The Butchering: I Read Changes, Book Something Or Other of the Harry Dresden Files

So there’s this popular fantasy series about a “wizard detective” called Harry Dresden. I’d never read any of the books before; I don’t particularly care for “urban fantasy” — i.e., fantasy set in the more or less modern world. While I might have loved it when I was younger (and some of the fantasy I read in my teens and twenties had elements of what is now a fixed subgenre, namely magical things happening in the “real” world), now it strikes me as a subgenre suited for children and adults who never grew out of the childish desire to have magical things happen while never having to leave the comfort and safety of their bedrooms. You know, like wanting a tame dragon to be your pet, or a handsome rich vampire to marry you and settle down with you in a nicer neighborhood in your home town. But anyway, I was given the chance to read one of the books of this series, called Changes. I’m a couple chapters in, and frankly already I’m bored.

I’m also pissed off. Jim Butcher is an American dude, you can tell by the way the only thing his protagonist seems to care about is the fact that his ex-girlfriend didn’t tell him he had a daughter until said daughter was kidnapped by some of his enemies. Oh yes, the plot: Harry the Wizard gets a phone call (because despite the effects of his wizardly powers on computers, somehow he can get phone calls without the things fritzing — oh yes he talks about “receivers” and “the hook” but those old-fashioned things had electrical parts and computer bits in them since the 70s, and this story is not set in the 70s). Anyway he gets a phone call from his ex, who left him for Tragic Reasons (tl;dr: she was half-vamped by an enemy of his, and she’s okay only as long as she doesn’t drink any more blood, so she ran away south of the border so as not to be tempted to drink her boyfriend’s blood, and also to become a vampire fighter), and she tells him they had a daughter and the daughter’s been kidnapped by his vampire enemies. Anyway, you can tell that Butcher is an American male because he has his hero spend precious thinky time moaning about how awful it is he was never told about this daughter, even though as his ex has to point out (because hurt male ego and reason can’t share space in Harry’s head) they are both involved in dangerous evil-creature fighting which leaves no time to take care of a kid, so she had the kid fostered by a “normal” family. I will point out I can understand his ire but the question of just what can two vampire fighters with dangerous enemies do with a kid is left sort of hanging. I mean even if they retired until the child was grown, they’d always have to be in hiding… I dunno.

This fucking thing is longer than the Silmarillion so I’m just going put the rest under a more tag. You have been warned:

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God answers my prayers. God is a sadistic bitch.

This isn’t funny, God. I know I’ve been grousing about wanting some decent, non-zombie science fiction to read. I guess you heard me and decided to “answer my prayers.”

The Lord is one cruel motherfucker.

Anyway, this… thing, entitled To Defend The Earth, is some sort of science fiction novel. Or maybe it’s a collection of stories. Or — I don’t know, the Kindle version is available on Amazon for 99 cents, but suddenly I realize there are a whole lot of things I could buy for 99 cents or so. Like, for just one penny more I can dry a load of clothes in my apartment building’s dryer. So, no can do for the download.

Fortunately, I won’t miss out on all of it! The author has provided samples of chapters. Here’s one:

At two minutes till midnight, three hundred Chinese attack aircraft entered North Korean airspace. At the same time, more than a thousand pieces of artillery pounded the south bank of the Yalu River. A preparatory barrage of smoke shells followed, which covered the south bank in a thick fog. While the covering barrage was laid down a flight of helicopters swooped over the Yalu and dropped five specially raised commando platoons on the Friendship Bridge connecting the North Korean city of Sinuiju with the Chinese city of Dandong. While the commandos wrested control of the span from the North Korean border troops guarding it, a column of tanks raced across. North Korean resistance was fanatical, but within minutes the bridge was in Chinese hands.

That chapter is apparently titled “Kim Is Ill.” Oh my sides. I haven’t laughed so hard since my mother died.

Here’s another sample of a chapter titled “The Battle of Luna.” A US spaceship is attacking alien bases on the moon:

Huggins began the assault with the sixteen-inch guns. Even though the starboard battery could not be brought to bear there would never be a better time to use the 16s as the distance and angle of the incoming carrier ships gave them close to a head on shot.

As the forward batteries began lasing the carrier ship’s nose cone, Glazer called.

‘Captain, I suggest we accelerate and close as quickly as possible.’

‘Why?’

‘They’re deployed line-abreast, not in echelon where they could all fire. Giving the pasting the lead carrier is taking someone is going to figure out they should redeploy in echelon. We should move up at them now before whoever in command there figures out what the hell’s he’s doing.’

Masters could hear the irritation in Glazer’s voice, not as an American, but as a naval officer angered that a commander didn’t know how to handle his ships.

Masters pursed his lips in thought and said, ‘Ok, Commander, you’ve talked me into it. Helm accelerate to three Gs.’

‘Aye, aye, Captain.’

There’s also another sample of a chapter entitled “Arawat Kill Box” that contains a reference in author exposition to “Paki tanks.” No, those aren’t the aliens — the setting of this chapter is in Pakistan. Some sort of battle is going on and tajfsdm,.zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz–

Oh, sorry, fell into a momentary coma on my keyboard. Apparently the plot of this thing is aliens invade the Earth, but so far all I’ve read is a bunch of lifeless text that I guess is supposed to be riveting military science fiction battle scenes. I guess, because the word “alien” is used occasionally. But– no, I can’t even think of anything to say further. This sort of thing is unmockable. It would be like making fun of a blank white wall. “Look at the blankness of that wall! Ah. Heh. Um.” That’s it. There’s not only not a there there, there isn’t a there.

There’s also not very much science fiction. Well, there is this, from the synopsis of the chapter “Kim Is Ill”:

North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il, offers to make an alliance with the approaching aliens.

That would be the North Koreans, who won’t even make nice with the South Koreans. Okay, that’s science fiction. (Via.)