Wow, that was maybe the best book of the series!
"But Mike," you ask, "The other books in the series were awesome! How could this one be better?"
Funny you should ask. One reason: Christopher Walken.**
**applicable only to the audiobook version, though if you're reading it you could imagine everything Nicolai says in Christopher Walken's voice.
In fact, read the rest of this review in Walken's voice and note how it awesome-ifies it.
Oliver Wyman does a fantastic job . . . with the voices. Crazy . . . when you think about it.
This book follows Earl Harbinger and leaves out the rest of the characters from the earlier books. Harbinger's character was definitely worthy of his own book and Wyman's voice for him works extremely well. Nicolai, who sounds like Walken is a bad guy, no wait, he was a good guy . . . wait, which was he? Exactly.
Audible won't let you update a review, so I can't change what I wrote in my review for Dead Six. What I would say there is also true of Swords of Exodus, so I'll just say it here.
In my Dead Six review I said, though I liked Bronson Pinchot's performance, I thought maybe he overdid it on one of the voices. I'm listening to the books again and I take that point back (or would if Audible would let me).
Pinchot is brilliant in this series.
For the character in Dead Six that I thought Pinchot overdid, I realize now he did it perfectly, capturing exactly the character the authors created. If Pinchot had done it any other way it wouldn't have fit.
I have no idea what the Warmachine game stuff is all about that most of the other reviewers mentioned (apparently it's the universe this book originates from). I'm a fan of the author, though, and this book did not disappoint.
Just listened to this again and was reminded how awesome Oliver Wyman does with this story.
This book is written in 1st person from the alternating perspectives of two characters, Lorenzo and Valentine. Just keeping that in mind will help you follow the story the first hour.
Like the MHI books, the story isn't that predictable but it is full of writing cliches (like how the romances develop). And also like the MHI books, the cliches somehow don't ruin the story at all. I keep thinking it should, but the stories are just good fun. The authors just do a good job making the moments believable and compelling, cliche or not. And I guess they are "cliche" because there is something in those themes that we find compelling enough to revisit time and again.
Bronson Pinchot is interesting. I loved his work on the Grimnoir Chronicles. I liked his work on this book too. With some of the voices, though, I thought he used great artistic license (e.g., a combination of infomercial voice and Office Space boss voice for one character). His voice for a few of the characters had me bursting out laughing (like Eddie). His voices for the two main characters were perfect. I liked the voice of reaper a lot too.
A lot of his accents for foreigners sound oddly like a character from an old t.v. show called Perfect Strangers.
Hmm . . .
Jon Glover did a fantastic job narrating, but this many books into the series you just can't replace James Marsters. Marsters IS Dresden. Many times I found myself imagining how Marsters would have said a given sentence. It isn't fair for Glover, but hells bells, life just isn't fair.
Since I knew it wasn't going to be Marsters I tried to keep an open mind about the experience. Glover does have quite a range, and I don't think Marsters could have done as well with Sir Stuart Winchester and didn't do as well as Glover did with Mortimer Lindquist.
I enjoyed this first book, though it was closer to 4 stars than 5. Good enough to give the next book a try. I like the series more and more the more books I read. Butcher somehow makes each book feel resolved well enough to be satisfying while maintaining the larger plot arch. (There are a lot of books, so I find I occasionally want to take breaks from the series.)
After reading the first book, if you really want to get into this series, find a chronology online so your able to read the shorter stories when they happen chronologically. This will include buying the 12.5th book in the series, Side Jobs, and reading the various chapters as they fit in the timeline.
The movie was different enough from the book that I still felt suspense while reading (though it ended up being more like the movie than I expected). After working my way through the Game of Thrones series I felt saturated with overdone sexuality, so when it got to those moments in this book I found myself a bit hopeful that a book written in the 50s might leave more to the imagination, even if it's James Bond. It wasn't too spicy, but one line made me stop reading for a couple of minutes until I stopped laughing. Bond and Vespa were standing, clothed and kissing, then "he slipped his hands down to her swelling buttocks. . ."
I think I'll try some version of that with my wife. Maybe, "Hey baby, your swelling buttocks are talking to me, and I like what they are saying." Or perhaps, "Those pants make your buttocks look swollen," or, "Are your buttocks swollen for me, or Mr. Darcy?" Hmm, those might need some work.
My daughter was unable to watch Dresden Files on Netfilx with me due to her disgust upon learning that it is a story about an orphan wizard named Harry. I keep thinking it would be clever if Butcher had a character give Harry a bad time about that, and Harry's defense is that he came before the Harry Potter series (which his character would be, but Butcher's first Dresden book was published after I believe).
