Friday, March 27, 2009

Review: Storm Front

I made it back to the Big O! fine today. One of the few benefits to going on business trips is plenty of time to read. It may be a game book, a RPG module or in some cases, I'll actually read a bit of fiction. I had heard good things about The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, but I had not ever gotten around to reading it. I sometimes get in a fiction rut where I want to reread books that I know I like. I must have read The Stand about a six times as well as the entire of the Horatio Hornblower series at least twice, so branching into a new series is always a risky proposition that must be weighed carefully.

Having not provided a review of novel since high school, so many moons ago, I am sure that Ms. Jewel would not approve of the following format, but it is the one that I'll follow none the less. I'll hit some points in basics/background, writing style, plot, character development, and geek factor..

Basics/Background: The Dresden Files is a story set in modern Chicago, with the lead character, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, that works a professional wizard. He encounters the huge amount of suspicion and ridicule one would expect from someone that who would state they were a wizard in our own word. He has interactions with the full spectrum of characters from police to the mob in the pursuit of his job.

Writing Style: Butcher uses the first person for the entire book. I've never been a huge fan of first person novels as it is so limiting in the descriptions that can be provided since it is only the main characters point of view that enables what the reader knows. I know that is the point, but their is so much stuff in the story that would be good to know. Imagine if Lord of the Rings was only in the first person, in this case Frodo. We wouldn't know anything about Saurman, the three hunters, or the Battle of Pelennor Fields. With that said, and acknowledging my own prejudice on the style, it was pretty well done. Butcher is consistent in Dresden's view of the world and his 'view' of those around him, but still is able to explain the details. The fault, is the lack of the 'bad guys' motivation until the very end when the 'mystery' is solved. But then, that is the point, isn't it?

Plot: I found the plot to be a bit simplistic. I 'knew' that a connection between the two cases was present as soon as the second one was raised. Maybe I was suppose to, but not the exact details. Their was no 'real' surprise for me. Even the 'Bond Girl' set up was evident in the tagging of the tramp to be set up. Let me caveat this with the fact that Butcher is a published novelist, which is far better then I'll ever be, mainly because my writing sucks, but that is another story.

Character Development: This is Butchers true strength. He does an outstanding job of detailing each of the characters and their associated flaws. Dresden is drawn well and the mental image that is developed is fleshed out in both his back story and the world he lives in. Secondary characters receive some development as needed. I would like to see more information on Mac and his Pub, but that might come in further stories.

Geek Factor: The book is loaded with geekiness. Come on, it is about a wizard in Chicago, how could it not be geeky? The involvement of a vampire whore house, a wizard's pub, and a 'special crimes unit' geared to look at 'strange' crimes all point to sweet, sweet geekdom.

With all that said, is it worth looking into the second book? I think so. I'll get it from the library if available or half price books if not. Storm Front was Butcher's first book, in theory, all the aspects I like should get better and those I don't should improve, right? I'll let you know. I give Storm Front 3.25 Kalshazzak out of 5.

No new game news, but here are few funnies that you might like.
For the Battletech video, you might have to pause to catch all the text, but it is supremely funny for a miniature gamer. As for Naked Dawn, if you watched Red Dawn as a kid, then the geek factor should be turned up to an 11. Best Line? I would say 'You feel that? That wind tickling your balls? That's Freedom, That's America'


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