Post by Moriarty Post by Johnny1A Post by Jesper Lauridsen
Jim Butcher has officially announced that _Peace Talks_, the 16th
entry in the Dresden Files, is finished. With luck it should be
available before the 6th anniversary of _Skin Game_.
He has slowed down quite a bit - the first 14 entries were published
between 2000 and 2012. Between 2004 and 2009 he also got out a Codex
Alera book every year. But _Skin Game_ was an 18 month wait, then came
_The Aeronaut's Windlass_ a year later, and since then just 5 little
Hopefully he's back in the groove now.
We can hope. But we might also be seeing a case of Changing Author Syndrome while the story is still under way.
What I mean by that is my old and oft-repeated observation that the longer the gap between a work and its sequel, the lower the chance of a _good_ sequel.
The DF is one long story, really, so there's no 'sequel' to it, but Butcher has written it over a period of well over a decade, and people _change_. It might be and I suspect it is true that the JB of today is not the JB who started the series, and he's having trouble with making it work the way he wants.
I said after the last one that I thought Butcher had painted himself into a corner. Harry's just gotten way too powerful the past few books that creating realistic plots for him must be getting harder.
Well, JB has said from the get-go that the story would ultimately culminate in an 'apocalyptic trilogy', and he's said in on-line comments that the time is coming when the various Wizards on the Council are going to have to show what they've got in a way they haven't in centuries.
I can see ways to challenge Harry...but the problem is that a lot of them irrevocably alter the storyline and world, and I'm not sure JB is ready to do that yet at this stage in the story.
Post by Moriarty Post by Johnny1A
I hope we get out of Faerie and back into the real world of DF in this story, I think we've had enough Faerie for a bit.
But Mab is just so damn awesome! I'd also like a bit of further exploration of Molly and how she adapts to her new, um, job.
I don't. I _so_ very much don't.
Why? Because Mab is only awesome at a remove.
I need to clarify what I mean by that. JB has done a really good job of painting his Faeries and Sidhe and so forth as scary and alien. The key word here is _alien_. Their blue-and-orange morality, their byzantine behavior codes, JB has really done a job of portraying the Sidhe as something like their legendary selves, scary, _dangerous_, and _inhuman_. The best way to deal with Dresdenverse Sidhe is not get mixed up with them at all, the happiest mortal is the one who never encounters one. That's right out of the legends and stories.
BUT...if mortals are going to be seen interacting with them up close, if we get an up-close-and-personal look at them, maintaining that sense of _alieness_ gets a lot harder. If you successfully maintain the alienness, it's hard for the reader to see them as people, and hard to show mortals interacting with them without undercutting their own morals and beliefs. But if you 'humanize' the Sidhe...suddenly they're just long-lived humans with superpowers.
IMHO, JB has _already_ stumbled over this issue rather badly in _Cold Days_. Showing us that Mab harbored human, maternal feelings for Maeve makes her more sympathetic and comprehensible to a human...but at the same time, it undercuts who and what Mab is supposed to be. But it's hard to avoid the issue if we get up close like that. Genuine blue/orange morality almost automatically looks _immoral_ to a human, up close.
If Mab was utterly, totally indifferent to Maeve's welfare, seeing her with the same icy coldness that she supposedly sees the whole world, that's very much in-character for the Queen of Air and Darkness. But it leaves the reader reacting to Mab a bit like he would react to a robot, or a natural phenomenon like a tornado.
Which is, of course, precisely in keeping with Mab's role. But it's hard to do an engaging story around that. But if you humanize her...she's not quite Mab anymore.
On the blue/orange thing...in _Cold Days_, there's a scene where Harry, in desperation, dares to summon Mother Winter herself. She drags him off to the Mothers' cottage in Faerie, and what follows is a wonderfully written sequence where she tells Harry she's going to eat him, and he barely manages to get out of it. It's right out of folklore! Mother Winter is, after all, among other entities, Baba Yaga. She's probably the story-source for the witch in _Hansel and Gretel_.
She tells Harry that she finds theh marrow of human babies sweet. Now keep in mind that Fae cannot lie, not even Mother Winter. Her saying that means she's _tasted_ the marrow of human babies. Which again, is right out of the old stories.
Even after Harry passes her 'test', she says that their interaction was a test...or meal. She was fully prepared to eat Harry for dinner.
But then...but then...Mother Summer shows up. She explains to Harry that underneath it all, Mother Winter does care, she's not quite as cold as that...and this undercuts the whole essence of Winter. Suddenly Mother Winter is a little bit human, a little bit sympathetic.
Which undercuts the entire previous sequence!
But it's also inevitable, if Harry's going to be interacting up close and personal with the Sidhe Queens. As Winter Knight, Harry _serves_ Mother Winter and Mab (and now Molly, not that Molly's in a position to take advantage).
But how can Harry serve an entity that _eats human babies_ without undercutting his own moral status?! Yeah, it's easy to say that the Fae follow blue and orange morality...but what happens when their blue morality dictates an action that to a mortal human is inherently _evil_?
We could observe the Mother Winter is like an animal or a force of nature, a bear that eats a human baby is not evil, just hungry. But a human who _permit_ a bear to do that is quite another matter...and you _kill_ a bear that starts preying on humans, too, whether it's done anything morally wrong or not.
So if Harry's gonna be serving Mother Winter and we get to see it up close...Mother Winter has to be humanized at least a little. Which in turn changes what Mother Winter is supposed to _be_.
The same issues apply to Mab in an other way.
Mab only promised Harry she wouldn't have him kill a friend or loved one. She never said a word about anyone else. Being Mab, you'd expect her sooner or later to ask Harry to go execute such-and-such in Kansas City that Harry's never met and has done nothing to deserve it, by human standards. No promise violation, and that _is_ Harry's job, he's Mab's hit man, among other things. It's entirely within Mab's purview and nature to send him to off a 5 year old, for that matter, to punish a relative or other adult.
But Harry _can't_ carry out that hit without violating the moral code that defines him. So from a story POV, Mab doesn't get to issue such an order (at least not until JB is ready for a crisis point). But that leaves us wondering why Mab is suddenly acting gentle and out-of-character again.
It's not JB's fault, or at least not totally. The same sort of problem arises whenever a story has humans interacting with genuinely alien entities that don't observe human morality or think like humans.
But it's also why I don't want to see much more 'up close and personal' of thhe Fae.