Anyway, anyone who has read this series appreciates the story for being what it is, not a derivative of Harry Potter. Somehow Dresden is more believable and more likable as the series goes on. Each book has a satisfying conclusion, yet the overarching plot keeps moving along as well.
I know that in a very real sense it is impossible to do an “objective” history, that most everything is “revisionist” in that it gets filtered through the mind and values of the author. Still, some histories are arguably more accurate or meaningful than others. The better histories seem to me to do things like being transparent about agendas and underlying assumptions, do a good job with providing detail and strong arguments for the claims, and/or present multiple views for the reader to consider.
If a new reading of a given history fits nicely with the contemporary zeitgeist it's more likely to leave the reader feeling interested and validated. Weak arguments leap out at us more clearly when they go against how we see the world, while it's very easy to gloss over weak arguments when they fit our worldview.
So when I see weak arguments or inconsistencies that seem like they would play well with, for example, the current academic zeitgeist I start loosing trust that what I'm learning is accurate or meaningful. I wondered whether it would be the case with this book after reading some reviews of this book that noted that the author seemed to minimize the brutality of Genghis Khan.
I've listened to almost half of the book, and I think I'm going to stop now. The writing is good and the content is interesting. I didn't already know much about Genghis Khan, so it's not as if the author's arguments went against pre-existing ideas I have about him.
Was Genghis Khan a bad, brutal man, or was he simply an effective ruler from a barbaric time? That's an interesting question, and the author clearly comes down in favor of the latter.
As the author talks about religion/gods, he argued that Khan didn't rely on religious ideas to enthrone himself as a leader, yet in the rest of the book he cites many moments that seem to be powerful counterarguments to that idea. The Genghis of this book was much more practical and his leadership was more about tearing down the 1% and empowering the 99%. The author writes approvingly of Genghis' tolerance of religions, though he is most often above the foolishness and folly of them. When the author does focus on Christianity and Islam, guess which one is described as the stupidest, and which was really pretty awesome (I mean after taking into account that it's still a religion). I'll give you hint: which version would modern academia be most open to?
Religion aside, the narrative about Genghis Khan seems to be: “Sure he did some bad things, but who didn't back then? He occasionally was a barbaric badass, but most often he had either good intentions or understandable ones. I mean a guy can only be provoked so much before he has to go open a can of whoopass on the aristocratic one percent. And hey, the trains always ran on time, and his people really appreciated that about him, you know, the ones that weren't dead.”
He reviewed quite a bit of wartime cruelty from western civilization (e.g,. Germans flinging live children via catapults against a city's walls) in order to contrast it with Genghis Khan's methods. He writes:
“By comparison with the terrifying acts of the civilized armies of the era, the Mongols did not inspire fear by the ferocity or cruelty of their acts so much as by the speed and efficiency with which they conquered and their seemingly total distain for the lives of the rich and powerful. . . .”
I find myself wondering if that is meaningful comparison. Genghis, is seems, is a noble savage who contrasts sharply with the dramatically flawed western civilizations.
Would the idea that western civilizations were much more cruel in war than Genghis Khan stand up to an objective review? It seems the author is taking the worst examples of evil and cruelty and comparing it to what he presents as necessary and fitting war practices of Genghis Khan. Maybe if the author compared the worst of Khan's army with the worst of the armies of western societies it would seem like a meaningful comparison.
I think I'm right in losing confidence in the meaningfulness of this history or I wouldn't write all of this, but I should acknowledge two things. First, I may be overestimating the amount of bias due to my own values and world views. Second, whether it fits with current sociopolitical views that are in vogue or not, it may still be accurate or meaningful. Maybe this work of scholarship meaningfully balances out other histories of Genghis Khan that fail to appreciate the complexities of his motivations.
Some of the reviews I read for The Golem and the Jinni complained that it started out slow. It isn't "slow" as in "you're going to be bored for a few hours before it gets exciting" slow. To me it only felt slow in that it took a long time before you knew where the story was going. It was definitely not boring. The characters and the story were so creative that it was one of those books that makes you wonder about who the creative, brilliant author is, and how they they became so freakin' awesome, and that I'm not even going to try writing again because I could never be that brilliant. But I digress.
As the characters in the book develop it's really hard to know if they are going to be good or bad. They are extremely interesting and have it in their power to be very, very evil/destructive if they choose to. Which is great of course, but it took so long to get any idea of the direction the characters would take that it made very, very tense for me.
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