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Jim Butcher, Storm Front

– March 12, 2012

This book I picked up in some down time (borrowed it, actually) because I have heard people talking about the series (called The Dresden Files) and wanted to check it out. I made it through maybe 70 pages, and that mostly because there were so few words per page. (Bizarre typesetting.)

Let's see. I'll will say there was in the book a thread of an interesting idea. But:

  1. The idea may have been interesting, but its presentation was far less than the promise.
  2. The writing was banal, and at times bad.
  3. Often very bad.
  4. Butcher likes to play at R-rated material, but it's really more a 12-year-old's concept of R-rated material.
  5. To recite my favorite Ray Charles quotation: It has nothing to teach me. Or to offer me. Or, really, to show me.

So, what, he's up to volume 13 now? And making a ton of money I am sure. Am I looking down from the ivory tower mocking his low-brow cashing in? Not at all. Let him rake it in as long as he wants, or can. What I am saying is two things.

One, it is low brow pulp. Who I'm disappointed in is that fantasy readers just will not set a bar and demand writers rising to it.

Two, to repeat the obvious -- but it demands repeating -- just because it sells or is popular does not mean it is good. I mean Weis and Hickman and Robert Jordan have made a mint, and by Mary's thighs is that stuff toilet scrapings. And Butcher's stuff is also bad. O.K., not on-line fantasy-romance hybrid writing group bad. Not even Weis and Hickman bad. But bad.

"But its fun to read and easy and light." The invariable retort, and phrase I just read in The Age of American Unreason: Jacoby speaking of the decline of the "Culture of Effort." Which is what genre fiction is and what fantasy/science-fiction has become: a culture of no-effort.

So, three, what really pisses me off is people defending this crap as something worth reading. And four, the fact that the popularity of this crap is tearing down literary phantasy, and breeding readers who will look at such as Bester or Delaney or Tanith Lee at her best and whine, "It's too hard! I just want to be entertained!"

Which is also fine, except that when it comes to talking about imaginative fiction you need to shut your damn mouths, because if you thing Storm Front is good you don't know shit about shit.


To note, I'm speaking of Jacoby a lot, but I'm not wholly sold. There's weaknesses in the book I may bring up at a future review. Two underhanded jabs at Freud and Jung now. I've a guess why: it has to do with the very thing she's writing about.