Harry and Tera start walking and reach Susan eventually.
She hurried over to me, and then I felt Susan’s warmth against me as she slid one of my arms over her shoulder and pressed up against my side. She was wearing jeans that showed off her long legs, and a dark red jacket that complemented her dark skin. Her hair was tied back into a ponytail, and it made her neck look slender and vulnerable. Susan felt soft and warm beyond belief, and smelled clean and delightfully feminine
Harry never stops.
“Your face looks like a sack of purple potatoes,” Susan said, her dark eyes studying me, the lines in her face deepening.
“You say the sweetest things,” I mumbled.
Even when you’d expect it.
It’s easy to forget – Harry certainly seems to manage it – but supposedly Harry was brutalized repeatedly, THEN threw himself out of a moving car, THEN was beaten into a meat puddle to the point that his captors went through the trouble of an IV and blood bag just to keep him from checking out too soon.
This would work better if we were told he has some sort of magic regeneration ability – not fast enough to make a difference in an actual fight, but enough that he can get back on his feet between them. Maybe instead of that pathetic bit about how “omg my magic is gone forever” it could be that if you get beaten below a certain point, your magic gets rerouted to keeping you alive only and you slowly begin to heal up. Not how I like my squishy wizards, not really any basis in myth, but it’d at least give us some coherent rules for what’s going on and allow the author’s evident love of the character getting manly injuries yet somehow being basically fine. It also aids in the sense that the battles being fought are partly about knowledge and planning – just as Harry’s learned that kneecapping wolfsouls doesn’t actually work (somehow), they made a mistake when they gave him so much time to recover. (It reduces the importance of long-term planning when you get a free reset if you can just manage a breather, but this is clearly more on the tactics side than the strategy one.)
All of the Alphas were dressed in plain, dark bathrobes, rather than in their birthday suits, and I felt an oddly grateful feeling toward them for it. Things were weird enough without needing to ride around in a van with a bunch of naked, somewhat geeky college students.
While it’s clear Harry’s issues are only regarding male nudity, what I’m really quoting for is to say that I have never encountered the euphemism “birthday suit” outside of books. It used to confuse me so much. Is this a regional thing? Old person thing?
I put my seat belt on and noted the bruises on my hands and forearms-ugly, dark purple-and-brown splotches, so thickly scattered over my skin that in places I couldn’t tell where one stopped and the next began.
How is nothing broken? This doesn’t make sense.
He then asks why Susan is with the babywolf van and she explains “I was the only one old enough to rent the van.” so really, you can tell the first draft had them as highschoolers.
She recaps what’s happened from her side and asks why the truck crashed.
“Bad luck. Someone made all their tires explode at the same time.”
Susan gave me an arch look and started up the van. “Those bastards.
Now, we can assume she knows who someone is and how someone managed that, but, like so much of Harry’s witticisms and banter, it just doesn’t work right with what an asshole he is.
See, normally characters like this aren’t also constantly lying so this doesn’t come off as some sort of pathological inability to answer the fucking question. And of the characters who do lie, normally when they say it’s to protect others and all that it’s actually true and means lying makes their own life more difficult rather than hurting or killing everyone else around them and also involving lies that don’t seem to have any purpose but to fuck with others.
And if such a character did get others hurt and killed because of the fact they wouldn’t tell people the truth, and they supposedly were sad about this, that character would then have to make a point of changing their behavior and being extremely honest in their dealings with people from then on, or they’re going to look like even more of a horrible monster who doesn’t care.
Susan drives off to get them food and Harry naps. He wakes up when food arrives but despite supposedly being starving,
I snagged a golden paper crown from one of the bags and idly joined it into a circle and put it on my head. Susan blinked at me, then let out a brief laugh.
“I am,” I intoned, with an imperious narrowing of my eyes, “the burger king.” Susan laughed again, shaking her head, and Tera gave me a serious, level gaze. I checked the status of the young people in the back of the van, and found them, even the wounded ones, hungrily wolfing (no pun intended) down the food.
