Storm Front

Reviewed: March 7, 2006
By: Jim Butcher
Publisher: ROC Fantasy
322 pages, $10.99

American author Jim Butcher has taken a different approach to the idea, His Dresden Files feature a private eye type who has hung out his shingle as a professional “Wizard - Lost Items Found, Paranormal Investigations,” etc. Harry Dresden sometimes consults for the Chicago police, with whom he has an ambiguous relationship. One of the side effects of his powers is that electronics and other technology tend to work erratically when he is around.

In truth, Harry’s self-narrated adventures remind me strongly of Howard Engel’s Ontario based PI, Benny Cooperman. There’s that same barely-scraping-alongness to both characters, and Harry has that same self-deprecating tone.

People are getting killed by unnatural lightning bolts and Harry signs on to find out why and how. He has to do this using as little magic as possible, except in his own self defense, since he is in the bad books of something called the White Council. We don’t know why, so there is bound to be a lot of back story that Butcher will reveal in later novels. So far there are seven books in the series, this earlier first volume having been re-released to coincide with the latest hard cover.

Harry’s world seems to be a few years after ours, or else it’s another world, like Hamilton’s and Armstrong’s. The millennium has turned, so he’s in the 21st century, when the reputation of science had been somewhat tarnished by Mad Cow Disease, Y2K, the Avian Flu Scare, designer drugs and exploding space shuttles. People began to look more to the paranormal for answers and, perhaps, for hope. Practitioners came out of the closet, so to speak, and the topic became respectable.

Come to think of it, looking at the fall and winter lineup of hit television shows, maybe Harry’s in our world after all. The first book was fun. I’ll pick number two some time, if only to find out more about Morgan and the White Council.