Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Harry Dresden Series

Let me start off by saying, my first exposure to Harry Dresden was from the short lived television series on the Sci-Fi channel.  I know people are polarized on the quality of that series, but it’s what drew me in.  I love the juxtaposition of magic with a modern day world.  Other than the TV series, the only time I heard about Harry Dresden was from the IMDB trivia for the movie “The Prestige”.  No matter what your opinion, Sci-Fi provided the gateway drug that led me to the harder stuff… novels.

For those unfamiliar with the series, here’s the basic premise: 

“The Dresden Files are set in a "alternate" Chicago where magic is real, but only a few actually believe in it; it's a first-person tale told by an irascible wizard named Harry Dresden, who regularly gives the magical establishment indigestion — and the police, the same. Take Sam Spade, your Average Joe Underdog Action Star, and toss in some spellcraft, and you get Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Heck of a guy.” - from Jim Butcher’s website

In roughly two months I’ve chewed through all ten of the currently available Dresden File novels.  I haven’t had this kind of passion for a series since I was a kid reading Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” books.  Even then the books had an ever changing roster of characters to keep things fresh and interesting.  The Dresden Files focuses on just one man.  He may have friends and adversaries that are accumulated along the way, but it’s always about him.  To maintain that level of character development, further deepening the emotional ties between reader and protagonist, all while staying true to the core values of the character, is an amazing literary feat. 

One thing I like is the first person narrative.  The books I tend to read aren’t usually written in that manner.  For me it really added to the “gumshoe" feel the first couple of books had.  The wit and humor of the character comes through well in that voice. 

Another thing I've enjoyed is the way that decisions have consequences in these tales.  Not trite, meaningless consequences, but serious life altering events that sometimes don't show up until several books later.  His decisions are always true to his values and even though their repercussions might be severe, to do anything else would make him less of who he is.  It steeps the world in a moral reality that is tangible.  

The metaplot continues to ensnare, working it’s way incrementally through the books hinting at what it will blossom into.  It keeps the series from being a string of one-shots and molds it into an overall narrative.  Looking back at it, some of the occurrences in the books feel like chess moves slowly positioning themselves around a plan 10 steps ahead of what you’re reading.

Even with all these spinning plates, the pacing is fantastic.  Never once did I find parts dragging or dull.  If anything, there’s never a chance for Harry (or yourself) to catch a breath.   Dialogue’s great, action’s intense and the flow is superb.  Butcher improves with each books he produces, only further refining the quality of his tales.

I can’t recommend these books enough.  They’re solid, well done and not one of those “strong willed female protagonist against supernatural forces” hacks that seem to be clogging the horror/fantasy shelves these days (I’m looking at you Laurell K. Hamilton).  I can’t wait for more additions to the series.  Jim Butcher has confessed to having enough material to take it to the mid twenties.  I hope that’s true because I will be sad once this ride comes to an end.

1 comment:

Ed Fisher said...

Dude, the parallels just keep racking up...I loved Xanth through the first 13 or so, and I have all 13 of the Dresden Files xvids. I just started on the books, and you are spot on...they rock!