Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dresden File: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

One of my friends is a big fan of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. He also enjoys the role playing game powered by the Fate Engine. Not that long ago, Amazon was doing one of their $1.99 sales for books in the series. Right now, +comiXology is doing a sale on the Dresden Files comics. A fairly popular character with several books in the series? And written in an easy to read and quickly moving first person narrative?

Sign me up.

Jim has an easy command of the flow here. He introduces a lot of things but does so in a fairly... generic method. While Dresden is located in Chicago in the 'modern' world, and this could just be due to how quickly technology and everything else moves, it seems like he's actually in the 80's in some near generic scene. The second book brings more of Chicago to life but really, the series doesn't scream Chicago to me as much as it screams detective noir with a twist, and that's where the book shines.

Harry's background and abilities and indeed, his whole world as feed to the readers on a near as you need to know it basis. This allows the author to continue to provide information about Harry's strange world and throw hooks into the setting for future volumes. This continues well into the second book at least. It's additional information and provides a richer, more fuller world, such as when we meet Harry's 'magic computer', an old spirit that's inhabited by a lustful entity, but one that's been around for so long that it has a huge amount of magical information which Harry uses to say, brew potions or to do research.

Mind you, it's a good use and a good tool and that's because Harry can't use a computer. In what I imagine is a nod to some 'balance' equation or something of that nature, technology tends to fail around wizards and magic in general. This prevents Harry from owning and enjoying most of the things that we take for granted in the modern life. It's almost painful to see someone in the 'modern' world without a smart phone or tablet for reference and ease of use!

The other 'problem' I can see I'm going to have with the series, although it's not too bad in this book, is much like White Wolf's World of Darkness, people are 'ignorant' of the supernatural. It reminds me of the Warhammer World where the rat people, the Skaven, are said not to exist. "So Harry, you just engaged in a supernatural duel where a house was destroyed and magical scorpions and all sorts of other weirdness was abounding but hey, no one was around AGAIN eh? You lucky bastard."

You can, in my opinion of course, only push that mundanes know nothing bit so far before everything becomes too coincidental. "Man, another narrow escape where people didn't learn about all the weird things going on! Awesome!"

And Harry's world is weird. There's a mix of things ranging from Italian Mafia (which to me is VERY un-Chicago, this isn't the 1920's), to Vampire Countesses that run prostitution rings.

Nonetheless, it was a quick read and enjoyable enough that I'm already reading Fool Moon, the second book in the series. I tend to enjoy first person narration and when the author has the smoothness that Jim Butcher brings to the telling, it makes it a lot easier to read.

For those who have the Fate game, how did you find it? Would you be better off using the old World of Darkness and it's various Mage settings to try and capture this sort of setting or would you just go with the Fate version?

For those who've read the Dresden Files and didn't like them, was there a particular bit that stuck out or made you drop it? There is a portion where Harry is under attack by a demon and his newspaper female acquaintance drinks a 'love' potion and it seemed a little creepy to me, almost like a date rape drug and the skull spirit Harry uses also seems to 'bring out' inhibitions of people but Jim kind of waves that all away with, "Well, they'd have done it anyway with a few drinks in them."

On the other hand, I love this blog post: http://requireshate.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/changes-the-apex-of-jim-butchers-racism-and-misogyny/ . It's from the blog Requires Only That You Hate and there are often some very interesting posts over there. If I have some feelings of "ick" this author smashes the crap out of the things she doesn't like about the series and the book Changes in particular.

Storm Front is available on Amazon for under $8.00 bones right now, but is also available for sale in comic format and in a few other formats, including a hardcover graphic novel on Amazon.