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Dresden Files


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#1 Humble Asskicker

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 08:50 AM

So this is one of those "does it get better?" threads. I enjoyed books one and two more or less. Book one was a little rough, but book two I found to be loads of fun.

I'm near the end of book three and it's taken me about two months to read this thing. I've read eight books in the meantime. The reason I don't drop this one outright is because I hear so many good things about this series, that it's pulpy goodness and that the story improves on each succeeding volume. I want to like this story very much.

There are a few problems I'm having with Grave Peril. I fucking hate the Michael character and his wife. They are so insufferable. Yes, they are supposed to be that way. They are the stereotype of the holy paladin and his wife, judgmental pricks who can do no moral wrong...in their eyes. Naturally, life is ambiguous and so I find disagreement with what they consider absolutely as right or wrong, and so it becomes annoying to be pontificated at. Dresden shares my annoyance oftentimes, but unlike me he acknowledges that Michael and his wife are far better people than he, and will usually concede to their perspective, or at least admit that they have a point.

What's even worse is the introduction of God. Look, the real world is so broken that it's hard to believe in any sort of good God out there, and the Dresden world tries to mimic the real world, and so when - like in our world - bad shit happens and someone thinks about how wonderful God is in a non-sarcastic sort of way, it bugs the shit out of me. Even worse, Dresden will sometimes deprecate himself as a not so great person while thinking that God is great and that he and God are only at odds because Dresden is such a gritty dark personage and God is this beautiful personification of goodness.

This brings me to another thing. Dresden is not a dark character in the least. Not by a long shot. The dude is a fucking boyscout. He's always going out on a limb for other people, always playing the hero and doing the right thing. Which makes it extremely irksome when we get the repetitious musings about how besmirched his soul is or whatever, and the disturbed reactions other characters have when they soulgaze into him.

Added to that, another thing that sticks into my craw like a piss-soaked dagger is the recycled nature of the twists. Dresden or some other character finds themselves endangered and then Dresden has the crap knocked out of him and his life is in sudden peril that should be impossible to escape...will he live? Of course he will; it's not like this is a shock. The other main characters keep coming through unscathed as well. The fact that they live isn't what bothers me. It's the constant use of deus ex machina. Also, the common cycle of these points occurring: 1) Dresden is beaten to within an inch of his life; 2) Dresden sobs like a whiny bitch and thinks to himself that there is no hope; 2)b Sometimes he'll reflect on his life and his friends and bemoan that he hasn't been the most virtuous person and that he's full of inner darkness that has yet to be seen in even the slightest; 3) Deus ex machina occurs and Dresden bitchslaps all the baddies to the ground, with no permanent injuries to himself and all the necessary characters properly rescued.

I was fine with this for the first two books, but with the added flaws of book three and the complete familiarity with this trend, it's becoming grating.

So my question...does this shit get better? Is it like House where the same formula transpires ad naseum? Or do things actually happen? Is Michael always going to be such a douche, and if he is, does he shitty attitude and that of his wife ever get checked? Is God more ambiguous than has been let on, or am I reading a naive religious tract (ie urban fantasy)?

I was so confident I would like this series that after reading the first book I bought all the available novels. Please tell me that it gets better. Pretty please.

#2 Mjolnir

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 10:04 AM

Well ... Okay. Keep in mind that I'm a fan of the series. But first: yes, it does improve. I would say that nothing fundamentally changes about the kind of story being told, [though Harry does grow slightly, slightly, more genuinely aggressive and hardcore], but the execution of that story gets a lot better. Book-by-book improvement, for me, was slow but steady up until Dead Beat, the seventh one, at which point it reaches a plateau of awesome that only wobbles occasionally.

As for the ridiculous amount of punishment Harry can take, I dunno what to say. Know that, whatever twists may be thrown in -- and there are some, this is a story about Harry Dresden, who is a good person, whacking various bad people all over the place. It gets more complex than that on occasion, but the story is about Harry and his friends being awesome and that's not going to change. I find it profitable, sometimes at least, to think of Harry as a sort of undeclared minor superhero. Accepting this now will allow for more fun later on.

