezar McCoy (!); gets the bejesus scared out of him–again–by Mab; learns that Bob is considered dangerous by the Wardens, and that they think he’s been destroyed; realizes that he’s been granted the power of Soulfire; and has a hot date with Luccio.

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Fave quotes:

I’ve always admired your ability to be unilaterally irritating.” ~Bob to Harry

‘I gritted my teeth and tried to summon up a salvo of snark.’

‘…my curiosity took the opportunity to sucker punch terror while confusion had it distracted.’

‘Whew. My banter gland had not gone necrotic.’

‘It’s amazing what you can get used to if your daily allowance of bizarre is high enough.’

‘A sensitive guy might have been hurt by that remark. Good thing I’m me.”

“I’m freaking adorable. Especially with the raccoon face I’ve got going here.”~Harry to Torelli

“You… are so hot right now.” ~Harry to Murphy

“I’m in. From here on out. You obviously need somebody to protect you from the big, bad billy goats.” ~Murphy to Harry

‘”Heh?I said wittily.’

“You’ve invented a doll that turns people into their ugly half-brothers, eh?” ~Thomas to Harry

“Look, big guy, I’ve had a tense couple of days and I’ve got to tell  you, burning someone’s face off sounds like a great way to relax.” ~Harry

“Lassie would have given a clear, concise warning. One bark for gruffs, two barks for Nickel-heads. ~Harry to Mouse

“You said it, Chewie. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” ~Harry to Mouse

“I followed the trail of smitten fiends. Smitten fiends? Smited fiends? Smoted fiends? Don’t look at me, I never finished high school.” ~Harry

“If you make me choose between you and Luccio, I’m pretty sure I know who I’m going to bid ‘aloha’.” ~Harry to Kincaid

“Punctuality is for people with nothing better to do.” ~Harry

“That’s the problem with you nearly immortal types. You couldn’t spot a pop culture reference if it skittered up and implanted an embryo in your esophagus.” ~Harry to Rosanna

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


Review: ‘White Night’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

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White Night

Dresden Files #9

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: audio book

Publisher: Penguin Audio Books

Release Date: 4/23/09 (original release date: 4/3/07)

Length: 14 hours 13 minutes (a 452  page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)

Acquired: Audible.com

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The back cover blurb:

Someone is targeting the city’s magic practitioners, the members of the supernatural underclass who don’t possess enough power to become full-fledged wizards. Many have vanished. Others appear to be victims of suicide. But the murderer has left a calling card at one of the crime scenes–a message for Harry Dresden, referencing the book of Exodus and the killing of witches.

Harry sets out to find the killer before he can strike again, but his investigation turns up evidence pointing to the one suspect he cannot possibly believe guilty: his half brother, Thomas. Determined to bring the real murderer to justice and clear his brother’s name, Harry attracts the attention of the White Court of vampires, becoming embroiled in a power struggle that renders him outnumbered, outclassed, and dangerously susceptible to temptation.

Harry knows that if he screws this one up, a lot of people will die–and one of them will be his brother.

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts, helped along by a few quotes from the book:

The problem with waiting for weeks after finishing a book to write the review is that some tidbits of the story tend to get lost in the haze of memory. It’s especially bad when a procrastinating reviewer picks up the next book in the series because they simply cannot wait to dive into another piece of Harry’s world. I’m a bad reviewer. I’ve said it before and I’m reiterating that glaring personal fault yet again. I’m trying to remedy this gross oversight in my book reviewing repertoire and in doing so, hope that I don’t mangle this review… because this was SUCH a good book and SO much happens, as is pretty much run-of-the-mill for Dresden Files books, especially those written later in the series. But I must get it finished and you know what they say about liking the present and something about not having time. Or something.

Whatever the case, I’m finally battening down the hatches and getting down to the nitty gritty. Partly because this book deserves its moment here on my blog and partly because I still have THREE more Dresden Files books to listen to and then review before book #13 in the series, Ghost Story is released. In a week. I will NOT be waiting to pick it up because I have unfinished reviews on my plate. Or in my blog. Nosiree… Sadly, I won’t be able to download the audio and listen to the masterful reading of James Marsters as I have with every other book in this series, since he was unable to do this book. *insert hysterical fangirl sobbing here* I vow that I will not buy the audio unless until it’s released being read by Mr. Marsters, who is the voice of Harry Dresden. The hardcover will have to suffice for the nonce and I’ll have to imagine Marsters’ voice in my head, which shouldn’t be too terribly difficult, as I’ve listed to him read this series multiple times. Now, enough of my mewling and blathering… on with the review!

