White Night

Our latest book review is not of a newly published book, but rather of one representative book in a series that our reviewer considers worthy of discussion. The book can be found in hardback and paper editions. The reviewer is Steve Wishnevsky of Winston-Salem, an accomplished writer who also has many other creative talents. Here’s how he describes himself: published self-taught historian, nationally published poet, musical instrument maker with more than 3,000 instruments sold, founder of the Winston Salem Shuffle Talent contest, and world’s most prolific writer of unpublishable science fiction and fantasy.

By Steve Wishnevsky

WHITE NIGHT. By Jim Butcher. ROC. 2007.

This is a representative installment in the “Dresden Files” series, which has been made into a cable TV series on the Sci-Fi Channel. The series a single season; the books have proved more viable. This is the ninth of the series, and it suffers from back-story clogging of the arteries.

Harry Dresden, wizard, inhabits contemporary Chicago, with all its grit and gleam plus extra added magic and sorcery. There is your typical eons-long struggle between the wizards of the White Council and three families of Vampires. Also there are schisms within the corps of wizards, and several varieties of elves, the Seelie and the Unseelie. Other magical denizens abound, werewolves and such, although none make more than referential appearances in this novel. It is a complex and baroque Chicago with which Harry has to cope.

In this volume, someone unknown is targeting several orders of lesser witches.  At first the indications point to Harry, and then to his brother, Thomas, who seems to be a vampire. More back story. There is a policewoman, Murphy, and Harry’s punk girl apprentice, Molly. There is a haunted skull, Bob; a fallen angel, Lasciel or Lash, who is resident in Harry’s brain; and a giant Temple dog, Mouse.

The first thing I would suggest to the gentle reader is to start at the beginning, and follow in order, if this sort of romp appeals. The books are not lacking in humor, or in horror, or in decent writing, but the threads are so inter-tangled that a computer open to Wikipedia might be necessary to make sense of this saga. This seems to be a characteristic of modern “Urban Fantasy” a newish genre, one of dozens into which Fantasy has split.

Butcher’s books are nowhere as allusive or literary as some of the best in current fantasy offerings, but they are sufficiently complex to require complete attention. Dresden’s universe is a dense and interleaved one, where a Mafia captain may fight vampires, and porn queen succubae conduct magica sexualis rites in Grant Park.

Fun books, if your disbelief can be suspended quite that high, for so long. They have workmanlike prose with flashes of real wit, seemingly in danger of becoming a parody of itself at some point. But with the Twilight and True Blood series being so terribly successful in what used to be called mainstream popular literature, about the worst that can be said for the Dresden Files is that they are “true male adventures” in the half world.

Faery and machine pistols. Yay.

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