What is tone even.
Tera says that her gang is “puppies” who were just being whiners about the blood and maiming and they’re basically fine.
Harry begins to eat but not in a way that gets in the way of chatting because it’s not like he hasn’t eaten all day and was badly injured too. He finally asks why he found her blood there.
Tera took the hamburger patty off of the bun
Okay so – dogs will absolutely eat the bun with the hamburger, BUT ACTUALLY dogs are much better adapted to dealing with carbs than wolves, probably for the obvious reason. (Always be wary of “but X is just a domestic version of Y, so we should really be feeding it a diet for Y”, domestication covers more than just cuddliness.) Furthermore, wolves don’t eat regular meals like humans do, so Tera likely isn’t even that hungry. If anything, she may be nibbling for similar reasons to humans, because they’re social eaters – though in her specific case, because who eats first and last has to do with social ranking, and by god does she outrank everyone here.
Also she tells Harry not to ask and Tera, you’ve been generally reasonable but come on now. You should’ve volunteered the information already just because you know Harry’s going to ask at a random time without any consideration for if it’s a good idea. Be grateful he’s accidentally asked when you actually can talk and just tell him.
Anyway it’s the obvious answer, she was trying to deal with the spellwolves. She explains she expected to be able to take all of them because “Most of those who turn themselves into wolves know little about being wolf, wizard. But these had taken too much of the beast inside. except also what they’re doing is not at all beastlike because animals are noble and shit and also because we were explicitly told it runs off some rage spirit and really has no connection to wolves in particular. They don’t even act like wolves! Wolves do not have nonreproductive sex in response to blood.
I would translate this as, “I thought they were the shapeshift kind and not the ragebelt kind.” Makes sense she thinks she could take regular transformed humans, and since she’s not human it wouldn’t occur to her that the fact they were eating people was a point against them being the regular transformed version – also the book doesn’t really remember either since her “college”-kid pack doesn’t seem to have any problem with fighting by putting their mouth on fur and biting down.
He then asks about the dumbass babywolf pack.
She glanced back at them, and for a moment, I saw warmth and pride gleaming in her eyes, subverting the remote, alien lines of her face. “Children. But with strong hearts. They wished to learn, and I taught.
That sure sounds like not actually an answer in the least. I guess this is the point he ran out of excuses for stuffing new werewolves into this.
She says they’re going together, Harry says nope, him only.
“You are strong, wizard. But you have not yet seen my beast.
Does this mean anything? Probably not. “Beast” in this book is a lot like “binding” in Beautiful Creatures, it means “a thing related to what’s going on in the book”.
Harry asks her what she is. I checked the internet because I wanted confirmation about her being a wolf and the answer is a hearty fuck if anybody knows. She self-identifies as a person who’s lost family, which is actually not something it makes sense for a wolf to care so deeply about. I mean, they’re social, sure, but they don’t stay together forever and they will actually drive out pack members at times.
“Put some clothes on, you weird, yellow-eyed, table-dancing, werewolf-training, cryptic, stare-me-right-in-the-eyes-and-don’t-even-blink wench.”
Here we see that yeah, even when the author can’t pun and it doesn’t even make sense in context, he just really likes disrespecting women. Chivalry.
But Tera finds this funny therefore it’s totally okay to treat her like this, just like asking your black friends for an okay proves you’re not racist.
They end up at another giant mansion, and this time apparently it’s Georgia’s because I guess the babywolves met Tera at a rich people’s convention.
Georgia stretched, which did interesting things to the dark bathrobe
And we’re left to wonder – did he change them to college students so he could write this stuff and only come off as regular creepy, or did he write this and that’s why the editor changed it to college students?
She asks Billy to help her with bringing the wounded inside, but Billy refuses because apparently he wants to have a man conversation with Harry.
Tera, still naked and supremely unconcerned about it
So I can’t see the need to mention this besides wank fodder, but she’s already been mentioned as naked enough that you can assume she still is if you want to. Are there people out there who are really concerned about being sure their fantasies are 100% canonical?
