Sunday, 4 September 2016

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

I skipped a lot of books in this series to sit down with Skin Game as part of my ongoing attempt to read all the nominees for best novel Hugos. I'd read the first three or four Dresden Files books, mostly but not entirely enjoyed them, and really hadn't been eager to plow through the next, oh, 20 or so. (Or however many there are.)

But due to the kerfluffle last year, this ended up in the nominees, so I just went ahead and read it. I knew the big thing that had happened to Dresden over the last few books, as my husband has read them all, so some of what had happened was already spoiled. 

It kind of feels like there are two things to consider here - how is this is a book, and how is this as a Hugo nominee? Because it's perfectly possible for something to be fine and even enjoyable as a book, and still not something that really feels like a worthy nominee for a major award in the field. And I guess that's pretty much where I fall.

This was a perfectly acceptable and enjoyable heist novel, Butcher seems to have mostly abandoned the way he always had Harry say some variation of "yeah, I'm a chauvinist, what of it?" in every damned book, and it depicts a world that keeps changing in major ways and isn't afraid to move the story forward. It's a fun adventure novel.

That is pretty much all it is, and all it tries to be. It's the 20th book in the series, and by itself, there's nothing that makes this one stand out from the rest. (In a way, it's a pity, because the nomination of this book means Butcher can't be nominated for a Hugo for the series as a whole when he's done with this universe. As an overall achievement over many many books, I'd probably see that as more deserving of at least recognition, if not a win. But that's not going to happen now.)

It's of course not to say that books that aren't necessarily deserving haven't made it on the Hugo shortlist before - they obviously have, although not as part of such a concerted effort to seize control of all the nominations, instead of a push to get a single author recognized. I have more sympathy with the latter, although I really prefer the chaos and disagreement of a democracy.

So, if not really a worthy Hugo nominee, is Skin Game a bad book? Definitely not. As I said, Harry didn't once go for the bullshit "it's your fault if you care about my chauvinism" defense, nor did he act it out in those ways that were so very irritating, and that's a lot more pleasant. I'm also a sucker for heist stories, and Skin Games pulls it off well. The story moves along, the reversals are convincing and satisfying, and by the end of the book, I was well pleased, if not moved or in any way expecting the book to stick with me for a long time to come. 


I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees

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