Sunday, June 8, 2014

Just finished reading...

...SKIN GAME, the most recent novel in the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher.

In a past review of another Dresden book, I was going to write that the Dresden Files books are a guilty pleasure of mine, but when I stop to think about that turn of phrase, I simply don't feel guilty. I like them--even though I am not a "fan-boy," a role-playing gamer, or a Comic-Con attendee. Jim Butcher has created a total world with a stunning variety of creatures, animals, people, places, and history that are all based on or around ideas of "magic." For those unfamiliar, Harry Dresden is a Private Investigator and modern day wizard in Chicago, and across fourteen--now fifteen--books, we have discovered wizards, monsters, vampires, fairies, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, angels, shape shifters, and other supernatural beings, in a sort of hybrid of Sam Spade and "The X-Files." Lest this sound a tad too Dungeons and Dragons/ role play for some, Butcher has a wonderful way of presenting these stories rooted in reality. He makes everything seem so utterly possible and believable... and I will tell you again that I am not a D&D fan. What I particularly like about the Dresden series is that everything is true: Butcher puts in everyone's gods and monsters, from across all time and all cultures. Greek gods are real, Norse gods are real, Native American beliefs are real, there is a heaven and a hell, but then the rest of the world as well as the supernatural world operates as if there is no heaven or hell. It's all true and it all exists side by side. I wouldn't be surprised if, in some future book, we meet Krishna, Shiva, or Ganesh!

This newest installation in the series, SKIN GAME, is just as fast (it moves at break-neck speed), fun, entertaining, suspenseful, funny, and wildly imaginative as the fourteen that came before it. Jim Butcher is one of those writers who knows exactly how to end a chapter so that you can't wait to start the next one... which leads to many late nights ("Oh, I'll just read one more chapter, then go to bed..." and this is of course followed by, "Well, just this one more, this will be the last one..."). He has a talent for ending chapters in mid-action, mid-plot, mid-secret-being-revealed, so one MUST start the next chapter. As you can imagine, this makes it hard to actually turn the light out and go to sleep when reading at night.

If you haven't followed any of the Dresden books, I certainly recommend them and it is not too late to get caught up. Butcher plans twenty-ish books in the Dresden Files series which will be finalized with a trilogy he has already titled (and presumably outlined!). In this installation, Harry, in his role as Winter Knight to Mab the Queen of Air and Dark, is loaned out to a rival to pay off a debt. But the rival turns out to be a demon Harry has fought in the past. And this demon's plan is to break into a vault and steal one of the most precious and powerful objects in all space and time. Regular readers have the pleasure of catching up with old characters, some of whom come to occupy a very central place in the supernatural world once again. I won't say any more for fear of spoiling the twisty plot and surprises. Even at four hundred and some pages, it was a fast read, for precisely the reasons I mentioned above.

Recommend? Yes! But just like anything in a series, you must read the others first. None of the Dresden Files books are stand-alone affairs. The series is a continuing unfolding of events and you need to be up to speed. It makes no sense to come in without any prior knowledge: you need to grasp the importance and history of certain places, people, and things. Go to Butcher's site and see the list of HARRY DRESDEN books in order, starting with STORM FRONT:

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