As it's past midnight (argh, I need to go to bed), I'm posting early again.
Wow, this was a hard one. I was really leaning towards Ron Weasley, but I'm pretty sure someone is going to get him at some point today. And then there are all those Mary Sues and Gary Stus that I want to stab with a sharp knife, but I'm a little too afraid of enthusiastic fanbases to call out the first one that occurred to me. So in the end, I decided to go with a character that drives me nuts, but am somehow quite fond of anyway.
Without further ado, let me present Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, the eponymous protagonist of Jim Butcher's exceedingly longrunning series, The Dresden Files.
Hell's bells, (as he would say) does he ever drive me nuts. Like any Marlowean protagonist, he conflates chivalry with chauvinism, is routinely injured past the point of collapse, yo-yos between smug self-righteousness and creeping guilt, and has a tendency towards suicidal snark at the worst possible moments. He also has an ongoing obsession with bad puns and even worse jokes.
He also iterates through basically three curse phrases: "hell's bells" (which always makes me think of the song), "stars and stones," and "empty night." Most readers apparently want to throttle him around the twentieth repetition of "Hell's bells," but I save my apoplexy for the phrase "arched an eyebrow," which has to be used several hundred times throughout the series.
And yet like basically every other Marlowean protagonist, I can't help liking Dresden. I think part of the reason is that every time my desire to punch him builds up to breaking point, somebody obliges. (See heavy damage issue above.)
Admittedly, I do spend most of the book wanting to smack him for one reason or another, be it utter myopic stupidity regarding the mystery, complete incompetence regarding his lovelife, or smugness at his belief in his foresight and brilliance.
Then I usually start cracking up, because he is as ridiculous as he is irritating.
Some prototypical Dresdenisms:
“Kid. You just made the last mistake of your life.'
'God,' I said. 'I wish.”
"Are you always a smartass?"
"Nope. Sometimes I'm asleep."
“I let out a battle cry. Sure, a lot of people might have mistaken it for a sudden yelp of unmanly fear, but trust me. It was a battle cry.”
“I put the ick in magic.”
"The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault."
She looked up at me with a polite smile, her dark hair long and appealing...I liked the smile. Maybe I didn't look like a beaten-up bum. Maybe on me it just looked ruggedly determined.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said, "but the addiction counseling center is on twenty-six."
“I still can’t believe,” Michael said, sotto voce, “that you came to the Vampires’ Masquerade Ball dressed as a vampire.”
“Not just a vampire,” I said, “a cheesy vampire. Do you think they got the point?”
“You're in America now," I said. "Our idea of diplomacy is showing up with a gun in one hand and a sandwich in the other and asking which you'd prefer.”
I think of Dresden as a seriously unreliable narrator, so when he tells us (mostly in the earlier books) that he's God's gift to wizarding, I don't take him seriously. And whether it is Butcher's gift at retcon or the original intent, most of his boasting does indeed eventually turn out to be false. It usually takes two or three books for Dresden's karma kicks to catch up, but catch up they inevitably do. (Muahaha.) I think there must be a lot of ways to read these books--up until #14, I never perceived Dresden as a Gary Stu type character because I saw him as in the wrong much of the time and dependent on others to rescue him from his mistakes.
I also really like his voice as a narrator, for reasons I really can't put my finger on. Butcher has a real gift at pulling the reader into the action, and I usually get a huge kick out of Dresden's descriptions of battles. I know it drives some readers nuts, but actually love how he takes time out of life-and-death situations to complain about how effortlessly Thomas the Vampire or Kincaid (or whoever he is currently playing seconds for) kicks butt. I love his utter lack of self-awareness and his tendency to use "manly" euphemisms--after the first few books, he stops "fainting" or "passing out" and starts "losing track of things for a few minutes." It's hard to explain. I think I'm actually fond of him for precisely the same reasons he drives me crazy.
I mostly love the books for the don't-take-themselves-seriously epic craziness, from the monsters at WalMart to the summoning of a loa into a cabbage patch doll to the ninja ghouls to the particular magical item that gets sold (slightly damaged) on Ebay. I also love a whole host of side characters, from the upright yet still likeable Michael Carpenter to the polka-playing medical examiner to my absolute favourite character, Murphy the cop.
Okay, okay. I am utterly addicted to the Dresden Files.
As for the series, I've reviewed all of them, starting here. As I said, I have addiction issues.