Cold Days – a review

Cold Days is the new Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher. My review should be spoiler free for the novel itself, but if you haven’t read Changes or Ghost Story then there are huge spoilers for those books.

The Plot

Harry Dresden awakes in Actis Tor and assumes his duties as the winter knight. Faerie Winter is a dangerous place and Dresden has already made enemies here in previous books. There is thread one. Then Mab, the Winter Queen, assigns him his first task. And we have thread two. Of course, a mission from the treacherous is probably not what it seems. Dresden can’t take it at face value and this thread three. Unsurprisingly, Dresden’s task takes him back to Chicago. Here are the last two threads. The first as Dresden encounters friends from his previous life. The last as it turns out that there is a supernatural “bullet” threatening Chicago and the entire Midwest.

Does it seem like a lot? Well that is just the surface. The various plot threads circle and intertwine and separate again. None are isolated and eventually they all come together. And none of the plots are what they seem at first blush. Dresden’s investigation of Mab in particular expands the scale and threat of the Dresden files dramatically.

Dresden’isms

Things I like is a Dresden book that are present:

  • Dresden is in way over his head
  • Dresden pontificates about doing thing the smart way, but ends up blowing stuff up
  • Faeries are not nice. (Except for Toot)
  • Dresden gets beat up. And then he gets beat up a little bit more

Ghost Story seemed like a bit of an experiment. This book is really a return to the series strengths.

I’m not really writing this review for a Dresden newbie. Book 14 of the series is a bad place to start. Go back and start with book one.

For those who are invested in the series – there is a lot to enjoy.

New elements

One of the nice aspects of the series is that every book the world building is expanded on. In this book that expansion is quite dramatic. That was easily the best part of the novel. Seeing the old bits was comfortable. Seeing the news ones is exciting.

After Changes, it was hard to imagine that the scale could grow. But it does. Boy, does it ever. And the huge status quo changes there is almost matched during the climax of Cold Days.

Disappointments

Some minor annoyances. Although the scale and scope of the Dresden universe grows so much, Dresden still solve problems in much the same way as book one. He punches them in the face or shoots a well timed Fuego (or thematically Infriga). It seems to me that at this point most foes should need more than a face punch.

Ghost Story was about learning about choice and that Dresden always has one. For much of Cold Days that lesson seems to be forgotten. Right into the denouement, the theme of being forced into a role continues.

Next, I realize it is part of the genre Butcher is using, but Dresden’s insistence to try a play the lone wolf is annoying. It means that every time Dresden encounters another character there is an angsty paragraph or two where he worries about involving them and getting them hurt. Sometimes a whole scene. Every. Time. Just once I’d like him to just be thrilled when someone gets involved.

Other stuff

It is book 14. Who needs a review at this point anyways? Butcher is not my favourite author (though he is always enjoyed) but this is my most awaited book of the year. Why? Because everyone reads this. I have a least 5 friends reading it tonight. By the end of the weekend, I will surely not be the only one finished. I look forward to discussing the plot and action with them in a spoiler filled fashion.

Stay cool!

I’ll make a poor old man

I’ve rarely lived in a home with a furnace since I left home. The years I lived with T & E would be the exception. I’ve had a variety of dorms, apartments and now my condo. And they all have shared heating.

When you turn up your heat in a home, in moments, you can hear a furnace roar to life. In a place with shared heating, turning up the thermostat is more like a plea. “Please, if you feel kindly, can you direct some heat my way?”

My issue is that my feet get cold. I come in from the outdoors. It is cold. My feet have quickly turned to ice. I think the braces are cold conductors. Inside is much warmer, but still not enough to heat my poor tootsies. Then I am miserable.

My best shared heat was in college. At Joe’s we had hot water radiators in each room. They had two settings. On and off. There was a valve, but it just slowed the filling of the radiator. Once full it blasted heat in the room. And the water from the basement boilers was always very hot. The radiators would grow scalding to the touch. It was awesome.

Folks used their window as a temperature control. I know, you’re thinking that an open window over a water radiator is trouble for the asking. But, it wasn’t. The water was so hot that they were never in danger of freezing.

They’ve upgraded that system to some less 1950s now, but I’m sure it is less awesome. I was never cold at Joe’s. one night, while passed out, I was pranked. Among other things, they closed my “thermostat” and closed me up inside (and buried under newsprint). I nearly broiled before regaining consciousness.

My current place doesn’t work the same. Plus I fight with my maids. They seem to think that 14*C is a good temperature. I suffer cold feet.

Fortunately, I have a mother. When she was over on the weekend, listening to me whine, she fixed my fireplace. Yay. Great heat is once again within my grasp and under my feet.

Moms rock.

But if I hate the cold this much now, what happens when I’m 70? Hope Mom can still help.

Look a recap

I saw the following doctors today:

  • two neurologists
  • a rehab medicine dude
  • a dietician
  • a social worker
  • a pulmonary neurologist
  • and a respiratory therapist

As a result they want me to see 5 more doctors and then report back. I certainly can’t complain about the quantity of care. I want to point out that I’m not sick.