So, we begin this 9th installment of Butcher’s popular Dresden Files series with an unusual case. As if Harry ever has normal cases. It’s off the books as SI has had budget cuts and the recently demoted Sergeant Murphy is stubbornly paying Harry’s fee out of her own pocket. Chicago PD has investigated several apparent suicides but Murphy wants Harry’s take and of course, he finds magical evidence that the latest suicide was indeed, murder.

In fact, it seems as though the murderer specifically wanted Harry’s attention but in taking this case, Harry is dragged into a power struggle within the White Court of vampires. Now I’ve seen a few reviews and comments that criticize Mr. Butcher for the ongoing vampire war and politics storyline. It would seem that some people just want a monster of the week type series with no deep thinking or intrigue. Me? I eat this stuff up. I personally feel that with all of the added drama and plots that run through multiple books, Butcher is able to add so many facets to the story that make the series more enjoyable, in my opinion.

Enough about that, however. Back to it.

Harry’s inquiries lead him to an order of local magic practitioners, none strong enough to be on the White Council, who have dubbed themselves the Ordo Lebes, or the Order of the Cauldron. Cauldron… large cooking pot. Whichever translation you prefer. The women in the Ordo are terrified that whoever is killing their peers will eventually get them all so they’ve hired someone to help protect them. That someone is none other than Elaine Mallory, one-time student of Harry’s former teacher, Justin DuMorne and Harry’s first love. He also finds another old acquaintance with the group. One Helen Beckitt, first (and last) seen in the first book of the series, Storm Front. Knowing what he does about Helen, he automatically suspects her.

However, Harry hears evidence pointing to the killer possibly being a Warden of the White Council so he’s doubly motivated to find who’s to responsible for the deaths and stop them. Wait, make that triply motivated as Harry discovers that one of the victims most likely died at the hands of a White Court vampire and then sees a security camera image of the latest missing woman in the company of a White vamp he knows very well: Thomas Raith.

He tries to find Thomas and discovers a room in his brother’s swanky new apartment which contains something that could be very damning: information on all of the victims, including pictures that were obviously taken before the police had arrived. Harry is determined to solve the case and find the killer, thus clearing the Wardens AND his brother, but… there are a few things standing in his way. Namely, his pal and Thomas’ cousin, Madrigal Raith from Proven Guilty. Yes, he’s back, he’s brought friends and he’s got a bone to pick with Harry. What bad guy doesn’t?

In his pursuit of the truth of this case, Harry utilizes Little Chicago (in a typically bad-ass Harry Dresden kind of way) to follow a suspect and learns that he’s got a couple of suspects. He then tracks Thomas using his pentacle amulet, which is the twin of Thomas’, and finds his brother hiding several women and children on a boat called the Water Beetle. As it turns out, Thomas is not the killer but Harry’s frustrated that Thomas had knowledge of the murders and didn’t share the information with him. Told you there would be spoilers, hope you’ve read the book!

So Thomas is innocent and much relief ensues but as they discuss getting the women and children to a safe house, they’re attacked by Madrigal Raith and a gaggle of ghouls. No, Professor Lockhart wasn’t present, don’t get your ‘wizards named Harry’ mixed up this late in the game. While fleeing the boat and certain death in a grotesque and gory way, Harry is shot in the back. He’s wearing his warded leather duster and so isn’t killed but he does fall stunned into the depths of Lake Michigan. He essentially blacks out and has a flashback to a ghoul attack on a boot camp for trainee Wardens the previous summer in New Mexico.

Harry survives, of course and gets back to the business of solving this latest in a series of bizarre cases. He takes stock of what he knows and sums things up:

The facts, man. Just the facts. Fact 1: Male operatives of House Scavis and House Malvora had been engaging in murders that attempted to frame the Wardens as the perpetrators. Fact 2: House Raith, their nominal superior led by the White King, sort of, had pursued a policy of armistice with the White Council. Fact 3: That dippy twit Madrigal jumped into the deal on Malvora’s side, pitching in a murder or two of his own, evidently to attract my attention. Fact 4: Thomas, though aware of the lethal intentions of his fellow White Court vampires, had shared nothing of it with me. Fact 5: The victims had been women of magical talent, universally.

