August 31, 2011

Review: Storm Front (Audio-book), by Jim Butcher

Author: Jim Butcher
Voice Actor: James Marsters 
Title: Storm Front
Series: The Dresden Files, book 1
ISBN:  9780965725507
Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing (2002)

Go to Amazon page 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. I'm a wizard. I work out of an office in midtown Chicago. As far as I know, I'm the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country. You can find me in the yellow pages, under Wizards. Believe it or not, I'm the only one there.
With rent past due and a decent meal becoming an issue of some importance, Harry needs work, and soon. A call from a distraught wife, and another from Lt Murphy of the Chicago PD Special Investigation Unit makes Harry believe things are looking up, but they are about to get worse, much worse. Someone is harnessing immense supernatural forces to commit a series of grisly murders. Someone has violated the first law of magic: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Tracking that someone takes Harry into the dangerous underbelly of Chicago, from mobsters to vampires, while he himself is under suspicion of the crimes. One thing is certain, if he can't stop whoever is on this killing spree, Harry will be the next victim." From the Publisher (Buzzy Multimedia)


Okay, so this series has been around since forever. So book blogs are supposed to review new and upcoming titles. So what? Let’s consider this a feature and a comment on audio-books and then go on to talk about The Dresden Files.

I decided to buy this audio-book because Keryl Raist, from To Publish or not to Publish, discovered and reviewed it first (so there: reviewing for old titles still works!). She said it was a good book, but to be honest I just read as far as “Spike” before making up my mind. Yes, Spike as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spike, as in James Marsters... who is the voice-actor behind Storm Front.

Boy, am I glad I went with my old character infatuation!

Before I’m considered biased, though, let me say that Harry Dresden had absolutely nothing to do with our bleached vampire. James Marsters did a wonderful job voice-acting this novel and halfway into the first chapter I already had a very clear picture of Dresden, which was unique to say the least.

Of course, the merit also goes to Jim Butcher, who wrote a character with a strong voice to begin with. That is, perhaps, one of the things I’m most surprised with: as hours went by and I lost sleep over this jaded wizard I’ve come to love, I kept wondering that the book had been written as if it was meant to be read aloud. First person narrative, non-ending action and more than enough character development to keep me happy and invested in everyone.

So... was it? Written to be read, I mean. Or is it just something that happens when you join a great actor and a good book? Should the voicing over be considered a certified entertainment-test? Yep, I’m babbling a bit here, but that’s the reason I said this was going to be a feature and review rolled into one. I wanted to muse a little about  advantages and disadvantages.

I think advantages are clear: I could not unplug my mp3 player. Sometimes I’m forced to put down a book because I need to drive, commute or sleep, but with option kept Harry Dresden walking everywhere with me. It also allowed me to get to know the character in a different level, perhaps, in that I’m sure the mental image I got would have been different if I had just been reading. For instance, all Harry Potter crossover ideas that might have lurked about in my head well wiped out clean. The plot was full of action, very fast-paced, and listening to it, with its tone and speed peaks, made it even faster. Besides, I have to admit to the fact that I didn’t figure things out before Dresden himself did (I hate it when the culprit is obvious but the main character can’t figure it out).

The disadvantages are also advantages in a way: everything moves so quick that possible mistakes just slip by. Perhaps there wasn’t any incongruence to begin with, but it’s easier to overlook them when the words are whispered in your ears and you can’t stop to think, “Uh?”, and go back to double-check. Things you might not be entirely comfortable with just blow past, and you are free to forget the details as soon as the next thrilling sequences comes about. Why is this a disadvantage? Because right now I couldn’t say whether Storm From was perfect or my mind just chose to breeze over the lines where I found mistakes.

I think it might be the former, though. The original use of magic and magic creatures (just check out Jim Butcher’s vampires, really!), the depth given to world building without it dampening the action, and the dry, jaded humor overlapping the mystery make Storm Front a thoroughly enjoyable book, even beyond its great characters and thrilling action.

Besides, I do remember one complain. The ending. I found it to be too... fast. Like, the case is wrapped up, the mystery is solved, and Dresden’s personal life, which has fallen to pieces all around him, just gets a footnote of normalcy before we come to an end. However, while I’d have liked more detail, I understand that this is because we’re talking about Book One, and there must be something to keep the reader hooked, and yes, no matter how much I complain, it worked: I’ve just bought Book Two.

Why don’t you check out Storm Front in audio book format too? I’d love to share impressions! And well, if you don’t... get the printed version at least. If you like magic and action and mystery, you won’t be disappointed!

Scratch that. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, no matter what you like!

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