Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Storm Front (Book 1 of the Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher

I snagged this book from Roommate before he had a chance to read it. He’s not a sci-fi/fantasy fan, but he wants to start reading those genres (“on his own terms,” he says, and I’m not sure what that means). The Dresden files appealed to him because they’re urban fantasy, set in a Chicago where you can find a wizard in the phone book (although only one) and where the CPD has seen fit to create (although understaff, apparently) a special unit to investigate the more unexplainable crimes.

The Dresden Files appealed to me because I knew they’d been turned into a Sci-Fi Channel show, and with the demise of the Sopranos, Studio 60, Jericho (or maybe not) and several other “investment” shows, I have some TiVo space for a new one. And so far, I’ve had good luck with Sci-Fi.

Maybe the television show is better. I was fairly unimpressed with Storm Front, which read muddy and odd, like Butcher had a sloppy editor or perhaps one who’d read several Dresden novels and therefore wasn’t as critical of the holes in the world that Butcher created. I didn’t buy in from the get go.

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden morphs from noir-ish private eye to a Dumbledore-style wizard replete with staff and wand, and the mash-up never feels natural. He’s funny. He’s attractive in a Snape sort of way. I’d date him. But I just don’t “believe in” him. And both fantasy and noir conventions abound. The plucky (and short—always short) female copy exiled to the weirdo crimes division; Murphy’s a cardboard cut-out of the chick cop with the chip on her shoulders and a soft underbelly. Harry has a spirit helper, a pervy troublemaker named Bob, who reads like just about every bumbling Igor. Although Harry is undoubtedly one of the “good guys,” he’s misunderstood by the White Council (the magic guardians) and they have their eyes on him (in the form of the gruff Morgan), and he’s always getting in trouble. Again, is any magical hero ever understood and supported by the powers-that-be? (See another famous Harry)

Some of the plot feels fresh and interesting (a crack-like drug that gives junkies the sort of Third Sight normally only afforded those with supernatural proclivities) and some… not so much (the pizza-loving spirit informant? Too easy.)

Maybe the books get better. I’m already skeptical of TV the series. The cast looks like a Bennetton ad, even though the book creates fairly white-bread characters. Harry is wayyyyy more attractive than he needs to be, likewise Murphy (who’s Hispanic in the series and fairly Irish and stout in the book). Morgan, who has a Highlander-style sword and ponytail in the book, is black and hot. I admire Sci-Fi’s consistent attention to presenting multicultural casts; I’m more freaked by the babe factor.

There are nine books in the series. I’ll probably pick up one more before I make a final decision. There are plenty of serieses that get good a couple books in.

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