Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Report: Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

I came to the Dresden files the long way around. I caught a few episodes of the short-lived T.V. Series a couple of years ago. It was interesting, but I don't watch much television, so I never really got into it. Then I came across Jim's LiveJournal, where he spent a great deal of time talking about the theory and practice of writing a novel. I found it practical and inspirational and I found myself thinking, “Here's a man who understand the science of novel writing, not just the art.” I thought that any novel this man wrote would be interesting to check out.

The other day I went to a bookstore because I could find nothing on Penelope's shelf that appealed to me. I skimmed the shelves, but nothing jumped out at me until I saw a stack of Butchers and was surprised to find the first Dresden (usually, when I look for the first book in a series, it's either out of stock or out of print).

It's meticulously plotted. You could set your watch by this thing. We start with a bit of introduction and then straight into the first event that sets up the plot (a client coming to Dresden's office... very Philip Marlowe). Then the police ask for his assistance with a grisly double murder, and in the course of his investigations, we're drawn into Dresden's world, his romantic entanglements, his shady past... everything needed to make the story interesting.

The tension never flags and the action builds nicely. It's said that you should place your character up a tree, surround the tree with alligators and have your character get out of the situation in clever, imaginative and above all exciting ways. This book does that almost literally. In each encounter with the antagonist, Dresden finds himself at more and more of a disadvantage, gradually stripped of allies and tools until in the climactic encounter, he's forced to face his antagonist with nothing more than his wits, and a pair of handcuffs.

This is a textbook on commercial novel writing, and it had me hooked from the first page.

Ulysses Rating: 4 – I loved this.

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