Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dresden Files: WTF?!

I was in the library the other day, trying to find Paladin of Souls because of good reviews I read about it, when in roughly the same vicinity I found Jim Butcher's Storm Front: Book One of the Dresden Files.  I heard it was a decent series. Some people said it was like an adult Harry Potter and others said the main character was awesome. It was on the bestseller list, right? And the cover says "As seen on SciFi" so it must be fairly popular. What the hell? Let's give it a try. Oh, boy. I gave it a try alright. A trial in the court of me.

All I have to say is Jim Butcher lives up to his name: BUTCHER. Jesus H Christ. This book... I don't even know where to BEGIN. So let's go easy and start with the novel's summary as printed on the back cover.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does.
So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things--and most of them don't play too well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a--well, whatever.
There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Yeah, okay. Not bad right? I can think of whole lot of shittier summaries. "Benedict can only choose one toilet seat....and only one. Does he pick the one with the cushion? Or the one with a naked lady painted on it?" See? Can be worse. 

Let's begin....

Chapter 1 + 2

Okay, narrative is alright. Story starts off with Harry getting harassed by a new mailman who doesn't believe he's an actual wizard. Getting mocked naturally puts Harry in a bad mood and he gets a bit snippy with the dude. The guy leaves and Harry introduces himself to the audience. He says he's the only open-practicing wizard in the entire country, and apparently the yellow pages were quite accommodating to allow an entire new section ("Wizards") just for our ol' Harry here. Yep.

Harry has got this beef about Science. That's science with a capital "S," my friends. Science is da evil, and is like a boyfriend who promises to buy an engagement ring but still fears commitment. If I lost you on that last metaphor, basically Science sucks! Get use to Harry railing on da Science because he bitches about it whenever and wherever.

So why all the hate? Well, Harry states that "all the things Science [has] promised us [haven't] come to pass. Disease [is] still a problem. Starvation [is] still a problem. Violence and crime and war [are] still problems" (3). And what? Magic solves these? Not exactly doing a great job of it, is it? I have three words for you, Harry, and they are "pot," "kettle," and "black." And when has science ever promised anything? It's an ambiguous word used to categorize many things. It can hardly promise anything.

Okay, so he has an opinion. Maybe he's like an extreme Amish person. Sort of like how a vegan is the extreme version of a vegetarian. So he's doesn't like technology. Big deal, right? Well I swear to god on the very next page...... he answers the phone. HE ANSWERS.... THE PHONE.... See where I'm going here? We've already established that he can receive mail. Couldn't he just put in his little yellow page ad, "Contact me via mail"? If you don't trust electronics that much... there are ways around it. But right now, Harry's reminding me of this one customer I had who complained that "kids these days" rely too heavily on technology and crap as she paid using a debit card and drove off in her car.

And it gets better. So Harry actually gets two phone calls. One is for a client that he plans on meeting later, and the other is from the Chicago police. Harry works as a magician consultant *snort* and they need his help. Gee, for a world that doesn't believe in magic (they believe in that devil Science) the tax payers and most of the police force seem A-ok with using a profession magician (sorry....wizard) to help solve brutal murders.

Anyway, the caller is a woman named Murphy. She tells him to meet her down by a hotel for a murder case. When we are introduced to's....rather poor writing. I'm sorry. There are moments were this novel has some fairly decent writing, and others are like, well, this:

Karrin and I are a study of contrasts. Where I am tall and lean, she's short and stocky. Where I have dark hair and dark eyes, she's got Shirley Temple blond locks and baby blues. Where my features are all lean and angular, with a hawkish nose and a sharp chin, hers are round and smooth, with the kind of cut nose you'd expect on a cheerleader (10).

First off, I wrote like that in fifth grade. Rule one of writing: don't list out everything your character looks like. Especially not smack dab in the beginning of a chapter. Yes, it's difficult to establish your character's appearance without listing, but that's what separates the big boys from the toddlers. Also, Harry loooooooves to compare women to cheerleaders.

He also likes giving us a scale on how respectable the woman is based on how much makeup she's wearing. Apparently, Harry feels her makeup is of "sufficient quality and quantity" (10). Just the way he says it makes me feel uncomfortable. Like if she were wearing more you wouldn't trust her or perhaps you'd think she's a whore? I don't know. Just a bit bizarre.

Now, here's where my real beef with this novel comes up. It's fucking sexist! The best part is it tries to not be sexist by going out of the plot's way by describing how Harry is chivalrous by opening doors for ladies (which in fact you should do for everyone, no matter the gender, because it's polite), but then turns around and spouts this crap at the brutal crime scene: 

Murphy glared at me, "You keep saying 'she,'" she challenged me. "Why the hell do you think that?"
I gestured toward the room. "Because you can't do something that bad without a whole lot of hate," I said. "Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This feels like feminine vengeance of some kind to me."

Oh no you didn't! As if the author knew what he just did there, he lampshades by having an officer call him a chauvinistic pig. But Harry still doesn't back down from stating a woman probably did it. But hey! Maybe Harry's right. I mean, I most certainly am doing a fine job hating on this novel. Perhaps the fact that most murders are committed by white males means nothing after all. Still, I can't believe people like this character. I pray that this is supposed to be a James Bond, who the author wrote for the audience to hate, but everyone ended up liking him anyway. Well, I'm going to continue reading to see if it is.

The hotel, though, is described quite well. You definitely get a strong idea of what this love pad looks like. Also, it gives us a great idea of what kind of people the victims were, which I like. And that's it. Later folks. I really hope it does get better.

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