The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Good Guys discussion with spoilers

| 29 Comments

Place to talk about Good Guys.  Feel free to come up with theories I won’t respond to, questions I won’t answer, or complaints that I’ll try not to let bother me.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

29 Comments

  1. Two can play that game – I really liked it and have been recommending the book to my reader friends. Don’t respond to /that/. 😉

  2. I think there should have been more whiskey.

  3. How about personal responses? I’m not sure why, but I kept picturing Donovan as Bunk from The Wire. Maybe it was his world weariness and “not giving a crap what the boss thinks” ness.

    Maybe it was the “daaa-yums”.

    I kept expecting his next line to start with “Sheeee-it”

  4. Enjoyed quite a bit. Character deaths are always tough when you’ve gotten attached to them, perhaps you can ease the pain by giving us an earlier story?

  5. I’m still mad you made me cry
    On a more serious note, I really enjoyed this book a lot. I was a bit leery coming in but I was hooked after a few pages. I always love the way you weave stories together, and seeing the perspective of an antagonistic agent in parallel to our heroes was especially interesting. I was always excited to switch perspectives because we were always learning something cool. One of my favorite pieces was probably when we switched to the historian’s perspective and watched her trying to piece together all the information about the artifacts.

  6. skzb

    LarsWyrdson: Interesting. Bunk is a great character. I think of Donovan as much smaller, wiry, but that’s just me.

  7. I enjoyed the world building and characters. The multiple viewpoint thing was interesting and well done.

    I was surprised there wasn’t more moral discussion of “are we actually good guys?” “who is in the right here?” “How should magic be treated?”

    Maybe I missed it. Maybe it was intentional. To me it felt like the book existed to set up those types of questions and didn’t really go there.

  8. I notice you didn’t promise to try to not let all the praise go to your head.

    I’m not looking forward to Marci explaining what she does to her spouse. If you write a follow-up, can we just have it be something that finally happened, please? Unless, of course, it ties into the story in some important way.

    Maybe… (Nope, I’mma gonna sit on my hands now.)

  9. What I’d really like to see discussed is the lack of “the” in the title. Before the book arrived I kept calling it “The Good Guys” and then when I finally noticed my mistake I had to think that it was deliberate to subvert the expected phrase. Is the idea that calling it “The Good Guys” would have made it sound definitive and therefore inadvertently distracted us from openly questioning the nuanced morality on display? Would it have seemed like unnecessary auctorial interference? Like, “The Good Guys” is skzb saying, “Yup, I vouch that there’s a specific group of good guys in here and you’ll know ’em when you see ’em,” and “Good Guys” is skzb saying, “I don’t know, there are probably good guys in here but maybe we disagree on that so make your own distinction, you lazy reader.” I loved the book and can’t wait to re-read it, but I’ve seriously thought about the lack of “the” as much as I’ve thought about how the Foundation determines the going rate for a slipwalk.

  10. skzb

    Vnend: I’d shan’t lay claim to attempting the impossible.

  11. skzb

    Jason: Then my work here is done.

  12. The Amazon book description makes it sound like you are still trying to make excuses for Mike Brown being a thug. If that is not what the book is about then I would love to read it, because I love your writing. Are the politics going to ruin the story?

  13. This earworm lyric started playing for me not to far into the book:

    There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy
    There’s only you and me and we just disagree

    Really enjoyed the book.

  14. Daniel Hiatt – I thought the book did a good job of exploring those questions without being heavy handed about it. Donovan is certainly very aware of the moral questions around what the Foundation is doing, but he doesn’t spend lots of time navel-gazing about it, which I felt would have done little but drive up the page count.

  15. I mentioned being very taken with the idea of determining rates for slipwalks specifically, but more generally I’ve enjoyed thinking about the economics of magic in this universe. When Donovan explained the expenses for performing certain tasks I thought, “Finally, a magic system with a cost!” and chuckled at the idea of the cost being, like, $7.25 instead of a lizard’s eye or virgin’s blood or whatnot. But it was fascinating to see a believable way in which magical power doesn’t equate to actual power and to cynically/realistically see how bureaucratic organizations would still form to specifically consolidate wealth/power at the top and do anything to keep that wealth/power. You just know that the actual experts who have to train and study and risk blowing themselves up to create an established slipwalk launch/destination point are getting paid exactly one time–the time they are contracted to perform the service–and that all charges for subsequent uses of that point are going entirely to the Foundation and not to the casters in the form of magic residuals/royalties. And it’s not like they could even complain because of the implied threat against bad actors and besides you were fairly compensated and hey, just remember that we’re good guys and you WANT to do this be a good guy, too, don’t you? Think of the greater good you’re serving here and stop being so petty about money.

    And now I’m convinced they need to form a union.

  16. So if you were aware of the downsides of the existing organizations and wanted to avoid them, what would be a good way to be a magic user in this universe while staying off the radar but still making a living? You’d want your profession to be something you could do without formal or at least extensive advertising obviously, and you probably wouldn’t want a lot of repeat customers just because it would increase the risk of someone catching on to you. However you plied your trade, you’d probably want to do it in a way such that you were using magic to get an instant result instead of doing something that would have lingering traces on people/objects. Sure, you could do something like cell phone repair and have small spells to more efficiently redirect heat away from the processor or waterproof the phonejack port, but the more people carrying even slightly ensorceled phones the exponentially higher likelihood that one of them runs into someone who can detect it and track it back to you.

