Media Indulgence: Green Day & Dresden

1 06 2009

Got a new album and a new book this weekend. May as well do a review.

Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown didn’t really grow on me after two plays. I’ll give it another spin, we’ll see, but it lacks something. Feels like a random pile of strummy stuff, without a lot of standout, without a lot of recognizability. No shapes to grasp, no hooks to hang on, no story to follow.

American Idiot was also a punk rock opera, but at least each song there was distinct, each had moments and sounds that really clicked and made them distinct elements of a whole… so far, this new work is just a mish-mash with no direction and no shape and no arc. I won’t say it sucks, but it’s not making my Desert Island List, if you know what I mean.

(Coincidentally, if I had to go off the top of my head? My desert island list would be American Idiot, BloodSugarSexMagic, Demon Days, Doolittle, John Henry, Hold Your Colour, Little By Little, Nevermind, Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, and The Cars.)

(Edit: On re-re-relistening? I like the middle of the album, the “Charlatans & Saints” portion. It has distinctive songs, with a cohesive sound. But god, the first third of the album wobbles around like a drunken sot. It may be time to deploy my buddy, Mr. iTunes Custom Playlist, like how I combined Demon Days and Demon Days Live and G-Sides to make one SUPA GORILLAZ MIXU.)

Next up, in my efforts to find NEW Kindle reading material and not just books by authors I already knew, I decided to look into the Dresden Files books. (Pulp noir detective plus urban myth and magic fantasy.) Mostly because I kept seeing Chris of the Invincible Superblog pimping it — which should have been my first clue as to what it really was, given his adoration of big fat stupid fun.

At first I was wholly unimpressed; it felt flat, simple, thin. Certainly a step down from the Pratchett stuff I had been reading, even his alleged “children’s” books in the Tiffany Aching series. But then spells started flying, demons showed up, hijinx ensued, and I started getting into it. They’re definitely “popcorn reading”, if that makes any sense, but it turns out I really wanted some popcorn. So that works out in the end and I’m glad I’ve got a nice long series ahead of me. (When I finished the last Tiffany Aching book I was all pouty because I wanted more. …and with pTerry’s embuggerance, well… we may never get more. Sigh. We’re all getting older, aren’t we…)

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16 responses

1 06 2009
jengagne

You’re like Raistlin with the old thing, man. ;) (No, I’m not actually worried, it’s just kinda funny to me.) Glad the Kindle is working out so well for you!

1 06 2009
lirazel

Might be perfect for Kindle
I know you’ve read Neal Stephenson, but The Cryptonomicon might be just right for reading on Kindle.

1 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: Might be perfect for Kindle
I read that in papertree version (at great effort). A good book, but I wasn’t gripped enough to justify reading the massive baroque cycle that followed.
Stephenson’s kind of a funny thing. I love Snow Crash, I REALLY love his obscure early novel Zodiac, but Diamond Age and later didn’t really work for me. Granted, I was probably too young when I read Diamond Age, and I’ll be giving it another read at some point.

1 06 2009
lirazel

Re: Might be perfect for Kindle
Let’s try that again… I also love Zodiac, being from Boston and all. I didn’t like the Baroque Cycle, mostly because I’ve read a lot (like all of Pepys’ diaries, and John Evelyn’s diary, and some others) of the source material, and I started to get pissed off really, really early in the first book about the uses he was making of it.
Which made me think that if I knew more about WWII and such, I might like Cryptonomicon less. Ah well. , who is from the Phillipines, says that the modern Filipino bits of Cryptonomicon are spot-on, FWIW.
I shall now think of other monstrously large but more recent books you might enjoy.

1 06 2009
pyromaniac_ks

Re: Might be perfect for Kindle
I did like Diamond Age, interesting take on post-scarcity society. And yes, I agree that Snow Crash and Zodiac are Awesome, Awesome books (Although I am fonder of Zodiac).
Cryptonomicon I rather enjoyed. The Baroque Cycle just… Didn’t particularly grab me though. It was more of a slog than an enjoyable reading experience.

1 06 2009
jengagne

Re: Might be perfect for Kindle
Twoflower and I are divergent here because I liked Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon best.
I’d imagine the Baroque Cycle would be pretty excruciating if:
A) the situation you just described, familiarity with source so divergences are annoying,
B) if you’re a slow reader,
C) it’s just not your thing…
Anathem was interesting but I guess I got tired of mentally translating all the made-up words eventually. The ending bugged me in some ways, too. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more on a second reading (as I did with other books of his).

1 06 2009
ariella4ever

May I highly reccomend Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

1 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Already got it. :D It’s delightful.

1 06 2009
shadur

The first few Dresden Files books suffer ever so slightly from the author-finding-their-voice syndrome. They improve drastically. And if you haven’t read Dead Beat yet, you’re in for a /treat/. :D

1 06 2009
orikes13

On the Dresden books, the first one is the slowest and hardest to get into. I actually didn’t make it through the first time I read it and only picked it up later because I didn’t have anything else to read. Once you’re past that, each book gets successively better and better. There are some parts in the later books that had me stopping and putting the book down because I was laughing too hard.

1 06 2009
orikes13

I’ll never be able to listen to Polka the same way again.

1 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Yeah, I had the feeling that the author was still trying to figure out where this was going, who these people were, and how everything worked. A lot of book series are like that — even Discworld, which had a pair of generic and silly fantasy parody romps to start with before settling into its epic storytelling techniques.

1 06 2009
orikes13

If I remember correctly, ‘Storm Front’ was actually mostly written for a creative writing class. He had been trying to write classic high fantasy and not getting very far, so ended up trying something different. He polished it up and it actually sold. He definitely finds his voice in the next couple of books.

1 06 2009
kowh

Heh, it seems everyone I know online is a fan of the Dresden Files.
They may be a bit popcorn, but there’s nothing wrong with books you find entertaining. In fact, if a book is not entertaining why read it at all?
There’s even a tv series based on the series. It diverges a little from the books, but is still decent watching. I was disappointed when it wasn’t renewed after the first season.

2 06 2009
mtws

I think book 4 is where he really hits his stride, although book 3 is also quite solid and is also the first time Butcher starts displaying his very impressive ability to set up clever plot hooks way the hell in advance, although of course that’s not immediately obvious.
I honestly would not hesitate to suggest skipping Fool Moon entirely. Near as I can recall there are exactly three pieces of information in Fool Moon that are relevant later on:
1. There are werewolves.
2. Some of them help Harry.
3. John Marcone is pretty badass.
That about sums it up. There’s a good deal of wankery about various types of werewolves, but unlike his vampires which have some justification in the multiple real-world cultural concepts of what “vampire” means, the Dresdenverse werewolf varieties feel like items from a poorly-conceived D&D supplement. Apparently Butcher felt likewise in retrospect because eight books later it has Never Been Mentioned Again (at least not in any significant way).
(And yes, I’m pretty certain the Marcone faction in CoV is a reference.)

2 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

It may be a bit thin, but I’m finding Fool Moon to be entertaining enough. I don’t mind sitting through these early books to get to the meat; they’re charming in their own way, once you accept their terms.
I was wondering about the Marcones. Heh.

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