That being said, if consequences for the characters are something you need ... well, finish Grave Peril. I'm not sure what happens'll be enough for you, but there's definitely more there than has been the series' usual up to this point, and long-term effects are felt.

Michael does remain very much a moral compass, though his role eventually gets a bit more complex and then changes quite a bit. I don't recall a lot of cases in which the basic awesomeness of the holy forces is really questioned, to be honest, which yes can be somewhat annoying. However, Butcher does keep Michael from being absolutely over-the-top sanctamonious, I think, by making him practical and giving him a bit of a sense of humour: "My faith protects me. My kevlar helps." Dresden's relationship with Charity Carpenter is somewhat more complex -- she is not a fan of his, initially, and this leads some interesting and slightly more tangled places. To counterbalance the Carpenters, though, you've got characters like Gentleman John Marcone, perhaps not an evil man but a very very morally dubious one, getting a lot of page time. It's a mushy series, at its core, but not entirely without rough edges.

#3 Contrarius

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 10:14 AM

But tell us what you REALLY think..... /wink.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=';)' />

If you don't like Dresden by now, you're not gonna. Give it up, go read something else. The first two books are definitely lower in quality than the rest of the series, but Grave Peril is the point at which most people start to get hooked. If you're this angry about what's going on now, there's really no point in you wasting more time with it.

To each their own!

#4 peterbound

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 10:25 AM

Yep, all that shit is true. Butcher can't really write a 'dark' character all that well, and you are correct it saying that it's the same shit over, and over, and over again. I read them, only because i've invested so much fucking time into the series, but it doesn't really get any better.

I find them to be simple mind candy, fun to read on occasion, but not something i'd put at the top of the genre. If you really want to take a whack at some urban fantasy, check out M.L. Hanover's books (really daniel abraham) and Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces novels. The Felix Castor books by Mike Carey are far and above better than anything dresden is doing as well.. although when i read them i can't help but think they are some unused Constantine stories Carey never got around to putting into hellblazer.

#5 Mjolnir

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 10:34 AM

Mike Carey's Felix Castor books are great, yeah; I think they'd work very well as a kind of Dresden alternative if you eventually decide you hate it or as a Dresden pallet-cleanser, to get some nice darkness and grime in amongst Butcher's relative lightness. In particular they'd counterbalance Michael Carpenter well: There are positively and fairly portrayed religious characters in the Castor books, but they make major mistakes, use extreme and unjustified force, and their leader is a raving fanatical madman with no redeeming features.

#6 fionwe1987

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 10:48 AM

There are a few problems I'm having with Grave Peril. I fucking hate the Michael character and his wife. They are so insufferable. Yes, they are supposed to be that way. They are the stereotype of the holy paladin and his wife, judgmental pricks who can do no moral wrong...in their eyes. Naturally, life is ambiguous and so I find disagreement with what they consider absolutely as right or wrong, and so it becomes annoying to be pontificated at. Dresden shares my annoyance oftentimes, but unlike me he acknowledges that Michael and his wife are far better people than he, and will usually concede to their perspective, or at least admit that they have a point.

Micheal is irritating as a character, especially for his moral certitude. But, there a way to put up with him. Thing is, Butcher shows that that kind of moral code really restricts you as a "hero" or "savior" in this world. While Harry personally respects him, and, yes, occasionally wishes to emulate, he never does. Which isn't all that big a deal, though, because you're right, Harry is hardly a dark twisted character. Just more practical.

What's even worse is the introduction of God. Look, the real world is so broken that it's hard to believe in any sort of good God out there, and the Dresden world tries to mimic the real world, and so when - like in our world - bad shit happens and someone thinks about how wonderful God is in a non-sarcastic sort of way, it bugs the shit out of me. Even worse, Dresden will sometimes deprecate himself as a not so great person while thinking that God is great and that he and God are only at odds because Dresden is such a gritty dark personage and God is this beautiful personification of goodness.

God at least has a sense of humor. And is not the ultimate superpower, from the looks of it. Makes it that much easier to take in.

