The thing that I like about the first book, and what I’ve read of the second, is the clean cut precision. Right at the very beginning we know what we’re dealing with. A professional wizard you’d find in the yellow pages, who consults with the Chicago police, assisting Special Investigations officer Karrin Murphy, who is incredibly reminiscent of Buffy and who is an altogether gentleman, mostly. In Storm Front, Dresden tackles two cases, one: two dead bodies with their hearts ripped out, murders committed undoubtedly by a black sorcerer; two: a man reported missing by his wife.
Butcher also gives you a thorough look at the magic of this world… almost. He mentions a White Council which is a pretty self explanatory title, a realm called Nevernever that I haven’t quite figured out yet but which suffices for the time, he tells you how magic is good, it’s made by your soul and not by objects, it’s made in circles, from chalk circles to circles of people holding hands, there are demons, trolls and fairies hiding in the world, and there are wizards and witches who are basically humans (but not really) and he tells us how if you look in the eyes of a wizard, he can gaze on the secrets of your soul, and you see the darkest depths of his. And all this is revealed over the course of the story, revealing new bits of his world whenever you need them, and like a good narrator, Dresden never bogs you down with details.
Tell you what, though, the book is cheesy. There’s a youngish wizard, Harry Dresden, surrounded by women who all appear to be pointedly attractive and men who don’t, he is a trite mix of strength and rare self-confidence, has a mysterious dark past, cracks cynical jokes in the worst situations, talks to himself, engages in a lot of pop culture name-dropping for someone who is bad with technology, and is, in general, no different from every other noir-ish private detective you have ever read about. The police-procedural parts of it and the chunks of dialogue are very TV. For someone whose staple diet includes paranormal mystery television series, the action seems somewhat predictable too, for instance, love potions always go awry, amateurs know that. Google says there was a single-season show based in this world starring Paul Blackthorne as Dresden (I’d like to see that). So far, the two books have had little emotional depth but deliver full entertainment. I’d call Storm Front an airport read, the kind of book you pick up when you’re bored and finish off within a couple of hours. Except, and here’s what I can’t get over, the writing, when it’s not casually dry, is very lyrical. Well researched, interesting, fun and often startlingly literary, sounds like a good deal to me, see for yourself.
The world is getting weirder. Darker every single day. Things are spinning around faster and faster, and threatening to go completely awry. Falcons and falconers. The center cannot hold. But in my corner of the country, I’m trying to nail things down. I don’t want to live in a world where the strong rule and the weak cower. I’d rather make a place where things are a little quieter. Where trolls stay the hell under their bridges and where elves don’t come swooping out to snatch children from their cradles. Where vampires respect the limits, and where the faeries mind their p’s and q’s. My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. When things get strange, when what goes bump in the night flicks on the lights, when no one else can help you, give me a call. I’m in the book.
Almost as good as reading the books is reading Jim Butcher’s interviews. He’s given many, it seems. He sounds very honest when talking about his writing process, mentions Buffy a lot (the audiobooks are narrated by James Marsters, which earns the series so, so many brownie points.) I like authors who live up to their books, sound just as fun outside their fiction. I mean, this, I like this interview.
“Wonderfully wise and moving… a dazzling fable of human hope and imperfection.”
– The New York Times
Once, in the hopes of getting my sister to watch the epicness that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I retold her the story of Angel, the vampire who was put under a curse and given his soul back, and his “moment of true happiness” with the slayer that took it away unleashing the terror that was Angelus. Angel has a particular charm about him, being Buffy’s first true love and a classic symbol for redemption, even Giles eventually likes him. Angel’s soul-loss story forms the most effectively narrated Buffy (two-part) episode – Surprise and Innocence, which aired way back in January, 1998. And yet, I’ve always rooted for Spike.
Buffy does care for him. But does she love Spike like she loves Angel? I doubt it. She identifies herself with Spike who has always been a misfit. An evil vampire who could love and a powerless vampire with a chip and then, a vampire who cursed himself with a soul – unlike Angel who had it done to him. She understands his misery, empathizes with it. She meets Angel when he is brooding and repentant, but over the immediate shock of what he is and has done, whereas with Spike she is with him at the point when he is hit by his guilt. Knowing what it means to be a vampire and knowing what he must now live with, she understands that she needs to not be the slayer, for once, for him. She pities him for what happened to him, what he did to himself but over the course of the season, does come to respect him for what he attempts to make of it. Buffy forgives Spike because his strength in dealing with all the crap of first the chip, then the soul and the insanity, then the first evil influencing him overwhelms her.