Mapping the Terrain of Used and Rare Books
As I plow through these Dresden Files books, I’m always wondering if I’m going to have anything new to say after finishing the latest one. In my one review I stated I was worried that Jim Butcher was getting repetitive and stale. In my review of the one after that – “Death Masks”, #5 – I conceded that the books were consistently quite entertaining and to the whole “Why fix a good thing?” line of thinking. As the latest one (the latest one for me at least) I have some new complaints and some new praise.
Let’s get the complaints out the way first.
First – and most importantly – Harry is coming dangerously close to getting on my nerves. Up until this point the character has been quirky, lovable, and quite unique. He still is, but it seems as if Mr. Butcher is pushing some of Harry’s defining traits a little too hard, and if he doesn’t slow down and watch himself his character is in danger of becoming unlikable.
For example: The witty one-liners and sarcastic come-backs are starting to verge on the embarrassing and unnecessary. Take the scene at Murphy’s family reunion. He stands on a hill in a trench-coat holding a stick watching children in a public park. When a member of Murphy’s family comes and asks him what he’s doing, Harry becomes caustic, aggressive, and obnoxious. All he had to do was say “Hello, I’m looking for Karrin.” The man would have had no problem with that. It was almost as if Mr. Butcher had a slight mental lapse and was just playing out some combative fantasy in his head and putting it on paper. An editor should have caught that. Another notable example is the scene where Harry and Murphy are being briefed by Kincaid, who is a contracted Soldier of Fortune whom Harry hired, before entering an extremely dangerous situation, and Kincaid issues massively powerful weapons, and then asks “Any questions?”, and Harry replies – “Why do they sell hot dogs in packages of ten and hot dog buns in packages of eight? …. I should give up wizarding and chase my dream of being a stand-up comedian.” It embarrassed me to read it. I think I shouted out loud, sitting on my easy-chair, “Just shut the fuck up, Harry! That’s not even funny, and just plain rude! The mutant spell-casting vampires are about to eat you, your friends, and the hostages! Pay attention while the trained mercenary is explaining how to use the guns!”
It was the worst place ever to put a bad joke.
There are other examples, but I think you get the picture. The author needs to pay attention to the timing, and how often Harry’s “attitude” flares up because once the readers start to find his protagonist being a dick they are going to have a hard time enjoying the books, no matter how interesting.
And Harry needs to cut it out with the “I hold doors for women. I like women. I save them from monsters. I’m a chauvinist” bullshit. What makes respecting women chauvinistic? Like I said above It’s almost as if Mr. Butcher is projecting some adolescent fantasy of being rebellious and un-PC onto pages where it doesn’t even make sense. The last time a pretty girl told me that she was going to take a leisurely stroll through a cave filled with sex-starved Balrogs I politely suggested that I should maybe grab my weapons and tag along. She was grateful. That whole line of thought should be cut from the series.
Oh, and why didn’t Harry call up Billy and his Werewolf pack and ask them to help out before strolling helplessly out-numbered into the Vampire Nest?
I know, that sounds like a lot of complaining. But even though I used examples from “Blood Rites” these issues have been building through six books, and I’m not sure I can take them through ten more.
Now for the positive. “Blood Rites” was the best of the books so far. The rest tend to blend together (with the exception of “Fool Moon”, my second favorite.) There wasn’t the usual lull in the middle of the book, the mystery was gripping, the action was just great, and the revelations about Harry and the universe he lives in really pushed the overall story-line forward. I read this one faster than any of the others, and I read the others fast.
So, in closing – finally! – I’m really looking forward to reading the next book. I just hope that Mr. Butcher will start to think more about the difference between what he finds funny and what his audience might find funny; or even if what he’s saying (making Harry say) even makes sense at the moment.
Please comment! We’d love to hear what you think about these little reviews!