...The fact that they live isn't what bothers me. It's the constant use of deus ex machina. Also, the common cycle of these points occurring: 1) Dresden is beaten to within an inch of his life; 2) Dresden sobs like a whiny bitch and thinks to himself that there is no hope; 2)b Sometimes he'll reflect on his life and his friends and bemoan that he hasn't been the most virtuous person and that he's full of inner darkness that has yet to be seen in even the slightest; 3) Deus ex machina occurs and Dresden bitchslaps all the baddies to the ground, with no permanent injuries to himself and all the necessary characters properly rescued.

Much of this doesn't change, but there are permanent consequences, many times, including in Grave Peril. Though the deus ex machina also amps up, sometimes to literal levels, later. I found those instances to be fairly well handled.

I was fine with this for the first two books, but with the added flaws of book three and the complete familiarity with this trend, it's becoming grating.

So my question...does this shit get better? Is it like House where the same formula transpires ad naseum? Or do things actually happen? Is Michael always going to be such a douche, and if he is, does he shitty attitude and that of his wife ever get checked? Is God more ambiguous than has been let on, or am I reading a naive religious tract (ie urban fantasy)?

I was so confident I would like this series that after reading the first book I bought all the available novels. Please tell me that it gets better. Pretty please.


You should definitely continue. For one, Micheal isn't in all the books. For another, he's very well balanced by characters like Murphy and Marcone, so it isn't like the book is about the boyscout wizard and the sanctimonious prick. The story does get much better, with a lot more interesting aspects of the world coming out. Some parts do seem repetitive, but there's some genuine character growth, and some really explosive events which hint that this may just be an epic fantasy in an urban disguise, which is very cool.

#7 Inigima

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 11:07 AM

The last few books have gotten much more serious.

#8 Poobah

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 11:11 AM

I enjoy the dresden files, and certainly feel that Butcher contunually matures as a writer and each successive book gets better (possibly excluding #2 which is my least favourite, despite introcucing some of my favourite characters). I don't think Dresden is all boy-scout all the time - book 2 has him summoning a demon from hell for information, and he definitely has killer instincts, but I kinda feel that the flashes of 'bad dresden' make his angst is kinda genuine rather than bullshitty, and show how is really is 'good' - he struggles against the desire to take the easier path, and does the 'right' thing even when it means shit for him will get worse.

I think the juxtaposition with Michael is really good to highlight this. Michael just is good. Paladin boring lawful good, good, as white as white. And Dresden isn't that good. But it should be noted that Michael soulgazed Dresden before he would work with him and judged him a good man.

See if you can finish 3. Tell us what you think. 4 is a lot of fun and doesn't involve Michael or the White God in the slightest.

#9 Galactus

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 11:55 AM

Dresden Files never gets that dark, if we go by superhero books it's Spider-man: There's room for seriousness and high stakes, but it's not a "dark" book.

I can't remember what happens in what book (I read them all very quickly) so I don't really know what's spoilerish.

I'd suggest you read at least until Summer Knight (which I felt was the first really "good" book)

But no, Michael won't change. He's that kind of unthinkingly good guy.

There is some degree of moral ambuiguity (or at least "What side is this guy on really?" in the later books but the Knights of the Cross are pretty much clearly in the White Corner (although their general task and what they seems only indirectly related to the main plot at the moent) One of th KotC is a complete riot, btw...

#10 Ser Scot A Ellison

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 12:08 PM

Glactus,

Harry goes to very dark places in Changes at least in my opinion.

#11 peterbound

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 12:17 PM

Glactus,

Harry goes to very dark places in Changes at least in my opinion.



It get's 'slightly' dark in changes, but that doesn't change the overall tone of the series.

#12 Galactus

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 12:23 PM

Glactus,

Harry goes to very dark places in Changes at least in my opinion.


Eh, not any more than when the Fantastic Four teams up with Dr. Doom.

#13 Ser Scot A Ellison

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 01:02 PM

Peterbound, Galactus,

Okay, [spoiler is for the end of Changes:

[spoiler]Harry tricks the mother of his child into giving into her vampire nature turning her into a full Red Court Vampire and then kills her to destroy the entire Red Court, that's not "mildly dark" or FF team up with Dr. Doom in my opinion. [/spoiler]

Now it's not rape aliens, black semen, and women are objectively less than men but it's still pretty dark in my humble opinion.