Susan promptly stepped in front of me, somewhat obstructing the view
I’m so sorry, Rodriguez. I thought this would be an okay relationship.
Then she leaves to allow Billy to man-talk with Harry, who is a man.
Billy opens the conversation by asking about Harry’s paper crown.
“Do all werewolves,” I shot back, snatching the crown from my head
Christ, Harry. This is why you’re ALPHA MALE instead of actually cool. You put that on, admittedly for a reason I’m unclear of given it should hurt to move anything. The self-confident badass you want to be wouldn’t give a fuck, and even if you did, you wouldn’t show it, let alone immediately pull it off and try to insult him back.
Luckily, Harry is a sue, so Billy finds his lame insult SO COOL and wants to be just like him. He says Harry doesn’t look so great and is he sure he can do this, and Harry’s like no what are you stupid, so he offers his help.
“Look, kid. You don’t know what these Hexenwulfen can be like.
“I mean, beyond what you just saw while fighting one, which is pretty much all of it, they don’t get any other powers or anything.”
You don’t know what Marcone can be like
Can’t imagine how this even matters.
First, of the three possibilities, the most likely two are.
1) Marcone dies. What he’s like is irrelevant.
2) Marcone lives, but doesn’t realize who the helping werewolves were/that they even existed.
It’s only the third, Marcone living and realizing they helped him out, where it even matters what Marcone is like. And we know Marcone’s reaction to that! He is grateful, offers money and possibly further employment, and is remarkably tolerant of even rude refusals.
NO NOT GRATITUDE AND MONEY!!!
and you sure as hell have never seen anything like MacFinn outside of a movie theater
So even the author is admitting that this is just ripped off movie werewolves now.
It doesn’t matter anyway – it’s impossible to safely engage MacFinn, but he’s also functionally invulnerable so they have no reason to attempt it. And he doesn’t actually sound like he’s all that hard to run away from provided you see him coming and he’s distractible enough that even if he’s got similar speed (and we have no evidence of that) you only need to outrun him until you overtake a human.
I mean, sure, “I don’t need to outrun the danger, I just need to outrun the slowest guy,” is pretty awful ethically, but not in comparison to not being there at all so even more people get nommed on.
Anyway, Billy’s here to say that he’s got the same heroism right as Harry does: the possession of a cock.
(Try to argue against it all you want, but here we have Billy, Sir Not In Charge Whatsoever, having this conversation with Harry rather than Georgia.)
I forgive him a little because at least he drops some tasty worldbuilding.
I’m not stupid. I’ve got eyes. I see some things everyone else tries to pretend aren’t there. This vampire craze sweeping the nation. Why the hell shouldn’t there be some genuine vampires in it? Did you know that violent crimes have increased nearly forty percent in the last three years, Mr. Dresden? Murder alone has almost doubled, particularly in heavy urban areas and isolated rural areas.
Now, I love statistics, so it pains me to say this…but the way we keep track of this stuff is terrible, and increases/decreases have a lot more to do with what the police bother to write down than it should. Also, always beware percentages.
What’s the murder rate in the rural areas, for example? Because if it’s one a year and now it’s two, that’s not the end of the world. And some of that could just be advances in forensics making it so they now write down “poisoning” instead of “old age or whatever, let’s get lunch”, or the urban police started paying more attention to apparent suicides.
Abductions and disappearances have gone up nearly three hundred percent.
And this is a particularly wonky one. On the surface, it seems straightforward – the more people disappear, the more bad things are happening that we don’t know about. In practice, it’s parents stealing kids from each other. To get anywhere near the actual abduction/disappearance rate, you have to go through and remove all the ones where contested children and an adult relative disappeared at the same time. What remains is largely runaway kids. (Also bear in mind that the statistics usually given includes those found again shortly afterward…and it goes by case, so a kid who runs away every day and is found within hours has just added 365 missing people to the statistic for everyone to handwring over.)