Harry has several more facts to think on but these five are enough to clue him in to what’s really going on -that the whole thing has just been a play for power within the White Court, to undermine the peace talks between the White Court and the White Council as well as to cull the herd, so to speak, of magical practitioners. So Harry plans… a counter attack, if you will. I love this bit of conversation between Harry and Murph regarding what Harry’s going to do about the division in the White Court and the possible implications of an alliance between the Whites and the Reds: “You have a plan,” she stated. “I have a plan.” “What’s the plan, Harry?” I told her. She looked at me for a second and then said, “You’re crazy.” “Be positive, Murph! You call it crazy, I call it unpredictable.”

Before marching forth into battle and almost certain death, Harry has a chat with the shade of Lasciel about change. Harry mentions to Lash that he’s been angrier since she showed up and wonders if she might know why that is. “I told you once before, my host,” the shadow said, “you are easier to talk to when you are asleep.” Which was just chilling, taken in that context. Everyone has that part of them that needs to be reined in. It’s that little urge you sometimes feel to hop over the edge of a great height when you’re looking out from a high building. It’s the immediate spark of anger you feel when someone cuts you off and makes you want to run your car into that moron. It’s the flash of fear in you when something surprises you at night, leaving you quivering with your body primed to fight or flee. Call it the hind brain, the subconscious, whatever, I’m not a shrink. But it’s there. And it’s real. Mine wore a lot of black even before Lasciel showed up. Like I said, chilling.

Harry goes on to tell Lash that she can chat up his subconscious all she wants, that it’s not going to do her any good, that he’ll never take up the coin. In  the meantime, those conversations with his other self may have elicited changes in her, also. He points out to her that she is but a copy of Lasciel, the fallen angel and that who she’s become while existing outside of her whole self will die once taken back into herself.  Harry tries to explain to her that she could exist as her own ‘person’ as she is, that she has a choice. He tells her, “Lash, just because you start out as one thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t grow into something else,” which drives her away, prompting him to get back to the problem at hand. ‘Get your head in the game, Harry. Defeat the whole damn White Court now, worry about taking on Hell later.’

So Harry is set to take on the murderers he’s been tracking who also happen to be card carrying members of the White Court. He calls in fellow Warden, Carlos Ramirez to give him a hand and Carlos sums the situation up rather nicely: “We’re going to stomp into the middle of a big meeting of the White Court, call a couple of them murderers, challenge them to a duel, and kill them right in front of all of their friends and relatives, right?”

And that’s just what they do. It… doesn’t go well. Harry and Ramirez kick ass but then all hell breaks loose, as hell tends to do. The extraction Harry had pre-arranged with his old frenemy (yeah, I hate that word, too… but it’s rather spot on in this case!) Gentlemen Johnny Marcone turns into a bigger operation than was intended, and so pretty much everyone but Harry and Lara Raith are rescued. Harry’s subjected to a psychic attack by a White vamp and is only saved by the intervention of Lash, who essentially sacrifices herself to save Harry. Lasciel the fallen angel is still around, imprisoned in the coin, but Lash, the bit of her that had been riding around in Harry’s head, is now gone. Harry manages to save Lara Raith’s life and blows the shit out of most of what’s left of the White Court. I didn’t do this scene justice but this review is already over long so I thought I’d paraphrase a bit.

The end of the book finds Harry retrieving the buried coin of Lasciel from its grave in his basement and surrendering it to Father Forthill. Finally, dust settled and all, he follows Thomas to learn how he’s earning his living and feeding, which gives a rather lighthearted ending to what was quite an involved and heavy storyline.

Up to this point, I think that each book I’ve just finished is my favorite of the series but then I read the next one and I’m not so sure. I think that Butcher just improves this story so much with each installment and adds so many plot twists and interesting characters to the line-up that as a reader and a huge fan, I just can’t help but love the series more with each book and I’m so excited for Ghost Story!

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My own personal summary of the book:

The one in which Harry: takes a case in which women who commit suicide are actually being murdered; finds an old acquaintance from book 1 with a group of witches; begins to suspect his brother of being a serial killer; uses his new and improved shield bracelet, which is pretty bad-ass; uses Little Chicago for some seriously cool surveillance; runs into Elaine… again; gets shot in the back; has a flashback to a ghoul attack at Luccio’s Warden Boot Camp in New Mexico; soul gazes Helen Beckitt and sees her daughter’s death; scares the shit out of his apprentice, Molly Carpenter, who keeps veiling herself and following him; mounts a pretty ballsy assault on the White Court; saves Lara Raith’s life; loses the shade of Lasciel, which (whom?) he had dubbed Lash; surrenders Lasciel’s coin to Father Forthill; follows Thomas and learns the secret of his feeding and source of income… aaand pokes a bit of fun.