    You’d want to be able to do it inside in a secure location to prevent surprises. I was initially thinking about just trawling through craigslist ads looking for people who have lost pets or wallets or things like that, but that would take you outside and increase your potential exposure. I guess you’d want to do something that you could already fully do without magic but that magic would allow you to do via shortcuts. So maybe custom carpentry? Spend years to become an adept magic user and years to become a decent but not world class woodworker, and then use magic to do things like ensure the screws are perfectly aligned every time you go to screw them in or to check for rotten/weak pieces of wood before using them. This would help you work faster than a non magical person of your same carpentry skill, you could do word-of-mouth advertising, and custom woodworking would still allow you to charge a modest enough amount to make a living if you’re making slightly more pieces than another person could because you’re bolstering your process (but not the pieces themselves) with magic.

    What have you all got?

  17. Cripes! Same idea, but how do you stay undetected while also bettering the world around you in, like, I don’t know, small or subtle or, well, INCREMENTAL ways? And how do I get that crossover fanfic on my desk right now?

  18. Jason: it is possible that the initial creator of the portal gets paid “exactly one time”, however the text claims “There are specialists who keep them operational and charge an arm amd a leg for it.” And elsewhere “are you aware that every time you activate a Remote Portal Device it requires both the work of a skilled technician and certain expensive materials, costing the Foundation ober two thousand, two hundred dollars to reset it? And nearly half that value for the return trip?”

  19. @Alexx Kay
    Ha, no I have no idea how I missed that. I recalled the Maytag repair technician bit about keeping them operational, but completely glossed over the resetting and the specifics involved. All the more reason for a re-read. Now that I’m aware of the plot details and will be less consumed by the mystery, I’ll take things slower and explore the universe more closely this time. Thanks for pointing it out!

  20. “I think of Donovan as much smaller, wiry, but that’s just me.”

    Oh, it wasn’t physicality! It was his rhythm of speech and attitude. In public, he was always going along to get along, the invisible man. That smiling face he talked about reminded me of the slow-moving dandy Bunk came across as most of the time.

    But once he went to work, his certainty in himself was absolute. The bureaucrats he had to deal with were barely speed bumps. His observations were always on point. He knows what is right, and doesn’t particularly care if any of his bosses agree with him.

    I guess it was that confidence and self reliance, combined with respect of his partner’s abilities, that reminded me of Bunk working with McNulty. Except, you know, Donovan never needed to make any excuses for his teammates’ off hour activities…

  21. skzb

    That’s pretty cool. And, yeah, makes sense.

  22. So, a thought occurred to me based on a couple of clues in the book–specifically, the revelation that The Foundation receives a large part of it’s funding from the Mystici…

    The Foundation isn’t really a ‘rival’ of the Mystici. It’s essentially their Internal Affairs department.

  23. I just finished my first read of the book. I usually wait a week before I start the second read.
    Question: Is anyone else reminded of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grill?
    I mean the writing style is the same (duh) but also feel of the story seems familiar to me like an old favorite sweater or something. While I don’t think it is, it feels like it could almost be a prequel. The only thing missing for my theory would be a huge Banana to be somewhere in Donovans’s apartment or something. Did it miss it? 🙂

  24. Mr Brust,
    My name is Chuck Young and I narrate books for the Library of Congress and I am narrating your book “Good Guys” and I need to know how to say a few things. Because we have to read the whole book including “Other Books By” I will need the pronunciations of all your Vlad novels a start. There is no hurry. I will be in Europe for a month and won’t need this until June 13th.
    Thank you.

  25. skzb

    Good to hear from you. My email address is in the “about” section, so feel free to write and we’ll talk it over.

  26. I was hooked by time I finished the first page. It took all my will power to put the book down at 2 AM so I could get some sleep — I’m too old to pull an all-nighter. I finished it the next morning, almost without pausing to do any of other things I really should have been doing.

    On the surface it provides all the good stuff you usually deliver: mystery, magic, mayhem, snappy dialog and a good plot, but it is very much enriched by its sub-text dealing with moral courage and being a mensch. The book was also benefits by your imposing the constraints of physics and economics on magic. You had a lot fun with the economic constraints, didn’t you? It was the great running gag of the novel. No other writer I can think of has gone down that path, so I give you a special thumbs up for it.

    The main characters are really well done. Donovan shows more moral courage than any other fantasy novel character I can bring to mind. Nagorski shows the total lack on menschenkeit I would expect from an egomaniac on a revenge spree. Susan and Marci are great — it hit me hard when Susan was killed.

    I’m still in the grip of the thing. That means, not only do I think it’s one of your best novels, I think it may be the best novel I have read in a quite some time.

    I’ve rated the book five stars on Amazon and posted a review there saying a lot of what I say here. Hope it helps make the book a run-away best seller.

  27. skzb

    That was a joy to hear, Morton. Thank you!

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