Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Fool Moon ch. 9

The_Dresden_Files_2007_Intertitle

Chapter 9

Harry goes to a place to do a thing, namely investigate the fearsome band of hardened criminals known as the STREETWOLVES.

street_sharks_001_9594

Not to be confused with the Street Sharks.

A block from the Forty-ninth Street Beach there was a run-down garage, the sort of place you only find in the worst sections of big cities.

I can just feel the dilapidation in Butcher’s evocative prose (there is a description of the place afterward but it includes the phrase “gobbets of rust” so I don’t think it counts).

On one side of the garage was a vacant lot; on the other, what looked like the sort of pawn shop where crooks traded in their spare guns and knives for a few extra dollars when things were tight.

Could it be any more obvious that Butcher has never been within 1000 miles of real “crooks”?

A faded sign hung askew over one of the garage doors, reading FULL MOON GARAGE

Back in my City of Bones post (which was extremely well reviewed in the New York Times) I made the following witty and trenchant observation:

Urban Fantasy tradition demands that vampires inhabit modern places of business with self-referential titles, and so the hotel is called Hotel Death.

Once again I am always right about everything, as we see this general principal also applies to werewolves. The werewolves in that movie also have a werewolf garage, and I believe in True Blood they’re a biker gang or something, so for whatever reason it seems to be common knowledge that werewolves are associated with vehicles and engine grease.

This is what really bothers me about Urban Fantasy- it’s just so cookie-cutter and formulaic, right down to the atomic level.

“Thank God it’s not too obvious or anything,” I muttered

See, this just draws attention to the obvious question- if you were a werewolf opening a werewolf garage, why on Earth would you call it that? To signal to other werewolves that they can get their cars fixed there? Just for the lulz? I mean you never see ordinary humans naming their garages HOMO SAPIENS GARAGE or GREAT APE GARAGE or something.

Harry uses his usual investigative technique- just barge into dangerous locations- armed with his blasting rod, shield bracelet and a ring that lets him do Falcon Punches. He doesn’t have his gun with him, presumably because there’s going to be an up-coming action scene that would be resolved too easily by a gun but not by magic blasts and Falcon Punches.

Sometimes, a biker gang is just a biker gang. There might be no connection to the Alphas at all.

There probably is, though. And in fact the rules of good writing and not wasting my fucking time dictate that the Streetwolves must have some sort of role in the plot.

Predictably. Harry’s approach of skipping merrily into dangerous locations gets him cornered in the dark by a group of ruffians. He tries to throw them off by using the rumor that he’s working with Johnny Marcone, but they know he’s really with the police.

Christ. I wished the police were as savvy as these ne’er-do-wells.

I think “I wished I had tried to make any sort of attempt at stealth at all” would be a more apt thought here”.

There was a rough laugh. “What do you think they say about you, Dresden? Get your hands where I can see them. Now.” There was the click-clack of a pump shotgun’s action.

There was a car. There was a sound. There was laughter. There was another sound.

For fuck’s sake man, write.

Harry asks about the murders, using the current police theory that the signs of werewolfery were faked.

There was a flurry of mutters around the room, low voices in hushed tones all around me. A dozen, maybe. More. I got a sudden, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Once again: maybe just walking straight into their hideout alone wasn’t the best idea.

Seriously, he starts panicking big time here and all I can think is why the fuck did you get yourself into this situation in the first place? This seems to be a running thing in these books, with Harry doing things that make no sense to serve the whims of the plot.

The STREETWOLVES (totally radical, bro) start chanting “kill him” and their shotgun-wielding leader tells them to keep a lid on it.

“Stop it,” he snarled, turning his head toward the others in the room. I could see his body responding as the energy grew, growing tenser, more ready. “Fight it. Hold it in, dammit. You can’t let it loose here. There will be cops all over us.”

CONTRACTIONS. USE THEM. DEAR GOD.

I really should have pointed this out more often in the Kvothe books, what is the deal with mediocre writers not using contractions.

The shotgun roared and threw a flash of white light over the room, showing me a frieze of half-dressed or naked men and women hurtling toward me, their faces twisted with grimaces of berserk anger.

In a previous chapter Bob the skull mentioned this kind of werewolf- I think it was lycanthropes- as being basically humans who are overtaken by animalistic instincts at certain times. I guess we’re going to be seeing all of the werewolf types in this book.

7ajub

Also, I feel I need to point out that this is the second time in the space of four chapters that Harry has been attacked by werewolves after wandering into a dark building. At the very least I guess it’s action-packed. Occasional werewolf attacks really would have livened up the Kvothe books (if you are the editor of Doors of Stone, you’re welcome).

A dude jumps on Harry so Harry Falcon Punches him with his magic ring, then runs out to his car. The greasy werewolf-leader dude stands in the doorway to prevent the rest of them from going after Harry. Harry looks into his eyes and SOOOOOOUUUUL BOOOOOOONDS which as I’ve mentioned is a thing that Harry does sometimes in order to deliver plot information or make women swoon.

Fury overwhelmed me

Hi, Richard!

If Parker was to live, I had to die. He had to kill me, pure and simple, and he had to do it alone to prove his strength to the pack. That was the only thing that kept him from coming at my throat that very second.

Worse, he didn’t know a damned thing about the last month’s killings.

In the first book there was a long string of Harry pissing people off chasing dead ends, followed by ominous I SHALL DESTROY YOU declarations that I’m assuming are Chekhov’s guns for future books. I wonder if this will follow suit.

He had seen me in much the same way I had seen him. I don’t know what he saw when he looked upon my soul. I didn’t want to know what was down there.

Nope, this inner darkness shit wasn’t convincing when Rothfuss tried it and I’m not buying it here either. If your character has inner darkness then you have to actually show them having inner darkness instead of just telling me they do.

Stupid, Harry,” I said. “How could you have been so stupid? Why in the hell did you go wandering in there like that?

Now you’re just drawing attention to how illogical Harry’s actions are.

Technically, I suppose, Parker and his lycanthropes weren’t human. The First Law of Magic, Thou Shalt Not Kill, wouldn’t necessarily apply to them. Legally, I might be able to make a case for the use of lethal magic to the White Council.

This makes it sound as if the Wizard’s First Rule (do you see) doesn’t have a “I had to use lethal force because a werewolf was trying to kill me” clause, which is kind of stupid. If ever there was a shoot first and ask questions later scenario, it would be werewolf vendettas.

(Out of context the quote up there makes it sound as if Harry is contemplating murdering the entire pack; he’s actually just saying that if Parker, the leader, comes after him he won’t hesitate to kill him, which is entirely reasonable)

Magic was more than just an energy source, like electricity or petroleum

Could’ve fooled me.

Harry goes on to talk about how magic is, like, life and shit.

There’s more magic in a baby’s first giggle than in any firestorm a wizard can conjure up, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Oh Jesus I forgot about this sentence.

This reminds of all that Love Is The Strongest Force stuff from Harry Potter. Look, I know it seems like you’re being profound or something and I’m enough of a starry eyed idealist at times to get behind something approximating that idea, but at the same time I refuse to accept that in just about any practical scenario you care to name a baby’s first giggle or whatever the fuck is going to be more useful than the ability to blow people up with your mind.

Magic comes from what is inside you. It is a part of you. You can’t weave together a spell that you don’t believe in.

I didn’t want to believe that killing was deep inside of me.

God this is such a stupid and contrived way to generate angst.

That was black magic, and it was easy to use. Easy and fun. Like Legos.

Just…. stop talking, Harry.

I went up to my office, unlocked it, and flipped on the lights. Gentleman Johnny Marcone was seated at my desk in a dark blue business suit, and his hulking bodyguard, Mr. Hendricks, was standing behind him.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN

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21 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Fool Moon ch. 9

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read The Dresden Files: Fool Moon ch. 10 – 11 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. Fibinachi

    The odd thing specifically about Magic comes from what is inside you. It is a part of you. You can’t weave together a spell that you don’t believe in.

    I didn’t want to believe that killing was deep inside of me.
    God this is such a stupid and contrived way to generate angst.

    is that it is specifically just a contrived and stupid way of generating angst. It could be a really cool plot point, and metaphysical corner stone of the world as written. Imagine if you actually had to believe killing was worth it in order for the magic to work – what does a pacifistic hero do in lethal situations? How do they stack up against antagonists perfectly willing to cross that line? How is wizarding duels resolved when both parties know the other won’t kill them? What if you have a subset of people who don’t want to kill, but will do it for a very specific cause or reason – you’d have entire “belief tribes” of wizarding folk who would be generally harmless unless this one thing came up, or maybe you’d have practioners of magic try to explain their intentional magical system in terms of real belief structures, so like, wiccan groups and buddhists mages and gnostic magi and christian wizards and so on (All of which would have, obviously, entirely different intention based ways of doing spells and crafting things, but able to accomplish sort of the same results. Imagine the fun half philosophical arguments! What if Harry had to work with a strict hasidic jew and a, this being Jim Butcher, say quiiiiiirky vegan hippy witch or something!)

