Tuesday, June 3, 2014

REVIEW: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15) Skin Game by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 15 was enjoyable but it was not one of the best books of the series. I had several issues with the characters.

The Characters

+ Dresden

I'm sick of Dresden's self-reproach. I know it's a personality flaw and it's never leaving because it's book fucking 15 and still no sign of self-esteem growth but I really wish it would. I'm tired of Urban Fantasy protags hating themselves for simply existing.

Secondly, he spent a year in Demonreach and all he learned was parkour. Granted, he did display a few new spells throughout the book, but these ice spells were still the same blunt force type as his fire spells. He should have learned other types of spells, types that would allow him to detect enemies (e.g. heat-seeking sight), summon familiars (e.g. golems or shikigami), make obstacles (e.g. fog or stalagmites), etc. There's more to magic than calling up a buttload of fire and ice to blast at enemies. For fuck sake, learn a healing spell already!

I couldn't believe parkour was all that he learned. Dresden is a piss-poor wizard. I hate how Dresden uses the excuse that he might kill people if he goes all out because of his inner demon. Yeah, right. It's not as if burning enemies to cinders or icing them to shards aren't deadly, which Dresden does with no hesitation and does often.

Dresden had access to Demonreach, an ageless entity of immeasurable knowledge, and he did nothing with it. For someone who believed the Winter Knight job would make him dark and twisted, he didn't research a way out of it. For someone who regularly told the reader Mab is vindictive and merciless, he put more effort into antagonizing the queen faerie than following his common sense.

I still like Dresden but he disappointed me greatly. The only reason he did not anger me as much as he could have was because I was too busy being annoyed with Nicodemus and infuriated with Butters. Plus, there was mpreg, which was hilarious.

+ Nicodemus

I know a villain is a poor excuse for a villain when I could have done better in his place. There were several ways I thought Nicky could have screwed Dresden. For instance, he could have made Dresden, as his oath-bound accomplice, kill Butters under the idea that Dresden needed to put down anyone who threatened the heist. And not just Butters, Nicky could have twisted the oath in a way that would force Dresden to choose between his friends and obeying the oath where Dresden would obviously choose his friends but would then die for his choice.

Nicky regressed severely. Instead of delicious deception, most of his evil acts were all blunt force that is emblematic of a mortal muscle-head. What little deception he did was predictable which totally defeated the purpose of deception.

Finally, sacrificing that one person was the stupidest thing he could have done. He couldn't bring some of his fanatics along and sacrificed one of them? Trust was the only requirement, and the fanatics have immense trust in him. You gotta be if you're going to dedicate your life to a demonic cult and allow your tongue to be severed. It's not the first time his fanatics died for Nicky in a mission.

+ Butters

I can't believe he didn't — at the very least — receive a verbal lashing after that stunt he pulled in the middle of the book, risking everyone's lives. Then, at the end he got rewarded and Murphy is on the out? Noooooooo! WTF is the Christian God is thinking? The dude will barely last a second. The only reason Butters got one over on the bad guy was because of divine intervention so unless the Christian God plans to intervene every time Butters is in a fight, a big fat NO. Worst idea ever.

It was bad enough I was already upset with Butters in the beginning of the book for thinking Dresden was his bitch. HEROES ARE NOT YOUR BITCHES, BUTTERS! They have a life of their own and crap to deal with, especially the perpetually unfortunate Dresden as you very well know. Every time you meet Dresden, you are sewing his insides back inside. And of course, the answer to your question about what he's doing now is paying a debt. DID YOU FUCKING THINK COMING BACK FROM DEATH WAS FREE? No, he doesn't have time to play superhero for the city again!

Good gracious, if Butters wasn't Dresden's go-to doctor, I would have told the dude to fuck off. I half wanted him to die during that stunt. Anyway, I hope poetic justice will be served in future books now that Butters, in his new role as a hero instead of just as a sidekick, will experience the shit Dresden and others go through. Be happy for now with your new metaphorical giant penis, Butters. It's all shitstorm from thereon out.

+ everyone else

Damsels in distress ahoy. It's like no matter how strong the woman is, she still needs Dresden to rescue her. Can the damsels rescue themselves for once? At least Valmont was not as bad as what's-her-name in the last book who was so annoyingly helpless and gloomy to the point where I just wanted her to die as soon as she was introduced.

Ascher wasn't a damsel but I hated how at the end she was treated as one by Dresden. Woman made her life choices just like her partner, Binder, made his choices. I hate how Dresden is pissy towards Binder but not towards Ascher as if both were not similar in many ways. I wish Dresden's bleeding heart quit its sexist tendencies.

Poor Murphy. I love the idea that vanilla humans can be on the same playing field with the mighty supernatural. Damn Butters for taking that idea away from me. Anyway, I hope Murphy goes back to being a cop. I hate how she is unemployed and lacking a future other than being a sidekick for Dresden when he needs her. Yeah, that's a pathetic future. I also don't care for the potential romance between them for all the reasons a character listed in the middle of the book.

