Monday, January 01, 2007

Dresden: Butchered

Before Harry Dresden appeared on the SCI-FI channel this month, I wanted to read one or two of the novels upon which the series, The Dresden Files, would be based.

The series, both the television show and the books, take place in Chicago, following the exploits of Harry Dresden, a wizard who finds himself fighting supernatural threats in a world of people unaware of their existence.
Hmmm.Harry, Harry....where have I heard that name before?

As a character, Dresden is a loner who often finds himself at odds with a group known as the White Council, a gathering of wizards who have come together to keep order in the world of magic.

Keeping a low profile to avoid their strict security force known as the Wardens, Harry stumbles and boxes his way through one complicated situation after another to untie tricky plot lines seeming to defy resolution.
Hmm..White Council, Wardens...where have I read all this recently???

The good news is that the Dresden material is a fun read. Author Jim Butcher can string together sentences with wit and ease, and has a sense of timing.Don’t kid yourself though, Butcher’s stuff will never be mistaken for anything with originality or literary merit.

The Dresden series is disposable fiction. If anything, the publishers should print it on paper which deteriorates minutes after being exposed to air.The book I read was the first Dresden book to be printed in hardcover, apparently number seven in the series. “Dead Beat” is about a group of necromancers attempting to find a spell that will allow them to become godlike. The narrative moves quickly, but this IS NOT a stand alone novel. At times Butcher’s writing is lazily thrown onto the page with a carelessness that reeks of smugness. There are plot twists that will have you shaking your head and the appearance of characters that are woefully explained to the uninitiated. If you are going to read Butcher’s stuff, you better start with the first in the series.

What will more than likely happen is that Butcher will develop a following who will stumble through conventions this summer, dressed in large coats and carrying staffs. They’ll meet the Harry Potter fans at the information table as they are en route to take on the Tolkein fanatics.Then, all three groups will bludgeon one another into a stupor while the Whedonites look on with satisfaction.

I will write more on the adventures of Dresden once the television show has been broadcast. I will also give Mr. Butcher another go, reading the first three books of the series and holding off any further criticism of his work until I’ve had a chance to develop an opinion from a different perspective.


SQT said...

I read the first book in the series and thought it was okay. But I never moved on to the next, so I guess that pretty much says it for me.

It is light fare and a lot of authors these days seem to be writing similar stories. I haven't read many that seem to stand out enough to buy more than one book of the series, and the Dresden Files fit into that category.

It bugs me too when authors seem to have their characters running around without any real purpose. I read another book like that recently and it bugged me to no end. I felt like they were just trying to fill up space on a page.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Don't get me started on talking about writing.

The problem with Dresden is that it isn't just derivative (there's that word again), it's also strictly formulaic commercial.

Ah well.

SQT said...

I think one of the main problems I have with popular fiction these days is that everyone is copying each other. It's rare that I read a book and think that's just what I was looking for.

I can live with a formulaic book as long as it's well done. I admit that sometimes I like reading books that don't require too much brain power. To me books are a main source of entertainment, so I don't always want to read something deep.

But lately it just seems like authors and publishers aren't even trying that hard. I read stuff sometimes and think how on earth did this get past the editor?

Are people just not that picky anymore?

Angela/SciFiChick said...

I grabbed the first one from the store years ago, but didn't get much into it before I decided to return it.
Now that they're making the tv show, it looks interesting to me. And I'm ordering the first 3 in a novella form from Zooba for $10 to try it again.
I want to give the series a fair try since I do love paranormals & detective stories.. a la Simon Green's Nightside series.

SQT said...

I read the first of the Nightside books and liked it too. I haven't picked up the next one since I only recently read the first one. But I think Simon Green did a good job of taking the detective novel and making it interesting without being as derivative as others.

Oddly, I think Butcher's books could make a good TV series. Stuff for TV doesn't have to have as much character development and the storylines can have a much smaller arc. It might just work.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Doesn't hurt that the actor playing Dresden is pretty cute too.

mist1 said...

I want to buy a ticket for the bludgeoning.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I know, Mist..I wouldn't mind getting in on a little of that bludgeoning myself. I prefer being an outsider. Me? Sure.

Charles Gramlich said...

I thought I might find this interesting, but it sounds too much like a combination of X-Files and Kolchack. I doubt I'll give it a go.

freshdipt said...

it looks a bit more Quannum Leap-ish to me, if we're talking similarities. That being said, wasn't Paul Blackthorne on Deadwood and ER? I liked what I saw of the trailer/promo and will definitely be watching pre-BSG on Sunday nights....