    But no.
    No of course not.

    Harry still kills lots and lots of people, only he does it with his blasting staff or his gun, or by throwing fire at them, or electrocuting them, or pushing them off buildings, or just force punching them around, or any random thing, but it doesn’t “count” because it’s not “black magic”, and he didn’t really want to kill that person, like, in his heart of hearts

    (meanwhile, some mook chokes to death on his own blood and viscera because of his crushed sternum)

    It’s the worst kind of “intention is magic”, because it can nicely circumvent any counter argument by just going “Yeah, but at least I’m not using black magic! So I’m not bad! That’s the rules!”

    Reply
  3. welltemperedwriter

    I mean you never see ordinary humans naming their garages HOMO SAPIENS GARAGE or GREAT APE GARAGE or something.

    Though a friend of mine went to one called Grease Monkey earlier today. I’m now imagining it being run by monkeys…

    Reply
  4. Andrea Harris (@SpinsterAndCat)

    I’d like to know what sort of garages Butcher has (or had at the time) been used to go to. Where I come from (and where I currently live) a “dilapidated” garage is knows as the place where you can actually get your vehicle fixed, and for a reasonable price, instead of overcharged and a day later your engine burns out because the fancy cleaned-up place’s “mechanics” forgot to replace the plug after the oil change.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      Not to mention said Garage’s name. In my country, at least, excluding chain businesses like Sadeco and Midas, most garages are usually “Garage” followed by the owner’s name, the owner’s wife name, or (Name) and Sons. We’re that original, yep!

      Reply
      1. Austin H. Williams

        You’re not alone there… But, y’know, stick with what works, right? Auto garages aren’t the kinds of places you want to see brilliant flourishes of artistic inspiration.

        (Leaving aside stuff like detailing and custom mods and what-not…)

        Reply
  5. Signatus

    I really, really, REALLY hate wolf cliches. Look, I know they are supposed to be something different from wolves, but most of this beserker, uncontrollable rage, pack leader stuff comes from completely false wolf myths that have been totally disproven by scientist who kind of study this shit, like David Nieto Maecin and David Mech to mention some. While being predators (and thus potentially dangerous), wolves are actually timid, family creatures who have deep respect for their pack members. The whole pack leader shit is totally bullshit. You don’t need your father to alpha roll you, or to pee on your car’s tires, for you to know he’s your father, your mentor, and you’re but a child who is under his care. Wolves are pretty much the same, the cubs know who their parents are, and thus treat them as such.
    Most of the “aggressive” stances we see in wolves are highly ritualistic ways of comunication which serve to ease the relations in the pack, no different than your father looking reproachfully at you when you fail an exam, and you accepting the fair reprimand. Real aggression is very, very rare, and tyranic leaders don’t tend to last very long.

    That said, while the mythos of the werewolf is usually interpreted as the wolf being the beast within the man, I like to view it as the man being the actual aggressive, territorial, unpredictable dangerous beast, and the wolf, the spiritual part, linked with nature, loyalty and family that eases the monkey fury within the man. Much closer to what it is in reality.

    Anyways, you can’t say there is no action in this books. At least things happen. They may not make much of a sense, but things happen.

    Reply
    1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      “Monkey Fury” beautiful.

      Also aren’t wolf packs usually just a nuclear family unit and not just the canine equivalent of some sort of gang? And wolves usually eat things like rats and other small animals, yet werewolves in Urban Fantasy seem to have a desire to eat humans or other large animals. Give me a lycanthrope that hungers for voles please.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        Yes, they are nuclear families. Most born wolves eventually, just like human families, leave the pack and form a family of their own. They usually stay with the pack around 2-3 years to learn all they need before leaving. Females might stay a bit longer to help tend for the cubs.

