One of my new year’s resolutions is to keep track of the books I read this year and my thoughts on them. To help motivate me to keep this up I’m going to post short musings on each book on my blog. These posts are not meant as a book review, but as a way for me to put in writing the questions and issues that each book raised for me. I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of the same books!
Book Musings 2014 Book#1 – Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Note this is not an actual proper review. For many of those refer here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47212.Storm_Front?from_search=true .
I started this book at 12pm on Wednesday and at 8pm on Wednesday finished the last sentence. That tells you what I thought of it right there.
The story of Harry Dresden, hard-boiled wizard P.I., is addicting. It’s also witty, fast-paced, light-hearted, deadly serious, and full of everything that makes noir, well noir. There’s a host of femme fatales, a villain without a single redeeming quality, and cynical wisecracks a plenty from Harry.
The short version of the plot goes like this. Harry gets a call from Murphy (the beautiful head of Special Investigations of the Chicago PD) to investigate two brutal and magical murders. At the same time another beautiful women, Monica, wants Harry to find her missing husband. The beautiful reporter, Susan, wants both information and a date. Morgan (not a beautiful femme fatale for once), Harrys probation officer of sorts wants Harry’s head, literally. And Mister, Harry’s cat, just wants dinner.
Harry’s problems get worse as he starts to deal with his many issues. Both the Chicago PD and the White Council (aka the police of the magical world) think Harry did it, but he didn’t. Harry finds himself racing to find the true killer before being killed himself.
The core of Storm Front for me was the question of power. Each character has their own power to weld and the way they weld it showcases their nature. The main power struggle is between Harry and the villain Victor. Both have magical power. They can tap into the same energy to do everything from lighting a film canister on fire to harnessing storms for murder. Harry chooses to use his power to help his clients while Victor chooses to use his power to get drugs, sex, money, and to feed his arrogance.
The subtle powers the minor characters weld are where the interest of the novel lays for me. In the characters of Murphy and Morgan is the power of authority and of belief. Murphy has the power to interrogate, to arrest, to search, and all those other things police do. Morgan has the power to literally end Harry’s life, to enforce the laws of the White Council to the letter. Both characters blinded by their belief in Harry’s guilt (Murphy due to pressure from her boss, and Morgan from a hatred of Harry) use their power to enforce that belief, thereby making Harry’s life hell.
In the sisters Jessica and Monica is the power of information. Both women have the power to bring Victor down. Jessica decides to threaten Victor with her information and pays for it with her life. Monica decides to be more subtle and takes her information to Harry. She is the back seat catalyst to Victor’s demise. Their friend Linda also has the power of information. She chooses not to use it at all, evading Harry’s questions, and ends up dead anyway.
Then there are the characters that have the power of authority, but not the power of information. Bianca, the vampiress, has the power both of her monster form and as the owner of a successful brothel. She uses her monster powers to try to bully information out of Harry. Marcone, the mobster that runs this fictional Chicago, has the power of well being the leader of the mob. He uses that power to threaten Harry, verbally and physically, to get the information he wants. Bianca’s attempt fails. Marcone and Harry come to a mutually beneficial agreement when they realize their after the same bad guy.
The most intriguing aspect of power discussed in Storm Front is the power of the mind. At the end of the day it is Harry’s intellect and quick thinking that get him thru the sticky situations he faces. His magical powers, a stunning read as they are, are employed by him only after using his brain to figure out the best way to handle things.
The minor characters that put their brains to work also end up succeeding. Both Morgan and Murphy use their brains to realize they came to the wrong conclusion, although it takes them awhile. Susan allows her mind to accept the magical side of Harry’s life, and thereby the possibility of a relationship. On the other hand Jessica, Linda, and Monica all end up in not so great places as they didn’t think through how to use the information they possess. And then there’s the villain Victor who relays only on his magical powers and blinded by his arrogance loses the day.
I don’t think Storm front is meant as a deeply intellectual or philosophical book. However it touches on a larger life issue: what do we do with the powers that we have?
While I may not be able to call down a storm to off someone, I do have the power of my mind, of my beliefs, and of the information I possess at my disposal. Will I ever have to figure out how to evade a demon that broke into my home, or how to overcome a magical drug lord? Probably not. But in the everyday problems I do face, whether it’s what to buy for dinner or how to sort out a relationship issue, I have to put my powers to work.
Storm Front shows the reader that all of us non magical folk have powers too. We have brains, beliefs, authority, and information at our disposal. At the end of the day those powers are what really counts.