Thursday, February 04, 2010

Proven Guilty

For a variety reasons, it took me a really long time to read Proven Guilty. At least relatively speaking. Three or four weeks for a fast-reading 400 page book is absurd for me; normally I can blow through a Dresden Files book in about two days.

In this case, there were several externalities going on. My birthday, for instance. I got a PS2 for my birthday, plus a bunch of games. I've spent a lot more of my free time in the evenings doing that instead of reading. I've also been trying to catch up on some shows and movies that I've been meaning to watch for quite some time.

But, ultimately, I have to acknowledge that part of the reason I went through this one relatively slowly is because I just don't like it nearly as much as most of the other Dresden Files books. Granted, it's got some great moments in it; some real emotional ones, even. As a family man myself, the noble, self-sacrificing parenting examples that show up here really hit home. As a religious man, the characterization of Michael Carpenter's family's faith and steadfastness also struck quite a chord. It also touched, at least a bit, on some of my favorite themes from the books; Butcher's presentation of the Fairy Queens, the White Court of incubus and succubus "vampires" and the big conspiracy that's moving and shaking events off screen as Harry and Ebenezer and eventually a handful of other players start to piece together what's going on. But at the end of the day, Proven Guilty is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

I think one thing to blame for that could very well be the lack of focus on an obvious villain. By bouncing around from various antagonists, all of the several that make cameos in this novel feel more like they're making cameos rather than significant threats. None of them seem to have a particularly sinister, or at least competent agenda. In fact, in several cases, its not even clear if they really are enemies, or simply operating under a condition of misunderstanding.

Another is the relatively cheesy nature of some of the monsters. Shapeshifters that can take the form of whatever you most fear is a standard supernatural bogeyman, but when they start taking the forms of cheesy slasher flick villains of the Freddy Krueger or Jason variety (not that Butcher would actually use those examples; he used made-up ones to protect himself from any potential legal troubles. But they're clearly in the same vein) just struck me as too tongue in cheek to really work as an honest horror vibe.

Finally, the plot and structure itself seemed to suffer from some rather obvious deus ex machina moments, as well as feeling like set-up. Butcher needed to set some things up for future stories: Molly as Harry's apprentice, worry about Mab's sanity, Murphy's demotion at work, etc. and this book conveniently gives him a vehicle to do that. But it's rather clumsily done. Rather than feeling like natural occurances of the narrative, it feels like this book was, in part at least, concieved merely to get a few things out of the way that needed to be finished so he could move on to his regularly scheduled plots.

In any case, now that it's done, I've already moved on into White Night which gets me significantly closer to finishing the series. It's my goal, if you remember, to have re-read all of the books again before April when the new novel Changes comes out, so that the events of prior novels are relatively fresh in my mind instead of stale and half-remembered. At the rate I'm going, that won't be a problem... unless all the remaining three books take me as long to read as Proven Guilty just did.

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