Sitting down to review Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, the second in the Dresden Files series, I cannot help but compare it to other series.
Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. I’d like to think of these comparisons as good things, as Dresden is certainly unique in many senses and yes, I’m a little late in the game to jump on the bandwagon. However, throughout my reading I did find myself drawing comparisons to previous works I’d seen/read, both to Dean Koontz’s Watchers and to the popular television series Castle. The detective show starring one of my very own freebie five and fellow Canadian, Nathan I’m ever so cute and charming Fillion--probably best known for his role as Captain Mal from Firefly.
(Side note: If you don’t know what Firefly is or have never seen it, stop reading this and go watch it.
No, I’m serious.)
I will start with Castle first. Yes, both have the detective vibe going on. Both star dashing (well, I’m reading the book so I get to make him whatever the hell I want in my mind) heroes. They have strong female leads in the form of detectives that have playful banter with our hero. There’s the whole denied sexual chemistry thing. However, the thing I feel that is the main link between the two is the charm.
Which isn’t a bad thing.
However, in both Castle and in Dresden, to me, the only reason both of these series work so well and are enjoyable is because their main characters are both incredibly charming.
In the hands of less capable writers, someone who didn’t have the way with words or the same charisma that both characters are gifted with, the stories don’t seem strong enough to make it work.
I will never deny that Butcher has incredible story telling skills. However, the main thing that I gather is that these skills are mostly lent to character development (to a certain extent) and to witty lines or a quick moment of banter.
Again, not a bad thing.
I mean the world does agree with me. The Dresden series is an incredibly popular one, especially in the fantasy fiction world. I mean, when I was standing in Chapters with Storm Front in my hand, a complete stranger told me I should pick it up. And that’s just one of the many people who have told me that if I was into fantasy fiction I should pick up these.
And I totally get it.
However, while incredibly endearing and charming these books may be I always feel a little bit of a hunger for something with a bit more proverbial ‘meat’ and I cannot completely tell you why as Butcher manages to craft a decent story with a lot of different obstacles for our hero to overcome (if not, -too- many, but more on that later).
In Fool Moon, these obstacles are met in the form of a series of murders committed by what looks like werewolves and not only do we have some furry fiends out on the loose, but it seems that the events from Storm Front have not made Dresden or his lovely sometimes partner, Murphy the most popular people in the cop world. Which of course doesn’t make Dresden, Murphy’s favourite wizard in the world.
Cue the often romantic tension.
However---and this brings me to the point of how it reminds me of Watchers, the whole book was pretty anti-climatic with weird pacing. In both Watchers and Fool Moon, our dashing protagonist was thrown against this seemingly impossible enemy and both managed to ‘magically’ figure out how to deal with this enemy in a matter of pages towards the end of the book. (And before you yell at me for spoilers... dude, there’s like how many of these books? 12 as of April 6th, 2010 (yes, I googled). OBVIOUSLY the guy makes it.)
I think the main thing that really brought me to this conclusion was, about half way through the book there’s a dream sequence. Which, in the hands of anyone else would be rather cheesy. Butcher did manage to make it work, despite how lazy it came off.
But what reminds me of Castle in so many ways, and probably why this series didn’t make it as a television one, is that while the story’s interesting, the main “meat” of these books seems to be in finding the little turn of phrase that makes you smile in your head or laugh quietly and works more on paper than if someone were to read it out loud, but at the end of the day doesn’t change an opinion, doesn’t make you think outside a box. These are both things are meant as pure popcorn entertainment. This isn’t to say that this is a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy my popcorn. However, if you’re looking for something to challenge you in any way, neither of these things will.
Dresden, like Castle is like warm apple pie. Classic, charming, warm and comforting. It’s what you want to curl up with after a crappy Monday or on a rainy afternoon. Sometimes, it can be just what the doctor ordered.
Just don’t expect to meet your metaphorical nutritional needs with them.