In other annoyances, my bus service has sucked lately. That might be apparent from my last post. My squeaky wheel act seems to have paid off. Dats visited work today in order to solve the door situation.

Work has been more exciting than normal. Environmental challenges abound. And I have someone new starting tomorrow while it is also someone’s last day.

In other normal stuff: gaming was pretty great, comics, especially Saga, were awesome, I’m reading a good book (The Twelve), and my weekend movie was also good.

I could probably do a whole recap post is a single sentence.

In lieu of

Here is what I wrote last night instead of a blog entry (some details occluded for privacy):

Hi,

My name is Todd and my number is xxxxx.

Before complaining I’d like to thank {my driver last night]and the dispatcher who organized my ride tonight. I appreciate their efforts.

I’ve had significant issues with my nightly pickups from work in the past 2.5 weeks. On four occasions the driver has gone to the wrong door at the mall. My drop off and pick up should be at the Office door. The drivers keep going to the main door.

On the previous three locations, I’ve been fortunate. I called to check on a late ride at 5:15 while the driver was at the wrong door and they have been able to simply pull ahead to my door and pick me up. (My door is about 50 yards east of the main door. Clearly labeled with the government logo and ministry name.).

Today I was ‘no showed’ for my first trip when the driver didn’t find me at the main entrance. I called option 1 and they sent another bus for 5:45 to 6:15. That one also went to the wrong door and no showed me. It took a third bus at 7:10 before I was finally picked up. 2 hours after the end of my original pickup window during which I sat in the entrance vestibule waiting.

I’m not sure what I can do to improve the service. I’m not sure what you can do either. But I’m asking that something be done. Maybe the note in my pickup entry can be clearer? Or I could be called before I am no-showed? (I realize that might be tricky.) Normally I don’t get an IVR call in the afternoon saying my ride is on the way. I’m not sure why – I always do in the morning and it is the same phone number. If I got an IVR I could perhaps go outside to look or send a coworker over to the main door (if there is someone still around).

I’m not sure any of those suggestions are practical. Tonight I was the last person in the office for about 45 minutes. After I was told the second time that my ride had left without me, I started to get pretty worried. I had my phone and a million office phones around so I could have called friends for help. (They’d have helped, but I hate to make the imposition.). But I was a bit scared nonetheless.

I’m normally really happy with the DATS service. I’m still very happy with it. The drivers and other staff are excellent. I’m just hoping something can be done to aid this situation.

Thanks,
Todd

[insert clever Princess Bride reference] Recap

You may not have noticed, but the weather has turned. Grr. This was the big happening of the week for me. I huddled inside and avoided driving my scooter in the loose snow. This isn’t a huge impact, but I missed two lunches (both of which my kind staff solved for me) and I really need to visit a drug store soon.

The other impact is my bus trips. Everyone asks how bad it was. It wasn’t. There were three days, six trips, and most took only 15-20 minutes longer than normal. This was better than most folks I spoke to. The one trip did suck though. I was in transit for three hours and spent 2.5 of that on the bus. The trip wasn’t scary just very long. I arrived home so late I felt I didn’t have time to order in supper and make it to bed at a reasonable time. I whined on Facebook and 20 minutes later Dave delivered supper. I ended up going to bed only 20 minutes late.

Mom was given the task of getting my walker repaired. Mom is awesome. I asked for help because I was worried it would be a pain calling local vendors, getting quotes and so forth. I turns out it was! I’m sure Mom spent ~16 hours on the phone and even driving around to show vendors the damage (on bad roads!). New walker will arrive in 2-3 weeks.

I had an extra long weekend too. I had both Friday and Monday off. Yay. It was great.

Ok. Normal stuff.

Read a book: Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow. It is the latest in his Young Adult series on civil disobedience. I’ll likely do a full review soon.

Read comics. They were delayed due to weather, but still great.

Saw movies: Skyfall and Flight in theatres. One of my staff got me a free pass to Skyfall on Monday so we went together. Skyfall is excellent. It is my pick of the Daniel Craig Bonds. I recommend it to anyone who has ever enjoyed a Bond movie. Flight is trickier. It is billed as a movie about an amazing pilot and flight, but it is really a movie about alcoholism. It is only slightly less grim than Leaving Las Vegas. The performances are great (John Goodman steals his scenes). It was ok for what it was.

Played games: I complained about Friday gaming already. Yesterday Dave and I also played X-wing miniatures. I won one and lost one. Much like the first two movies: A New Hope and then The Rebellion Strikes Back. I’m confident that the next episode with be the Return of the Sith! 🙂

Drank Scotch: tried one of my new scotch bottles. I had bought the twelve year after sampling the 18 year. It was good but disappointing. What I had found special about the older expression wasn’t in the younger. But still good.

I think that catches us up. Look at all the friends and family doing kind turns for me last week. Thanks all!