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison, 05 June 2011 - 01:06 PM.


#14 peterbound

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 01:31 PM

Peterbound, Galactus,

Okay, [spoiler is for the end of Changes:

[spoiler]Harry tricks the mother of his child into giving into her vampire nature turning her into a full Red Court Vampire and then kills her to destroy the entire Red Court, that's not "mildly dark" or FF team up with Dr. Doom in my opinion. [/spoiler]

Now it's not rape aliens, black semen, and women are objectively less than men but it's still pretty dark in my humble opinion.



Sure, that's fairly dark, but it doesn't change the fact that most of the books have a tone that allows
Spoiler
. Has butcher gotten better.. sure, but after this many books how could you not get darker?

Edited by peterbound, 05 June 2011 - 01:32 PM.


#15 Galactus

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 01:55 PM

Sure, that's fairly dark, but it doesn't change the fact that most of the books have a tone that allows

Spoiler
. Has butcher gotten better.. sure, but after this many books how could you not get darker?


I'm not sure darker=better, really. I'm perfectly fine with Butcher keeping the Spider-man level of dark. (which can get plenty dark on occasion, Kraven's Last Hunt anyone?

#16 Humble Asskicker

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 02:05 PM

Mjolnir,

Thank you for addressing those points. It was enough to convince me to give the book another shot.

If you don't like Dresden by now, you're not gonna. Give it up, go read something else. The first two books are definitely lower in quality than the rest of the series, but Grave Peril is the point at which most people start to get hooked. If you're this angry about what's going on now, there's really no point in you wasting more time with it.


I do like Dresden. I really liked books one and two, which is why I have given this book such a chance. I think Grave Peril is an *enormous* drop in quality compared to its predecessors, which is why I started this thread. I figured GP might just be an outlier.

I find them to be simple mind candy, fun to read on occasion, but not something i'd put at the top of the genre.


That's what I was looking for. I wasn't expecting anything amazing; just dumb fun. And for books one and two, that's exactly what I got. The books are predictable, the characters are caricatures (Murphy, the hard-bitten female cop with a heart of gold who gives Dresden shit; Marcone, the gangster the heroes occassional have dubious alliances with; Bob, the comic relief; etc.). The dialog is cheesy as hell, and everyone knows things will wrap up in the end in a suitably convoluted extravaganza of pyrotechnics. I'm not complaining about that, because that's precisely what I wanted from these books. Light reads that I could turn my mind off and enjoy.

But some things are starting to interfere with that enjoyment.

Thing is, Butcher shows that that kind of moral code really restricts you as a "hero" or "savior" in this world. While Harry personally respects him, and, yes, occasionally wishes to emulate, he never does. Which isn't all that big a deal, though, because you're right, Harry is hardly a dark twisted character. Just more practical.


I know, Michael is the Eddard character, only with religion in addition to honor. What bugs me is that unlike with Eddard, up to this point, when Michael makes stupid decisions in the name of what he perceives is the good and honorable thing, the consequences are way too easy on him.

Much of this doesn't change, but there are permanent consequences, many times, including in Grave Peril.


Then that's something in the book's favor.

book 2 has him summoning a demon from hell for information, and he definitely has killer instincts, but I kinda feel that the flashes of 'bad dresden' make his angst is kinda genuine rather than bullshitty, and show how is really is 'good' - he struggles against the desire to take the easier path, and does the 'right' thing even when it means shit for him will get worse.


Dresden's ultimate goal is to help other people no matter what the risk to himself. Dresden deals with the demon from hell and his godmother to help other people even at the expense of himself. If someone deals with the devil, sacrifices their soul to save the lives of other people, how is this remotely considered "bad," other than by some fatuous abstract that any kind of dealing with "evil" forces must invariable have evil consequences and make the bargainer a bad person? Dresden, despite his constant self-effacing, is a fucking holy man.

