I've been trying to get into the Dresden Files, an ongoing series by Jim Butcher which follows the misadventures of Harry Dresden, a wizard in modern-ish day Chicago. He's just trying to make a living, you know? But as things go for the reluctant sheriffs, trouble finds him at every corner.
It's a great idea and premise, and the stories and characters are compelling. At least, to me they are, all except Harry himself.
I've been struggling with this battle for a while, and I've just finished reading the fourth book in the series: Summer Knight. While the first three books kind of follow a formula and take things to ridiculous lengths, Summer Knight demonstrates a break in the trend and, though Harry gets a bit of a happy ending, there is plenty of foreboding in the horizon.
I want to love Harry, and I want to be on his side. I think I'm on his side, anyway. It's just hard when I'm constantly distracted by being inside his head. I think this is where the problem lies: I am having a very hard time relating to a character that isn't a mystery. And also a man. I don't usually have issues reading books with male protagonists, but being inside Harry's mind hasn't worked out for me.
The entire series is a mystery and Harry serves as the investigator in supernatural affairs. The real problem though, is it's hard to surprise readers when you can read all his thoughts, including his sexy ones. On top of that, he's got superb intellect, almost Sherlock Holmes level. Actually, Sherlock is a great measure for comparison.
Wherein does the fault lie, though? It's just, when it comes down to it, at the very end of the book where you get the one paragraph resolution to everything you've just read in the previous 20- some chapters, you don't see it coming. Harry drops all the cards and guesses 10 out of 12 things right, and solves the case. I'm left with this feeling of being left out - of being held out on.
I think that for these reasons, I'm stuck with this feeling of wanting to like the character, but not feeling him as a total bad ass or anything. More like a stumbling goofball, which is an adept description of his demeanor. More than anything, he reminds me of John Crichton of the Farscape series, except instead of learning things on the way, while being a goofball and trying to save everyone while surviving himself, Harry already put in his time learning and he's just trying to survive while saving everyone. That and, Ben Browder is just so cute and charismatic, and it helped that Farscape wasn't entirely in his perspective.
The closest comparison I can come up with based on what I'm currently reading to the Dresden Files is the Southern Vampire Mysteries, or Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, or whatever you'd want to call them. Charlaine Harris writes similar stories of a regular ol' human trying to survive in a world full of supernatural predators and solve the case of this, that or whatever. Those books are also in Sookie's perspective entirely, and some books, I recall, are a combination of regular first personal narrative and the kind where a character is telling a story that is much in the past.
The key thing here, though, is Sookie isn't a veteran wizard or someone that starts out knowing what to expect in various situations. She's a regular girl with a gift to hear thoughts who has been thrust in to this whole new world of supernatural thugs and is learning (and surviving) her way through. In this way, she's very much like John Crichton, but the form of narrative applies to my gripes with Harry Dresden. I'm always in her head when I'm reading the Stackhouse novels, but I can relate to her more. Firstly, because she's female. Secondly, because I'm not expected to know much coming in to it. Her world is introduced to the reader as it is introduced to her, and thus her surprise is ours. With Harry, there is little room for surprises because he is so careful and calculating. And finally, because she is more than aware of her weaknesses all the time. She knows she's a fragile human against all the monsters and she takes advantage of anything and anyone she possibly can in order to survive. Dresden is more like Superman or Batman. Very super, but mostly fights the losing battles against himself, and he works alone (with the exception of Bob the skull, who reminds me of Murray the Evil Demonic Skull of Monkey Island fame). The difference is I love Batman.
I'll likely keep reading the Dresden Files (the next book for me is Death Masks), though they'll probably take a back seat. I am interested in the story and I have a vested interest in seeing what happens next (and more importantly, how he's going to get out of it). Unfortunately, I think it'll be quite a while before I get there. As of last year there are a total of 13 books, meaning I've got nine left to be up to date. Well, I'll squeeze them in somehow. Harry always finds his way back onto my shelf, anyway.
[Buy Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) on Amazon and give Harry a try!]