Fool Moon - Jim Butcher

There's really no point coming up with a punny title for this post, is there?

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)

by

Jim Butcher

It's been months since Harry Dresden, professional wizard, went up against a psychotic sorcerer (Storm Front), and life hasn't gotten much better. Since that little escapade, most of Chicago believes he is in the pocket of the local crime lord, John Marcone. Dresden's reticence during the case has caused his only friend at Chicago Police Department, Lt. Karrin Murphy, to distrust him. And since most of his living came from consulting on cases for the Chicago PD, he's even more broke than usual.

But even with all of that fallout, Harry still hasn't learned his lesson. When one of his friends comes to him and asks for advice about a complex and potentially dangerous spell, Harry decides to "protect" her by refusing to provide any information. He is soon distracted from the situation by a new case from Lt. Karrin Murphy: a series of brutal, vicious killings occurring right around the full moon. Even worse, one of the killings appears to target an employee of the infamous John Marcone, and the crime lord is not one to stay uninvolved. But how can Dresden and Murphy tell the FBI agents in charge of the case that a pack of werewolves are responsible? So Dresden sets off to find the werewolves himself. As he tries to untangle the surprising number of lycanthropic conspiracies in the city, he must continue to spar with a suspicious Murphy, dodge hostile and unbelieving FBI agents, confront psychotic lycanthropic gang members, avoid the all-too-powerful Marcone, and try to get information from a mysterious woman who seems to keep popping up at all the wrong moments.

Like Storm Front, I consider this book to fall pretty squarely into the spoof/parody category, this time of the werewolf-B-movie genre. It has fun action scenes and some hilarious one-liners and incidents...and even (groan) teenage werewolves. Dresden makes for an entertainingly hapless and genre-savvy narrator; like the best first-person narrators, Dresden is both honest and unreliable, providing the reader with both what he sees and his sometimes completely inaccurate interpretations. Dresden's attempts to play action hero are often disastrously inept and the book contains one of the most hilarious noble-suffering-hero spoofs of the entire series. Since there are a lot of them, to disambiguate from the 'let me jump heroically out of a car while completely high' and the 'Snoopy/ Peanuts Incantation of Doom,' I'm talking about the ending, where Harry firmly believes that Murph has shot him and that he's dying. He nobly forgives her, and then starts saying that it's 'so cold, so terribly cold,' apparently attempting to die in standard Victorian hero fashion. Murph promptly responds that duh, it's cold--it started raining. Love that moment.

 However, the characters are much less complex and well-developed than in the later books in the series. Subtle this book is not, and it has several sequences that break the "show, not tell" mantra. For example, at one point, self-analysis is achieved via--I kid you not--a long dream sequence where Harry debates with a corporeal, pointy-bearded Freudian version of his subconscious. At several points, Dresden's idiocy is absolutely grating. Without his continued attempts to "protect" people by not providing vital information, many of the strands of the plot would collapse, and as in Storm Front, there is often no real reason for his silence except to keep the tensions up and the action from ending early. In addition, Harry is relatively isolated and friendless in this book; the conflict and distrust between Dresden and Murphy removes a lot of the conversation, joking, and camaraderie between characters that brings the other books to life.

Another of my pet peeves with the entire series is also quite apparent here. Butcher is a fun writer, but no matter how many Chicago locations he namedrops, his unfamiliarity with city life couldn't be more apparent. Take, for example, the use of cars in the series. Now, I've never been to Chicago, so maybe, just maybe, I'm totally wrong about this. But in every city I've been in, and from everyone I know who lives in cities, car ownership is far from mandatory. If you live in a city, you just don't own cars unless you're so disgustingly wealthy that you're actively looking for ways to squander your bucks. City traffic congestion means public transport, bikes, even plain old walking is often faster. Yet everyone in Dresden's world owns at least one car. While that's suburban standard, it's an urban absurdity. Especially since Dresden breaks his car 10% of the time, the general expense makes his ownership of the Blue Beetle insane, even for him. There are tons of other little urban incongruities that make Butcher's Chicago feel superficial to me. As part of the write-what-you-know dogma, why couldn't Dresden have been a suburban wizard?

Overall, this book is still an enjoyable ride, but far from the best of the series. It also creates very few dependencies on its sequels, and can be safely skipped without losing too much of the overall plot arc. If you're interested in starting the Dresden Files and want more developed characters and plot complexity, I would suggest trying one of the later books, e.g. Dead Beat, Death Masks, or Blood Rites.

Last thought and constant refrain: these books are. So. Much. Better. On. Audio. The audiobooks, narrated by James Marsters, are definitely my favorite way to experience the series.

 

Other Reviews

Believe it or not, I've written a review of every single book in the series. I may have addiction issues. Links to the complete set are below. The starred ones are my faves.

[#1] Storm Front    [#2] Fool Moon    [#3] Grave Peril    [#4] Summer Knight*    [#5] Death Masks    [#6] Blood Rites    [#7] Dead Beat*    [#8] Proven Guilty    [#9] White Night    [#10] Small Favor*    [#11] Turn Coat    [#12] Changes    [#13] Ghost Story*    [#14] Cold Days