Ghost Story – Jim Butcher – James Marsters

Well, bless Audible’s little heart. One spring morning I received this email:

“Dear Listener,

Here at Audible, we truly understand the power great performances bring to your favorite stories. And for long-running series, no matter how good a new voice may be, it can be hard to hear someone else bring beloved characters to life. So when Ghost Story: A Novel of the Dresden Files, Book 13, was narrated by someone other than series regular James Marsters, some listeners were disappointed.

We’re happy to report that Ghost Story has since been re-recorded with the inimitable Marsters at the helm – and, since you’re a fan of this series, we want you to have it free.”

“Disappointed” didn’t quite cover it.

I want to create a movie–style poster for this book, with a one–word tagline: “BOO”.

Ghost Story is one of those books whose end – even if you kind of pretty much know it’s coming – was still enough to rock me back on my heels. And to make me want to go back and listen to the book again, to pay attention to all those things that didn’t seem to need so much attention the first time around.

This interlude teaches Harry some valuable lessons – unable to act, he learns to consider more than he’s ever had the chance to do before. A valuable trait, considering what is to come.

See, this is why I tend not to write reviews of these series that I love so much. For one thing, I started reading Dresden back in the Cretaceous not too long after it was published, before I was really in the habit of writing reviews at all. Fast forward fifteen years (!), and I’ve read the first books a few times each, and Harry’s in my bloodstream. Harry and Molly and Mouse and Mister and old Uncle Tom Cobley and all are part of my life. While the books are (or at least can be) very different from each other, it’s hard to keep all my reviews from coming out very much the same: “I love Harry Dresden, I adore James Marsters, I am in love with James Marsters reading Harry Dresden, these books are great”, etc. I should look on it as an exercise in writing: how to write the same love song over and over, some fifteen times by now, and make it readable… but I don’t.

Ghost Story, of course, is not your usual Harry Dresden insofar as there is a usual Harry Dresden, and so …

One review I saw mentions that the reviewer is tired of Harry Dresden, doesn’t find him funny anymore.

I do. I’m not. Maybe it’s partly James Marsters reading it; maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m still having a great time after fifteen books (and this, #13, twice in seven months), and I would be very happy indeed to know that Harry and Jim Butcher and I will all get very very old together.

And then there was the famous flying broomstick incident of Wacker Drive…

Surprisingly, I think I laughed more listening to this audiobook than the others in the series. If there was any doubt that Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher are big ol’ geek–nerds, this puts paid to that idea. Harry’s new “superpowers” (“BAMF!” made me so very happy), and the quote he uses to prove he is himself, and the Gandalf internal monologue, and so on – so wonderful.

And: I mean, go figure. You prepare your home for an assault and you don’t take zombies into consideration. I’d fallen victim to one of the other classic blunders, along with not getting involved in a land war in Asia and never going in against a Sicilian when death was on the line.

AND a Pink Floyd reference: “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” Well done, sir.

“There are two kinds of people in the world, Molly: Star Wars fans, and Star Trek fans. This is shocking.” Look, Mister Wizard, you can identify who’s what on the Old Trek bridge, so just you shush.

(I still wonder why Harry never saw Firefly, though. Maybe because it didn’t last long enough on tv and his VCR/DVD player tends to malfunction – ?)

But there was also, kind of obviously, a lot of heart–string–yanking (nothing so gentle as tugging here). There is a really lovely story about that time Justin DuMorne gave Harry a baseball glove … and then a few minutes later he relates the fact that Justin trained him how to shield himself by throwing fastballs at him. Damn. As if I needed another reason for my heart to bleed for the very young Harry.

I should, I suppose, take a step back and acknowledge that, much as I do love Marsters, these aren’t perfect narrations. Take, for example, the phrase “sleeping quarters”; emphasis on the wrong word changes the meaning rather a bit. That sort of thing happens now and then, as with most narrators. But then I need to take that step forward again and reiterate that I really don’t care. It’s not perfect; it is more enjoyable than I would ever dare to expect.

Harry says, Girls don’t flock to the guy who drives the old car, reads a lot of books, and kicks down the doors of living nightmares.

Harry, you’ve been hanging out with the wrong women.

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