It was good to see Michael temporarily in action again. I always thought it was silly how he retired because of his injuries in a world where magic exists and it's possible to come back from death. Seriously, why are healing spells non-existent?

The Worldbuilding

The series wandered in Greek mythology, Hades and his underworld to be specific. It was odd that the reader got to meet Hades, another deity, but still not the Christian God. Instead we meet again one of his lackeys, Archangel Uriel, who made a less than impressive impression. So much for the idea that the enigmatic character knew what was he was doing. Anyway, I wish the series dial down the Christian elements or dial up the other supernatural elements.


I rate Skin Game 3-stars for I like it. I might rate it up a star for re-readability; we'll see. I was disappointed we didn't learn more about the Outsiders and the Black Council. It made only an inch of progress in the story arc. How long is this reckoning going to be delayed? Anyway, the book was enjoyable but it could have easily been better.

Monday, June 2, 2014

REVIEW: The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough

The Plague Forge (Dire Earth Cycle, #3) The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It sucked. Horribly.

+ the writing

The writing didn't improve an inch. It remained excessively detailed. I swear, if a character went to the restroom to take a dump, the scene would have lasted FIVE full pages. Then, in the next chapter the character would still be shitting and it wouldn't be because of constipation. It didn't matter if there was action, which the book had a lot, the pace moved like molasses. I had less patience for book 3 than for book 2 so I skimmed more. I skimmed a lot. You know it's a bad book when you're skimming the action scenes.

+ the characters

I ceased caring for Skyler. He did improve from book 1. He did less angsting and more doing. Nevertheless, the character growth was nowhere enough for me to give a fuck whether the protag lived or died.

Tania, the second protag, improved a lot from the annoying-as-fuck damsel in distress she was in book 1. However, she regressed a bunch in book 3 by obsessing over Skyler. It was annoying enough to watch unrequited love from Skyler's side towards Tania, it was doubly annoying to watch it from Tania's side towards Skyler. The non-communication suffocated me.

Add in Ana, Skyler's current girlfriend, and a stinky love triangle exploded in my face. I felt bad for Ana because she loved Skyler but Skyler didn't love her as much, not as much as he secretly loved Tania. Honestly, the only reason I believe the two women loved Skyler was because he was the hero of the story and it's standard for heroes to have more than one love interest. In other words, the romance was forced and superficial.

The love triangle grated on my nerves. Tania and Ana seemed to be defined by their love for Skyler. At least with Tania, she was a protag of her own and had a life outside of Skyler. Though Ana was promoted from a minor character in book 2 to a major character in book 3, she existed solely as Skyler's sidekick. Without Skyler, she would have faded completely to the background. Thankfully, relief came in the middle of the big book when shit was so important that they couldn't afford the luxury of even a minute to obsess over Skyler. It was also depressing that it took that long and that much.

Samantha, the one major female character who wasn't a love interest of Skyler's, ceased to be my favorite character. I still liked her, which is hugely more than I feel for Skyler, but she wasn't doing anything that I thought was important shit. All she did was run, hide, and fight. It was pretty entertaining in book 1. But as the series progressed, it became boring. She didn't really serve a big role except to be one of the good guys for Skyler to save.

As for the villains, one of them disappointed me greatly. Blackfield broke character by performing a heroic act. After all that animosity and fighting against our good guys, suddenly he decided to help them towards the end because of, ew, altruism? No. I didn't buy it. I didn't buy the reason given that Blackfield was "varying the pattern," his motto of acting unpredictably to win. There's a thick line between acting unpredictably and acting altruistically, forgetting the fact that you're a despicable villain. What he should have done was backstab our good guys and survive like the cockroach of a person that he was.

As for Grillo, the other villain, he frustrated me, but it was in the sense that he was a great villain and he was kicking our good guys' ass. He didn't disappoint me as it was the good guys who disappointed me because they couldn't match him in war. What few victories the good guys gained were by luck in my opinion.

+ the ending

The ending was the worst offender of the book and overall, the series. It was rushed. It had dei ex machina. To add insult to injury, the epilogue was a letter addressed to the reader, telling the reader everything in one fat infodump. By everything, I mean all the things the book withheld from the reader. The reader learned about the reasons behind the apocalypse on Earth, the apocalypse in a galactic empire, the aliens' mission, and the characters' next adventure. The epilogue revealed the entire series as a prelude to the real story where the characters will fight supposedly evil aliens in a galactic war. A FUCKING PRELUDE. Why the fuck was this series not that story?

My feelings were confirmed in a Goodreads review which said that this trilogy was the first of three trilogies. *facepalm* I doubt that will happen if I have learned anything about series, sales, and publishers.


I rate The Plague Forge 1-star for I didn't like it. My only consolation was that I skimmed and the books were free courtesy of the very nice publisher humoring my requests. This series was essentially an unnecessarily expanded-to-the-extreme version of those prequel short stories you often see in Young Adult series.

If you read book 1 and didn't care for it but have a compulsion like me to know what happen at the "end," read book 3's epilogue. It's the only chapter that matters.

Review of book 1: The Darwin Elevator
Review of book 2: The Exodus Towers