The Dresden Files Are My Literary Crack

Harry Dresden is the kind of guy I’d like to be friends with. Well, maybe not really good friends, since all his good friends are constantly exposed to mortal peril and whatnot. Still, he’s pretty friggin cool and it might be worth it. Anyway, I digress.

Harry Dresden is the protagonist of the much noticed Dresden Files series authored by Jim Butcher. The urban fantasy series has already become a sci-fi live action adaptation as well as a comic book. Not too shabby.

The story centers around the only wizard/private investigator listed in the Chicago Yellow Pages. The series starts with the novel Storm Front, where Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is introduced and quickly thrown into a nightmarish scenario rife with black magic and corpses. A few other mainstays are introduced, such as Karrin Murphy, a lieutenant with the Chicago Police Department who occasionally engages Dresden as a consultant on some of the stranger cases her department has to deal with. What follows is a mystery involving damsels in distress, twisted maniacs, loads of well-thought out magical feats and creatures and lots of action tempered with the occasional comic relief.

As in every story that lends itself to a possibly unending series, there is a successful formula that has worked countless times in other books of its genre. And so, Harry is generally minding his own business, hanging around his tiny basement apartment, cooking over a wood fire (electricity and magic don’t mix well) and then a client or an old friend calls with a fairly simple request. Suddenly Dresden is entangled in a complicated situation and is forced to balance the fate of the world and the fate of people he loves. Or something like that.

The books can initially be read as stand alone stories, but the deeper you get into the story, the more connections are made and even though Jim Butcher makes a point to reintroduce each character and recap what Dresden has been up to (paragraphs I just skip over at this point), it really does help to just read from the start. As the series continues, the clients and their innocent seeming problems dwindle and full out attacks or communications from otherworldly creatures tend to start the story going. Various political intrigues become more important as the supernatural powers vie for either stability or world domination.

The books are fun to read and although they are not works of art, there are parts where Dresden makes observations about the inner workings of people that resonate with the part of me that probably should be rereading Herman Hesse. The writing is fast-paced, and Butcher’s imagination appears to be a bottomless well filled with disturbing images he is capable of penning in a fashion that makes these creatures likely. However, these are not books you would necessarily want to read more than once. As with any mystery, it is difficult to maintain an interest once you already know how it all turns out.

On a personal level, the series takes me away from my worries. I have a job that remains with me after I leave the office or hospital room or whatever. Reading has always helped me maintain some sort of a balance between personal and professional life and Butcher’s writing  is realistic enough and fun enough to carry me away from whatever ruminations I am otherwise poisoning myself with. It is a familiar world I can reenter and relax into.

What’s particularly wonderful about this series is that it need not end. Each book’s loose ends are generally wrapped up. I simply pick up another novel in the series and immerse myself in the world of Harry Dresden to find out what next mad thing is going to happen to him. Eventually, an overarching mystery does develop, and yes, now I’m waiting for more details that will lead to the solution of an overall devious plot that is hinted at more and more directly with each novel. I also fear these details, because if this story develops into something that can’t be told in one-book increments it will also become a story that requires an ending.

As of this writing there are 12 books, with Changes set to be released this very month from Roc Publishing. I look forward to it.

Dresden Files Hompage

    • d42
    • April 4th, 2010

    I reiterate that you should pick up the Nightside books by Simon R. Green. They are similar and similarly great.

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