        Wolves like big game. They eat small animals, but they prefer bigger game, such as deer and boar. They need to look for the pack, and the pack needs feeding. Hunting hare would mean spending a lot of energy for something that will scarcely benefit a single wolf, while larger game means the whole pack goes well fed. Certain wolf species form smaller packs (like signatus), but wolves like timberwolf can have packs up to 15 individuals.
        Anyways, what they certainly don’t crave is human flesh. They fear us, and with good reason. Hiding from us is the best defense they’ve got.

        Reply
    2. April

      My understanding is that a lot of this “alpha pack leader” stuff comes from the observations of wolves in captivity.

      In other words, the lupine equivalent of a prison gang.

      Those observations are then generalized out to the entirety of the species. It’d be like if someone went down to Sing Sing and watched the prisoners and then decided that’s what humans behaved like all the time.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        Exactly. In the sixties, Dr David Mech observed artificial packs of wolves in captivity. That is, they were wolves from different packs forced to live together in an enclosure. From such observations he gathered the whole Alpha Male concept and the tyranical society where the strongest and more ferocious is the leader. What he was actually seeing was a pack of foreigners submitted to a lot of stress forced to live together without any possible way out, and same as with humans, stress eventually becomes anxiety, or aggression.

        Later, when he started observing wolf packs in the wild, he realized how wrong he had been. There is no such thing as a tyrannical alpha male, but a mating pair, a mating male and a mating female, and their cubs. The relation is much more harmonic.
        Dr Roger Abrantes goes as far as to talk about dominance as ways to control and distribute resources. Later studies on dominance have shown there is no such thing as a rigid hierarchy and a game of dominance-submission, it varies in social contexts, same as with humans. The behavior is not the same between male brothers from a same litter, older brothers and yourger brothers, females, males, etc. There is also different relationship depending on the context, feeding, playing, sleeping… sounds like wolves are a bit more complex than the mythos of the alpha male would make us believe.

        Reply
  6. Austin H. Williams

    Forget being near the crooks, this part is making me wonder if Jim Butcher has even visited Chicago.

    Having been to (and lived in) many unsafe neighbourhoods, I can also attest that this is about the most suburban, Hollywood-manufactured vision of what the bad part of a city looks like.

    Reply
    1. Lin

      Apparently he had not in fact visited Chicago until well into the series, hence some of the improbable geography (locations, distances, landmarks, etc).

      Reply
      1. Lin

        I should add that I don’t think writers should write only about their hometown! but…do a little research…especially in the internet age!

        Reply
      2. Austin H. Williams

        The whole thing reeks to me of a Middle-Americans concept of what a big city is like. The closest legit big city to this guy actually is Chicago, but as he hadn’t even visited the place until he started writing this series, something tells me he’d never even set foot in an actual city until he decided he wanted to set his gritty noir fantasy in it.

        Maybe that’s why these books are so popular though – they match up near perfectly with the prejudices and assumptions of the timid, lilywhite neckbeards who make up such a disproportionate segment of the book-buying public. No veracity? No problem! It still seems/i> like what Chicago would be like to someone too cocooned in themselves to bother actually finding out!

        ::grumbles about ‘kids these days’ and wanders off::

        Reply
      1. Silver

        Oh man, the pervasive idea out here in the suburbs that drug dealers only exist in big cities is hilarious to me. I mentioned on the last post that Butcher lives near where I live… which just happens to be on the doorstep of the city which was only recently dethroned from the title of “place where the most meth addicts live”. Worldwide. I thought I’d mention it in case he does start talking about “crack houses” like drugs and drug dealing only happen to “run down” urban areas.

        Reply
      2. welltemperedwriter

        Around here they’re often out in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Since “middle of nowhere” is less than an hour from the city and there’s a lot fewer people to notice, well…

        Reply
  7. Reveen

    I’m actually pleasantly surprised that Harry has a tendency to get his ass kicked, instead of being wall to wall magical Rambo for the entire book. Though the whuppins are probably going to be mined for angst or be used as build up for when Harry CAN’T TAKE THIS SHIT ANYMORE and goes full wish fulfillment badass.

    I really should have pointed this out more often in the Kvothe books, what is the deal with mediocre writers not using contractions.

    Seriously, I wish we used half the number of contractions in real life speech than English used to.

    Shakespeare couldn’t even be bothered to fully spell out “the” and “have” sometimes, that’s how cool contractions are.

    http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Elision

    Reply

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