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Fave quotes:

“Do all wizards whine this much?” ~Murphy

‘We fled. I’m not too manly to admit it. We scampered, retreated, vamoosed, amscrayed.’

‘I hate it when the real world ignores a perfectly logical, rational assumption.’

‘I carefully did not lose my temper and barbecue her stupid face right then and there.’

‘I screamed in order to summon up my primal reserves and to intimidate Madrigal into missing me and definitely not because I was terrified.’

“Who’s a grumpy wizard in the morning?” ~Carlos to Harry

“I. Am not. Yoda!” ~Harry to Molly

“My mouth is partially paralyzed. It makes it hard for me to read. He’s here to help me with the big words. Tell me if I’m supposed to push or pull on doors, that kind of thing.” ~Harry talking to security guard about Mouse

“I’d been planning the little ball-of-face-melty-sunshine thing for awhile now.” ~Harry to Murphy

‘Murph sat beside me, not saying anything, not accusing me of anything, she just sat with me. Friends do that.’

‘Dammit, Harry, ignore your penis before it gets you killed.’ ~Harry to self

“Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. The ghosts of indictments of past, present, and future. They will teach you the true meaning of ‘you are still a scumbag criminal’.” ~Harry to Marcone

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Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story


Review: ‘Degrees of Freedom’ by Simon Morden

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Degrees of Freedom

Metrozone #3

Author: Simon Morden 

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: 6/1/11

Length: 384 pages

Acquired: Net Galley

[excerpt]

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The blurb:

The Six Degrees of Samuel Petrovitch:

  • Michael is an AI of incalculable complexity trapped under the remains of Oshicora Tower. Petrovitch will free him one day; he just has to trust Michael will still be sane by the time he does.
  • Maddy and Petrovitch have trust issues. But Petrovitch is pretty sure she loves him.
  • Sonja Oshicora loves Petrovitch, too. But she’s playing a complicated game and it’s not clear that she means to save him from what’s coming.
  • The CIA wants to save the world. Well, just America, but they’ll call it what they like.
  • The New Machine Jihad is calling. But Petrovitch killed it. Didn’t he?
  • And the Armageddonists tried to kill pretty much everyone by blowing the world up. Now, they want to do it again.

Once again, all roads lead back to Petrovitch. Everyone wants something from him, but all he wants is to be free …

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

I’m a bad book reviewer. Baaaad. I’ve had this book in my ereader since shortly after the release of the first book in the Metrozone trilogy, Equations of Life. I even finished reading it a couple of days after it was released on June 1st. I’ve just been a slacker and have little excuse for not getting this review done and for that, I apologize profusely. Because this book… was awesome.

I think one of my issues with putting off this review (though this is by no means the only review I’ve had pending for weeks!) is that there is SO MUCH information in this book to cover! In all of them, really, and I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t go back and reread the first two before diving into this one because Mr. Morden packs a ton of information into each book and then refers to it, directly or not, in each subsequent book. So yes, even after a month or two, it’s possible to forget multiple little tidbits that can leave you thinking, “Huh?” as it’s referenced in a later book in the series. At least, it’s possible for me.

So… on to talking about Degrees of Freedom! And spoilers. Be warned. I toss out spoilers like Samuil Petrovitch tosses out curse words in Russian.

This third and final (that I’m aware of) installment of The Metrozone trilogy finds Sam in the Freezone, nearly a year after the Outies nearly overran the Metrozone in a violent invasion that killed tens of thousands. Everything north of the Thames has been isolated and dubbed the Freezone, with Sonja Oshicora as its leader and Sam as its symbol of perseverance and hope. Michael, the AI that’s the remnant of the intelligence Sonja’s father created as part of Virtual Japan which became the New Machine Jihad before Sam took it down, is still buried beneath the ruins of Oshicora Tower since an attempt by America to kill it. Him. Michael is a him and he’s Sam’s friend and Sam is determined to free him.

But the world is watching and the Freezone’s one year of freedom from outside intervention is nearly over. All Sam wants is freedom. For himself, for his wife, for his friends and for Michael. He’s been planning something in secret, planning for a vision he had in Theories of Flight and he’s nearly there when, what else? Everything goes to hell. Sam, who is well on his way to becoming a genius post-apocalyptic bionic man, always seems to get blindsided and have his careful plans stomped into bitter little bits of disappointment and regret. But then again, he’s quick to think around a problem and figure out a solution so he’s well-suited to face whatever comes his way.

