Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Yes, one of the other forms of recreation (other than movies and running and working out). Reading.

This is book 7 of The Dresden Files, which is probably better known in its TV form on the SciFi channel. The protagonist is Harry Dresden. A wizard. In our world, which, while there are wizards, vampires, were-wolves, faerie's, undead, etc. most of us reasonable folks don't like to talk about it. Because folks tend to think your rather kookie if you talk about were-wolves, zombies etc walking around the streets of Chicago at night. If you don't think so, try it at work.

Anyway, there is this subculture of our world that is very much aware of this. Because they deal with it everyday. Dresden is a rarity. He hides in plain site. His job is a private investigator. As a wizard. Complete with ad in the yellow pages. He also has problems. Like he has a hard time paying the bills (do you know of any successful P.I. wizards in Chicago?). His romantic life is, well, rough (his friends tease him about not getting dates). And the girl he likes but does not admit it, is a cop he works with occasionally and has just left on a vacation to Hawaii. With another guy.

Harry, well he is the hero, but we don't mythologize him. He is moody. Being in the seedier part of life, he has odd friends. A half-brother who has been disowned by his family, part of which considers Harry a mortal enemy (and one that is a secret ally) (oh, it is a family of vampires) A wizard court, whose strongest member thinks Harry is a betrayer of values and should be eliminated, but is also recruiting Harry to be its enforcer. He has a hard time with asking for help. And in trusting people, even when their goals match his. And he has an overprotective streak, which gets people who are capable in trouble because he does not tell them the stuff he is hiding from them. And a war amongst vampires, that is picking an old city to be a battle ground. Chicago.

Some scenes:
Really good descriptions of what street smarts looks like (I think). I can walk through projects and keep out of trouble. Butcher writes what someone who has to live and work in it sees. He writes descriptions of the dark, dangerous places in the city that one of my marine collegues was thinking of when he commented "where do you live" when I made an offhand comment after slight testosterone marine comment of his. Descriptions of various subcultures that exist in an urban city, away from the glamour and the lights. Zombies going up what has to be Sheridan Ave in Evanston. And, because at one point in the book, our hero needed something that was old, dead, big, very aggressive and a hunter, they thought of Sue. (Hi Jack) Which leads to a very fun and spectacular (I'd say bloody, but most of them were zombies so they were already dead) finish.

Probably not for most. It takes a bit of imagination to take the story. Like most good books, if you get past the Nevernever stuff (what they call all the magic stuff) you can get into the characters well. Several of them, not least our hero, has to struggle with decisions of moral ambiguity. And you have a hard time saying they did the right, or wrong, thing. Even the powerful heros have faults and vulnerabilities (both in terms of abilities, but also in terms of personality), just like we all.
Post a Comment