But let’s say Billy here, being supposedly a college student, actually has access to papers discussing this stuff that have filtered these statistics into something more accurate, even though that goes completely against his whole “only I noticed!!!” implication here. I mean, maybe he’s the sort of self-important college student who thinks he’s amazing for understanding something spoonfed to him.
So, in the Dresden universe, rural and urban areas have become roughly twice as deadly as before. Why not suburbs? Why are they so safe, besides the fact most of the readers are there and would have a harder time suspending their disbelief about claims their own area had become a deathtrap than about how the places other people live are scary?
Well, we talked a bunch last time about the idea that places are required for good magic. Suburbs first appear about a century ago, but they don’t take off in America until the 1950s, which is after Harry’s technology cutoff. Cities are often historic and even a newly created rural area has the problem of all that non-bulldozed, not new land around it.
Of course, if this is true you should see more specific results than “violent crimes went up forty percent”. You should see increasing disparities between old cities and new ones.
Harry informs us he didn’t know the exact details because pfff, reading, but he confirms that the cops talk about things getting worse and when people grumble vaguely about things getting worse it’s always 110% the truth.
“I’m sort of a pessimist, Mr. Dresden. I think that people are almost too incompetent to hurt themselves so badly. I mean, if criminals were trying, they couldn’t increase their production by three hundred percent.
Okay, so noir, so everything’s supposed to be shit, but god this attitude pisses me off and the rest of the book is shit at being noir and all self-congratulatory, so it just comes off as smug better-than-you cynicism.
Did you know modern pot contains far more THC? Specifically an average increase of about…three hundred precent. SELECTIVE BREEDING: IT FUCKING WORKS.
Oh, but you meant you didn’t think criminal activity in general could increase OH HEY THAT’S TOTALLY A THING.
It’s almost like everything around us shows how things can change and improve over time!
But no, it’s because magic. Sure, we even just had a fight where it was outright stated that staying human so you could fire your gun was actually the smart move, but guns existed before the author was born so the fact that the only exist for an invisible instant on the scale of total existence doesn’t matter, they’re just things that are there and not a human accomplishment at all.
He then states the supernatural world is making a comeback, which I think is the first time anyone’s explicitly admitted that there’s no way this could’ve been status quo the whole time, but conflicts with the way the vampires appear to be long-standing features and the general atmosphere of noir having life just suck inherently. It is the best fit for including magic, though, and kind of like Cthulhu mythos has shifted from the universe not caring to the universe actively hating us, the modern version of noir’s cynicism might be the idea things are rapidly getting worse for reasons outside of our control.
Tera offered us the chance to do something, when she met us through the Northwest Passage Project, and we took it.”
Which just raises the question of why Tera would want things to change, and also what change would mean from her POV.
Most magic predators we’ve seen prey on humans, so all nonhumans will be doing better as a result. Even if we assume this is just an artifact of Harry’s attention and they’re relatively equal opportunity about it, wolves already deal with predation while humans functionally don’t at this point. Humans also have much more complex systems that are more at risk of destabilizing if anything changes, so if she’s a wolf, the supernatural’s return is either to her advantage or enormously to her advantage.
If she actually is a magic thing, then…pretty sure she’s pro-magic.
There’s a remaining option, that she’s some sort of “natural” spirit of the earth, meaning there’s at least one other kind of magic in play (which hasn’t been mentioned before and doesn’t fit with the fact last book was all about how nature = standard magic)and so the increase in other magic means her own becomes comparatively less powerful. But humans have been curbstomping nature in general and wolves in particular without a problem, so still, seems she should do better with something else around killing humans off.
Harry wants to argue but sees himself in the kid.
If I was ten years younger, a foot shorter, and a couple of pounds heavier, that could have been me talking.
…okay, so either Harry is thirty and yet still acting like this much of a douchebro or the editor missed this when insisting these are totally college kids.
And I had to admit, the kid did have power. I mean, turning yourself into a wolf is no cheap parlor trick.
Unlike Kim, I guess. But is he wizard-class?