Or is he? He’s pretty much estranged from his wife, Maddy… Pif is imprisoned in America and his one hope of freeing her is someone from his past that he’d rather not be involved with… there’s suddenly a nuclear threat in the heart of the Freezone… and the New Machine Jihad has risen again. As if that weren’t enough to be going on with, Sam has been betrayed and he doesn’t know who to suspect so he kind of suspects everyone. All while he’s trying to save Michael while the CIA is trying to stop him from doing so. Yeah, that whole raining/pouring thing.

Of course, as an ardent fan of this new trilogy, I had complete faith in Sam during the shit storm through which he was attempting to navigate his way to freedom. I wasn’t worried at all. Not a bit. Nope.

One of the many things about this story that’s somewhat amazed and delighted me is how quickly I became familiar with -and fond of- the main character, Sam Petrovitch. His brashness and devil may care attitude are endearing and I quickly noticed when he acted out of character or did something that I wouldn’t have expected him to do. One example is his tendency to swear in Russian. A lot.

At one point, he’s discussing the nuclear threat with Cardinal Carillo:

“We’re in Armageddonist territory here, Your fucking Excellency, and if I don’t have some answers soon, it’s going to be too shitting late to do anything about it.”

After that sentence I had a waitjustaminuteSamdoesn’tswearlikethat! moment. And then I read the next sentence and had a good laugh about it, partly because I called the unusual nature of his cursing in English and partly because he wasn’t very good at it:

“I’m not used to swearing in English, but I’m making the effort because you’re a Yank, and it’s important that you understand just how trouser-pissingly scary this all is.”

Being brilliant and having saved the Metrozone from annihilation not once, but twice before, doesn’t keep Sam from getting down in the dumps now and again. He’s only human -mostly- and he gets depressed, too.

‘He knew it wasn’t meant to be this way, and yet there he was, underground, damaged beyond repair, out of battery power, threatened by entombment, nuclear annihilation and a woman scorned. Pizdets.

This story is so fast paced, the plot literally flies by and keeps you holding onto the edge of your seat, or clutching tightly to the edges of your book, rather… wondering if Sam will accomplish all that he’s set out to do… if he’ll manage, once more, to pull it all together and win the day. Or if his plans will fail miserably as the best laid plans are wont to do.

For anyone who has yet to pick up this series, I highly, highly recommend it. Morden has created a world and characters that I would be delighted to visit again. Aside from the re-reads of this trilogy that I’ve got planned and Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, that is.

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Fave quotes:

“What if an AI shows signs of independent, creative thought? What if it can empathize? What if it has the capacity for generosity, altruism, compassion?” ~Father John to Sam

“Far be it for me to point out some flaws in your plan, but are you a complete mudak?” ~Sam to Dalton

“I don’t know what to say. I’m supposed to be the king of the futile gesture, and here I am, trumped by some stupid Yankee lawyer.” ~Sam to Dalton

‘Misdirection. It was harder work than mere secrecy.’

‘Everything was temporary. Nothing lasted forever, not things, not people, not love, not time itself.’

“I haven’t got the energy. Find me a power source. Or vodka. Both, preferably.” ~Sam to Valentina

“My voice is permanently stuck between sarcastic and condescending, no matter how hard I try for the dizzying heights of irony.”

“Talking geek at you always made you horny.” ~Sam to Maddy

“We’re dealing with people who are comfortable with nuclear terrorism. Stabby, shooty stuff might be the least of our worries.” ~Sam to Lucy

“How come this is so obvious to me, but not to you bunch of emotionally retarded grown-ups?” ~Lucy

“Old Man Oshicora had a sense of humor, as well as being a cold-hearted murderer. I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive.” ~ Sam to Tabletop

“Amongst all the other things I’ve also fucked up, this has to take the crown jewels for the thing I’ve fucked up the most, right?” ~Sam to Tabletop

“Lucy, I’m tired of this. Tired of trying to fix things that shouldn’t be broken in the first place. i want to make something new that doesn’t have to be squeezed into an earlier pattern.” ~Sam

“I wouldn’t want anyone’s burka spontaneously catching fire because of something I’ve said.” ~Sam to Yasmina Surur

“Hi. My name’s Samuil Petrovitch, and I now run this show. If someone wants to own up to being in charge, speak now, because what you say will have a dramatic effect on your life expectancy.”

“I feel some shock and awe coming on.” ~Sam

“It’s as if a whole world of cultural meaning has cried out in terror and been suddenly silenced.” ~Sam

“This is revolution. Where is end? I do not know. All I know, this is beginning and we must be brave.” ~Valentina

“Meh, if I’m going to fail, I may as well fail spectacularly.” ~Sam

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