I mean, name one seriously bad deed he's done. If he suddenly gets into an argument with his pregnant girlfriend, loses his shit and punches her in the stomach, then feels guilty, I would say that he's more of a grey character. But can you imagine him ever doing anything close to that? I surely the fuck cannot.

I'm not sure darker=better, really. I'm perfectly fine with Butcher keeping the Spider-man level of dark. (which can get plenty dark on occasion, Kraven's Last Hunt anyone?


I don't think darker is better either. But if you're going to say a character is dark, then make a character dark. We're told frequently about the darkness of Dresden, but we never see it in his actions. And I think there should be consequences to a character's actions that do not get resolved by deus ex machina. If Dresden gets into a bind because he was stupid enough to change into a hopeless situation to rescue someone, I expect him to extract himself via a clever and realistic route, not by hoping really hard and suddenly out of nowhere having a character come to his rescue, or the villain do something incredibly stupid.

I expect this even of my popcorn books.

Anyway, I just capped a couple more chapters and I'm about twenty pages from the end and it's pissing me off. Here's my problem now:

Dresden lost almost all of his magic power. He's poisoned and near death. He's locked up with Justine and Susan. Susan has turned into a vampire. This is a good twist. Not so good is Dresden's reaction to it. He gets his magic mojo on and somehow, despite telling us over and over again that he has basically no power at all, musters up just enough power to start his bounding mojo. We have been informed that Lea, his godmother, is super-powerful and has a great deal of control over Dresden. Also, when she makes deals with someone, the extent of her powers all but ensure that those deals are sealed. Susan lost her memory of Dresden making these deals. She's about to feed on Dresden. Oh no, the bounding isn't working for Dresden in his enfeebled state. How will he survive?

Get this...he survives by the power of motherfucking LOVE. Love, that omnipotent emotion that fucks up Voldemort's game enters stage again and saves the day. Lea's power is for nothing in the face of L.O.V.E. (Apparently Butcher has never seen the power of love in action in a divorce settlement or custody hearing.)

So the badass Dresden gets soppy with his squeeze, they have themselves a little cry, and now Dresden is getting ready to kick the ass of the Kravos the powerful wizard while Dresden is half-dead and supposedly absent his magic mojo.

Okay, so that love scene was straight out of Twilight. How does this shit not receive more criticism here? I mean, do people really bash the ridiculously dumb moments like this in Twilight, but let it pass in these books.

A more important question: Is Jim Butcher a tween girl? Because I was pretty sure that only Twilight tweens could take that kind of soppy nonsense seriously.

So, what do we have. Deus ex machina? Check (love). Dresden acting like a pussy? Check (he discovers the power of love and starts weeping away). Dresden the dark hero acting like a pure unadulterated hero? Check (he's in this supposedly hopeless situation that he should die in to rescue people he has no obligation to rescue).

Susan better fucking die at the end of this book. It can be a cliche heroic end if necessary, as long as she dies.

#17 Ser Scot A Ellison

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 02:28 PM

THK,

You need to be patient. They're are serious consequences to nearly everything that happens in this book. Just not necessarily in this book.

#18 Humble Asskicker

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 03:34 PM

Ser Scot,

Yeah, I thought the final twenty pages or so were much better. Good enough that I'm going to continue with the next book. The ending promised an intriguing story line.

Probably will read Hyperion first, but then I'll hit up Summer Knight.

#19 Maltaran

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 03:53 PM

I know, Michael is the Eddard character, only with religion in addition to honor. What bugs me is that unlike with Eddard, up to this point, when Michael makes stupid decisions in the name of what he perceives is the good and honorable thing, the consequences are way too easy on him.


All I can say is, keep reading. I can't remember offhand which book has which events, but most characters have the consequences of their actions catch up sooner or later.

#20 End of Disc One

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 04:24 PM

Michael a judgemental dousche? Wow, I think you're letting your hatred for Christianity cloud your judgement. While Michael believes he does know right from wrong, he does not judge other people.

But if it helps, Michael is not in most of the books (I've only read the first 8)

Edited by End of Disc One, 05 June 2011 - 04:25 PM.