Going by illhousen’s lastest Dresden post, it seems like the books allow for hyperspecialized magic, a little like I was speculating about with storm-talents back last book. And as the commenters point out, this is a lot more X-Men than wizardry.
So we have several conflicting models in play here.
The “college” student gang suggests that this is just a collection of people with shared interests who met someone who could teach them – there’s no sign they’d self-selected for magically talented people beforehand. And given how crappy werewolfism actually is, that seems pretty fair. And the fact that’s all he and his friends do and Harry doesn’t consider teaching them to activate a circle and get inside suggests they can’t do regular magic
Bob the rapist skull describes this as a thing wizards can do, so it does require magic talent and if you can do that you can probably do other things, and Harry’s “power” description here should mean that he’s powerful in general, because otherwise it’s irrelevant how much power it takes to transform if that’s all he does.
Harry here is taking the worst options from both and saying it’s a super big deal to be able to do this, but somehow they’re still specialized and can’t do anything useful.
Anyway this just keeps going…
But I did have one angle to play, and I took it. I didn’t want this kid’s blood on my hands.
“I don’t think you’re ready for the big leagues yet, Billy.”
“Could be,” he said. “But there’s no one else in the bull pen.”
I had to give the kid credit. He had resolve. “Maybe you should sit this one out, and live to fight another day. It could all go bad, and if it does, those Hexenwulfen we took on down by the beach are going to be coming for you. Someone will need to stay with your wounded people, to protect them.”
“More likely, if they go through you, they’re going to go through us, too. It would be smarter to pile on everything we’ve got in one place. With you.”
And it’s about here that it becomes impossible to ignore the SINCE WHEN DOES HE SPEAK FOR EVERYONE elephant stomping about. The conversation opening can be read as Harry talking to Billy because Billy’s there and initiating conversation, but he’s speaking as if either he’s fine with the rest of the babywolf pack dying or he thinks convincing Billy is all it takes.
Or maybe he figures only Billy is going to do this despite the whole “we we we we we” bit from Billy? And then he proceeds to go on for a bit about not wanting to take Billy, then on the final line he says Billy Borden and his buddies go with me as if he’s abruptly remembered this is a group and not an individual.
Anyway, he decides that fuck it, he could use them, at which point he begins to negotiate as if Billy is leader about how they must obey him and not Tera. Billy agrees and Harry apparently feels this is legally binding for the entire group.
There was a disgusted sound from the doorway, and then the lights came on again. Georgia, in all her willowy, annoyed glory, was standing in the doorway to the garage.
“Billy Borden,” she said. “Don’t you have any better sense than to stay here in the dark?” She stalked out toward him, scowling.
He looked up at her calmly and said, “Tell everyone we’re going along. Dresden’s in charge. If they can handle that, they’re in, and if not, they’re staying here to guard Cindy and Alex.”
Georgia’s eyes widened and she gave a little whoop of excitement.
I can accept this from Billy. We can assume the babywolf pack all wanted to do this but weren’t sure how much trouble Harry would be about it. At the same time, I assume the reason this is playing out like this is because Billy is now actual babywolf pack leader and Georgia is just a feisty sex object.
Also, Georgia hugs both of them because she’s a girl, in the process finding out that Billy has an injury, in the process leading Harry to say that now that Billy is him-but-a-decade-ago, the kid gets a narrative upgrade and the porkiness is now in part because he’s just got so much muscle packed in there.
Georgia is a girl, so she’s all nooo you’re injured and Billy is a REAL MAN who tells her that you can’t bandage it and keep it on me when I change, anyway.” so it doesn’t matter that he’s hurt and she’s a girl so she criticizes him for his risky attack on the spellwolf and he’s a REAL MAN so he flashed her a grin and says it nearly worked so totally worth it!
“You almost got yourself killed,” she said, but her voice had softened a few shades.
So yeah. Girls tell you not to do dangerous stuff even though, as a real man, you know risks are necessary and fear is for other people, and then they’re sad at the thought of losing you but accept your manly badass decisions and that’s the end of it. Just like Connor-sue and Risa!
I guess babywolves function on oldschool inheritance rules where by hooking up with the pack leader, he gains the position from her and she’s demoted.
Harry claims to be grossed out by their love and leaves but given they’re staring silently at each other while almost naked, I think they forgot he existed and were about to fuck in front of him and even he felt that was a level of creepiness he didn’t want.
I had never much believed in God. Well, that’s not quite true. I believed that there was a God, or something close enough to it to warrant the name-if there were demons, there had to be angels, right? If there was a Devil, somewhere, there had to be a God. But He and I had never really seen things in quite the same terms.
Jesus H Christ you’re an idiot.
So: what the fuck are demons exactly? Last book they were just things what try to kill you. This book, they apparently have this whole thing going on about souls and references to Christianity being the other side, but nothing actually made sense with their supposed goals.
Even if we brush that off as just general hack incompetence, going just by what we were told, there are demons and there’s an opposing side. That doesn’t prove that God exists, it just makes a decent case for angels. Pure symmetry would suggest the angels having roughly the same power scale as the demons, but assuming the good/evil divide is in play, people would be summoning angels all the time because losing control would just mean they helped out people or, at very worst, disappeared without doing anything. Therefore, if angels aren’t around, they must not be summonable or must not behave in benevolent ways when summoned.
In other words, nothing about the way the demons function seems like it matches angels as we know it, therefore nothing about them suggests angels must exist.
What we actually know:
Demons claim to be the opposition of some force that’s behind/connected to the Christian church in the most general sense.
Demons claim said opposition does nasty stuff too.
So could be that angels are equally monstrous but have better PR departments, or that angels and demons are the exact same creatures, maybe factions and sides as claimed and maybe just playing both sides of the field for their own reasons.
All of it strongly suggests there’s no God, because while the pop culture version of religion tends to involve a lot of give and take because it’s easy to think of two organizations fighting each other, it doesn’t make any sense theologically with most versions of the pop culture conception of a deity as something that can do anything and know everything.
Other setups might argue the existence of supernatural demons inherently requires a god, but that doesn’t work in a setting already packed to the gills with the secular supernatural. Despite the at times desperate attempts to make fairies work under the Christian framework, the fact there’s fae and whatever the fuck else is going on in the Nevernever actively contradicts the idea this universe had a single creator – come to think of it, kitchen sink settings generally do. Plus also there’s apparently cthulhu, who’s distinct from demons in an extremely unclear manner, therefore not only is supernatural stuff not limited to the divine/demonic, but even outside of reality summonable entities come in an undeniably secular flavor.
In conclusion, fuck you and your fucking face. I hope you die and your replacement actually is a magic geek who has thoughts that aren’t painfully stupid.
Now that I’ve established that there’s no evidence of god and the only extra-universe powers we know of appear to be actively malevolent:
All the same, I flashed a look up at the ceiling. I didn’t say or think any words, but if God was listening, I hoped he got the message nonetheless.
So here’s one of the reasons I’m not attracted to religion: if I try to imagine God is listening, I imagine a lot of gods as possible. How do I know this thing is benevolent? If there’s some incredibly powerful force in existence, but it doesn’t notice you unless you pray, what if by praying you’re just alerting it to snatch your hopes away from you?
I’m not saying that’s how it works. I’m saying that it seems precisely as likely as it helping given we’re talking about something no one can verify and interacting with it by a method that doesn’t make sense. It’s like the Pascal’s Wager thing where I might point out rational objections, but what I’m really picturing is going to double hell for picking the wrong religion to give lip service to.
I guess where I’m going with this is, in a foxhole I might end up more agnostic than atheist, but I’d be sitting there unable to decide whether prayer would make my death more or less likely, not praying. And that’s in the current secular world, not the one where the only religious things we’ve encountered are demons.
Like Pascal’s Wager, this actually isn’t a situation where you have nothing to lose by trying. There are a whole lot of things worse than it doing nothing and they’re all equally plausible. Harry could stand to be more paranoid.