“I could fly my nerd flag with any of you guys.”

I hope you’re sitting down for this today. It’s gonna be a doozy.
Thing the First: I went to Jim Butcher’s book signing in Atlanta last night, and have fun anecdotes and pictures.
Thing the Second: I read GHOST STORY last week (that’s right, last week), and have opinions on it. Spoiler alert! It was good.

It was my birthday last week. Yay! So I gave myself the present of Jim Butcher’s signature. I had to drive 230 miles each way to get it, but whatever. We drove like proverbial bats out of hell to get down to Buckhead (downtown Atlanta, grumble grumble) to get our passes so we wouldn’t be at the end of the line. Because the fun part of this experience was that I had to be back to work at 7a.m. today. Harrowing! I saw a guy in the bookstore carrying around a banker’s box full of books.

Aside: That’s a dick move, guys. I called the bookstore ahead of time to make sure that there wasn’t some silly protocol we had to abide by, and found out about the passes, and that if I had – get this – more than ten books, I should get at the end of the line. TEN. BOOKS. Seriously? There were at least 300 people there anyway, and maybe half of them only had one book to be signed. I felt guilty about my six items, half of which were for other people who couldn’t come with. Not only is bringing a freaking truckload of stuff to a book signing rude to the other folks in line, it’s rude to the author. He’s actually got to scrawl his signature in all those books. We were in the first 100 people through, and he already had his wrist on an ice pack between books. Yeesh.

Anyway, we got started right at 7p.m. with a Q&A. Lots of people asked questions about stuff that was going to happen in the future, and he taunted us by singing “I’m not gonna tell you.” Smug bastard. He also let us know, in no uncertain terms, that that was actually one of his favorite activities. “People seemed to think CHANGES was a cliffhanger,” he said. “I maintain it was no cliffhanger, sir. Harry set out to rescue his little girl even if it killed him. Which it did. The end. But the screams of thousands of readers were like music to my ears.” He went on, “People are always asking me why I torture Harry. I’m not torturing him. I’m torturing all of you.”

-He’s working on a new epic fantasy series. Meanwhile, he’s only got the first sentence of COLD DAYS written, which, apparently, is “the hard part.”
-His feelings about Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition can be summed up in two words: New Coke.
-He’d be all right with (his words) Captain Tightpants (Nathan Fillion, for the non-Browncoats) playing Harry Dresden in a movie. Because “Nathan’s really good at getting beat up.”
-And speaking of Browncoats, apparently Adam Baldwin (the man we call Jayne) was the #2 selection for Dresden in the SciFi show. This reassures me as now I know Nicholas Cage was never in serious consideration.
-I had a DFRPG book to be signed and was wearing a Star Wars shirt and I wasn’t the biggest geek in the room.
-An expansion for the Dresden Files RPG (Evil Hat) is not out of the question.
-When asked how many books he was planning for Dresden, he said, “Twenty, ish, with the apocalyptic trilogy. I mean, I don’t know. I’ve never written a twenty-book series before. Plus my son might want to go to grad school or something. I don’t have a muse; I have a mortgage.”
-Someone asked him for formal author recommendations. He mentioned Harry Connolly, whom Fred Hicks has been pimping all over Twitter and Google+. (I am about halfway through CHILD OF FIRE and I have to agree.)
-And if you haven’t finished GHOST STORY yet – or if you don’t care about spoilery bits – when asked if we’d ever see Lash again, he said, “You already have. She just wasn’t mentioned by name.”
-Then there’s this, which may be the coolest picture-with-author ever:

There are more pictures on my G+. (If this link doesn’t work, let me know.)

Let me get something off my chest before I launch into the official review. GHOST STORY left me jittery and anxious, set my teeth on edge. I didn’t sit down and read it one sitting; I read it over four days in my bookstore’s back room, after my shift, while coworkers and bosses looked at me and said, “Why are you still here?” And while it wasn’t really anything like CHANGES, not in that super-meatgrinder kind of way, they both sort of threw me off balance. To be fair, I read the first twelve in about 5 weeks last summer while I was unemployed and broke, just having gotten off a depressing and unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in which I drank too much and then didn’t get paid. And when I finished CHANGES, Butcher’s right: I was pissed. And it’s stupid, I know. I wasn’t mad at the Dresdenverse, or at the Red Court, or anything like that. That’s all fake; I know that. I was mad at freaking Jim Butcher.

And then I had to wait a year. Brutal.

(I’ve since forgiven him.)

Right. So, the book. It’s the thirteenth in the series, not counting SIDE JOBS, the collection of short stories released last October. As mentioned earlier, CHANGES left the reader with a bit of a wtfihateyouforthisjimbutcher, emphasized only by the fact that we had to wait an extra three months for GHOST STORY’s release. We’d been hearing about it for ages, and I still haven’t read the back copy for the thing because all any of us heard was this: Harry Dresden has to solve his own murder.

I’m not sure I can boil it down much more than that without inadvertently giving something away. There are a lot of major players involved in this, including ones you aren’t expecting. The reader also gets a lot of backstory filled in, because, to be honest, Harry’s got a lot of down time, or, at the very least, time in which no one can hear him. There’s a lot of introspection and self-recrimination; as one might imagine, what happened at Chichen Itza weighs heavily upon him, and beats himself up over it a lot.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not an angst-fest. There is, however, a great deal of emotional turmoil, trouble, and, frankly, psychological scarring for everyone. After all, he’s just the one that’s dead. Everyone else has to keep going – without the benefit of the city’s local magical muscle. And things are messy.

There’s good news and bad news in this, of course. You get lots of character development out of Mortimer Lindquist (remember him?), Waldo Butters, and Molly, as well as meet a few new Carpenters.

The book isn’t set at the breakneck pace of the last few – and thank God for that, after CHANGES – but there is certainly enough action to keep the reader turning the pages. I will only say this: even its twists have twists.

My friend Michael asked me, after I finished it last Friday, “Is the ghost bad guy Justin DuMorne?” I said, “Do you really want me to answer that?” He eyed me, as if trying to glean the answer from my face, then shook his head sadly, and, sighing, said, “No.”

5/5 stars. Check out Jim Butcher’s website and follow him on Twitter. And if you’re of a mind, check out the Dresden Files RPG (link above). It’s awesome.

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