jueves, 9 de abril de 2015

The Dresden Files

Following a friend's recommendation, I started reading The Dresden Files book series, by Jim Butcher. At the time of writing this, I'm finishing Grave Peril, and they're not bad. The idea of contemporary wizards, vampires and all that stopped being a general "wow, that's new" probably after Anne Rice's novels with her Vampire Chronicles, Mayfair witches or Wolf Gift books, but to me was after discovering Vampire, the Masquerade and the whole Mage, Werewolf, Wraith, et cetera series.

I don't want to make any spoilers, but to review them I have to say something anyway. First of all, they're cool, they have good ideas that will probably be new and original to most people, and they're well written, taking you into the rabbit hole, working gradually from the ignorance that Dresden (the main character, kind of a wizard - private investigator) shares with you to a climax not unlike an action/adventure film.

What to expect, then?

A lot of cliffhangers. About once a chapter we leave Dresden in a fucked up situation he has to solve in the next one. Sometimes it feels a little too much because about one third of each book he's so tired and beaten up you can't believe he just doesn't collapse, and still manages to keep going forward. I guess it should be kind of epic, like John McClane, getting several beatings in every movie and still saving the day at the end, but in a narration feels just too self-conscious and a bit... whining.

A lot of angst in the person of Dresden, often whipping himself because of the people that dies directly or (very) indirectly because of him. This can be a bit tiring sometimes, sometimes because it's too often, sometimes because he was making a mistake too clear not to realize, including repeating his own previous mistakes, like not telling somebody the information they need to survive. Actually that seems to be specially difficult for him, since several deaths and wounds are caused precisely because of that.

First person narrative - so everything is just as misunderstood as Dresden is misunderstanding it -. That's interesting because we are left able to think that some things are not as Dresden understands them, but still see the way he understands them. For instance, sometimes Dresden seem too... manichaeist. He understands magic as the white/black magic, emotions as good/bad, all that. Some creatures - like vampires - are inherently evil. Honestly, I'm a bit tired of that. Several times he states that magic's origin is the life force - kind like the Star Wars Force powers - despite evidence to the contrary (like most times he fights another practitioner or just his own use of it) Anyway, life includes death of others, anger, lust, and a lot of the emotions he calls "negative". It's ironic that he doesn't seem to throw in the "negative" lot the anger he feels as reaction to be scared - and that saves his and other peoples' ass.

You can expect a refreshing "this is not everyday" feeling. I mean that between books pass months or years, so it's not like "wow, the CSI team get the interesting of the week, every week". Reading them all without that feeling of time passing could be stretching too much the suspension of belief.

There are some things that would seem more likely in a TV series than in books. Dresden always dress with sneakers, jeans and a duster as a lot of characters in a lot of movies following The Matrix. It was a bit too much, considering all the people who suddenly discovered it was cool - like the Underworld series, Van Helsing or Nicholas Cage in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Now, I just try to remember what Terry Pratchett said through his wizards and witches, that half the magic is in people thinking you're special, but besides the costume department and the cliffhangers, every woman is sexy. His friend at the police department, his journalist friend, his female clients, some other females he just happen to come by - including vampires and werewolves. It's just like that part of Last Action Hero, when the kid tells Arnold "Don't you find strange that every women is hot?"

And there are things I just can't buy anymore, like the Christian faith and love being powers above everything else. Specially the thing with Christian faith, since having read some downplayed bible bits, like Exodus 22:18 "do not allow a sorceress to live", combined with Michael, Dresden's friend, ally, and a Knight of God's Fist, makes too clear that any bible-reading, inquisitor-kind of character should be against Dresden on principle.

Anyway, they're fine books, worth reading if you're into this kind of fiction as I am.
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