Monday, April 13, 2009

Dresden Files

I just recently finished the latest Dresden Files novel, Turn Coat by Jim Butcher, which has only been on sale for... oh, almost a week now. The Dresden Files books are books that in general I find to be quick, breezy, and very fun reads. This is the first one I've had to wait for; having discovered the series fairly recently.

Although I still like it, I was struck by a few nagging uncertainties with it and the series as a whole recently. First off: eleven books now, and apparently plans are for over twenty in total? Holy crap. I know it's a bit of a cash cow and Butcher probably wants to milk it for as long as he's able to, but it really struck me that it seems unlikely that the level of tension and high quality is really supportable that long. I'm already starting to feel like the formula is too... well, formulaic. Can we really stand twenty novels of formulaic "case files" and then a few novels of "meta-plot conclusion" before we're kinda tired of it already? It seems unlikely. I hope that Butcher has some great ideas still brewing, because I'd hate to find that this series that I've come to quite enjoy fades out with a whimper. Secondly (and related) the very slow unraveling of the meta-plot is starting to feel artificial. At the risk of some very minor spoilers (not much beyond what you'd find on the dust jacket) the premise of Turn Coat is that a traitor among the wizardly White Council is at work, and of course, it's up to Harry to see what he can do to uncover said traitor while clearing the name of a collegue. That initially sounded to me like a major development of the meta-plot, but Butcher managed to ratchet back the ramifications of the novel-specific plot to relatively minor ones.

So, all in all, my complaints (or perhaps more accurately, apprehensions) are not related to this novel per se which, while not my favorite of the series, is still pretty solid, but rather looking at the series architecture in general with increasing worry that it seems like something that is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to hold onto for the proposed life of the series.

Anyway, check it out. If you haven't read any of Butcher's Dresden Files books, I imagine that they have very broad appeal. To borrow a phrase that I don't much like, but which I think does actually apply here; they're not great literature, but they're fun. The characters are likeable and easy to read about, and the novels are written with the page-turner urgency of a mainstream thriller. The detective noir take on urban fantasy seems to be a common theme in a lot of very popular novel series lately, but Butcher's good at it. Perhaps in spite of himself.

No comments: