Monday, February 9, 2009

Quickie: The Dresden Files (Series; Butcher, Jim)

Rating (series): 5/5
1. Storm Front (2000)
2. Fool Moon (2000)
3. Grave Peril (2001)
4. Summer Knight (2002)
5. Death Masks (2003)
6. Blood Rites (2004)
7. Dead Beat (2005)
8. Proven Guilty (2006)
9. White Night (2007)
10. Small Favor (2008)
Genre: Fantasy/Detective
Read again? Absolutely!

To fill in space between the weekly-or-so posts where I review a single book, I'm going to try doing a "quickie" review of a book or series. No idea if it'll be a daily thing, since I'm about as erratic as any other blogger, but *shrug*.

So we begin with Jim Butcher's freaking cool detective wizard, Harry Dresden of "The Dresden Files." If you've seen the very short-run series that the Sci-Fi network squeezed out a few years back...please don't judge these books by the bad coverage. TV and Hollywood types--and especially the Sci-Fi folks--can't seem to stick to a book very well. They changed an awful lot, and it didn't work as well as they hoped.

They should have left damn good enough alone.

Harry Dresden lives in Chicago. He's the only wizard in the phone book, and the only wizard who's trying to make a living as an actual wizard. Much of his work is detective-type stuff, and he fits well into the hard-boiled mold made by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I can't really see Humphrey Bogart as Dresden, though Dresden is as much of a wise-ass as Bogey ever was. He makes his pennies finding people's keys or lost dogs, and he makes his dollars doing freelance consulting for the Chicago Police Department's Special Crimes unit, where all the weird, unexplained crimes get sent. "Weird" and "unexplained" ends up meaning "supernatural."

Each book features a different supernatural or mythical critter, and you can get an idea of which ones they are by the pun in the book title. Butcher throws in plenty of little pop-culture things (which could really date the series in 10 years, but that's okay), movie quotes, and truly funny moments--for example, while he's about to be clubbed to death in a Wal-Mart garden center by a demon that's taken form by collecting plants and earth, Dresden's busy trying to come up with a name for the damn thing, just because it's good to know what killed you. He names it a "Chlorofiend." His buddy the lady cop kills it with a chainsaw.

Even better, each book builds on the ones before, so there's plenty of room for character development and relationships. And there are lots of interesting regulars: Karrin Murphy, the lady cop; "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone, the local Mob boss; Bob, the talking skull and magical database; Mister, Dresden's enormous gray cat; Mouse, his even bigger dog; Michael, an honest-to-god Knight; Billy the Werewolf; Thomas the vampire; and Susan, his girlfriend who happens to be a reporter.

1. Storm Front (2000): Grisly murders happen during powerful thunderstorms--and there's no physical evidence. Dresden quickly finds himself the target of police scrutiny as people he's spoken to end up dead. Then the killer goes after him--and so does an enforcer of the White Council of mages, who is convinced that Dresden is the killer!

2. Fool Moon (2000): Werewolves! Something is tearing people apart. But is it a) the werewolf whose family was cursed centuries ago by the Church; b) the college werewolf kids who happen to be forming their own pack; or c) something else? Or--as Chicago PD thinks--is it Dresden?

3. Grave Peril (2001): Ghosts! Something is torturing the ghosts in Chicago; something wants revenge on Dresden. Dresden gets invited to a vampire party--and shows up dressed as a cheesy Dracula.

4. Summer Knight (2002): Faeries! Bad things are happening in Faerie land; war is approaching, and it will affect the Faeries and our own world. Can Dresden find the killer of the Summer Knight before the White Council decides to kill him?

5. Death Masks (2003): Demons! Remember the "thirty pieces of silver" story about Jesus? Well, there are thirty silver coins, each one with one of the Fallen Angels in it. One who takes up a coin becomes a murderin' badass. This book has one of the most awesome "interrogation" scenes between Dresden and a guy named Cassius. You'll know it when you read it.

6. Blood Rites (2004): Vampires! Would you believe incubus porn? Not the band, the creatures that feed on sexual energy. Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

7. Dead Beat (2005): Zombies! A head-to-head competition between three black magic practitioners, with the world as the prize. The Big Battle features Dresden riding a zombie T. Rex to fight the bad guys.

8. Proven Guilty (2006): Movie monsters! Harry goes to SplatterCon, where the movie geeks are unreal...and the movie monsters are all too real!

9. White Night (2007): Witches! Someone's been killing witches. And the vampires are back!

10. Small Favor (2008): Billy goats Gruff! First, they're small...Harry defeats them. And each time, their bigger siblings come calling to set him straight. Can Harry survive the biggest Gruff of all?

A quickie review can't do the series justice. But it's going to be several months before I get to it, considering that I'm still one book into the huge Valdemar series. There's a new Dresden coming in April 2009, too.

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