Sunday, February 10, 2008

Harry Dresden Is the New Repairman Jack

Okay, that's a callous way to put it since I'm sure that Harry Dresden creator Jim Butcher did not intentionally mean to imitate Repairman Jack creator F. Paul Wilson. But he did.

Moreover, Butcher's last two books in the Harry Dresden series, Dead Beat (2005) and Proven Guilty (2006) have a certain vibe and energy that used to exist in the earliest books of the Repairman Jack series but exist no longer.

Reading the latest Repairman Jack books has become tiresome. Jack is no longer that interesting a character and the troubles he faces have a tedious predictability. Even the plot twists in which yet another of Jack's loved ones ended up facing harm have become predictable -- and shameless. (Indeed, one would think that a good writer like Wilson would able to come up with a better plotline than "Jack's so-and-so faces mortal peril -- yet again.")

However, reading the latest Harry Dresden books is exciting. Harry Dresden is interesting in a way that Jack used to be but is no longer and his stories tend to blend genuine moral conflicts with good old-fashioned derring-do. Not all his storylines involve Harry's nearest and dearest facing mortal peril (which makes the few instances in which that plot device arises all the more powerful). Moreover, the latest books build on each other so that each can be read separately but are more effective when read as a series.

Of course, part of the problem with the Repairman Jack books is that Wilson has written himself into a corner. He can't really do anything all that new with the Repairman Jack character that would negate the events in an earlier novel (Nightworld) but he can't move on to a new character either. Anyone who has ever read The Tomb (the book that first introduced Repairman Jack) can understand Wilson's reluctance to drop the character, but unfortunately, it's difficult to love the characters Wilson introduced in that book and still applaud the events in the latest books. Even the big twist in the last Repairman Jack book I read (Harbingers) which essentially pits Jack against God isn't as intriguing as one would think.

Harry Dresden's still not as popular as that other Harry fellow who fights evil wizards and stuff but he is definitely worth reading.

The Harry Dresden TV series, alas, is something worth skipping. Oh, well, even Harry can't win 'em all...

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