Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher (Dresden #7)

  • TITLE: Dead Beat (The Dresden Files #7)
  • AUTHOR: Jim Butcher
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit (UK)
  • RELEASE DATE: May 3rd 2005 (UK)

I’ll start by saying this was the worst Dresden book yet. The single reason it did not receive only two stars was that amidst the dull tedium, were planted a few snippets of character fluff and the potential for character development that could prove to be freaking awesome in later books in the series. Aside from that, more Thomas, more Billy, and a true introduction to Butters are the only aspects of this book that I enjoyed.

I don’t like zombies: they’re pointless, boring and horrendously overdone. Unfortunately for Butcher, I actually don’t mind the type of “zombies” he presents—when Necromancy is involved, zombies tend to appear—but when considered alongside the sheer amount of zombie slush that has been permeating the fantasy-horror genre in the last five years or so, the theme just blends into the background with all the rest. (Yes, I know, Dead Beat predates much of the so-called “zombie slush”, but I read it when I read it, and so the impression sticks.)

But, I am loyal to Dresden, and I’m not about to ditch him because of one bad book: it had its failings, but I enjoyed enough of it to soldier on through and reach the end. I will admit, though, that I have never speed-read so much in any single book. I just wanted to get to the end. I did not enjoy it, overall.

It didn’t “feel” like the other Dresden book. It felt half-hashed, rushed, and as though Butcher decided he wanted to give zombies a shot. Well, it didn’t work for me. Following the events of Blood Rites Butcher had the perfect opportunity to present Harry with an awesome case, one in which he would need backup—cue Thomas, whom Butcher places perfectly following the last book, to act as Harry’s partner for just one outing. Instead, no, we get zombies.

After Blood Rites I wanted excitement; I wanted Butcher to double the corn flour and really watch this baby thicken. In some ways, the plot does thicken, and a number of potential paths are laid upon which Harry can choose to tread, should he relinquish his preconceptions. Aside from that, the ongoing war between the White Council and the Red Court continues in the background—which was a nice change from the events actively relating to Harry’s personal activity—and towards the end of the book, large plot points are divulged and foundations are set for the possible nature, events and tone of coming novels.

Dead Beat felt scattered, as though Butcher hadn’t quite known in which basket to place his eggs. Instead of choosing two baskets, Butcher seems to merely toss his eggs all over the place, and the result is a messy book with absolutely no pace, rhythm, or readability. I finished Dresden 1-6 in an average of two days; Dead Beat took me a week and a half. I really, really did not get this book.

Butcher’s voice seemed lacking in this instalment, and nothing seemed the same as in the previous books. I only hope this isn’t a sign of things to come, else getting through the rest of the series just became a little harder. I’m going straight on to read Proven Guilty, as I’m hoping to push the negativity of book seven behind me, and fly through to Ghost Story, ready for the release of Cold Days.

Usually I like the even-numbered books best, anyway. Weird, huh?

All said, Dead Beat was woefully disappointing, but maintained just enough of Butcher’s usual finesse and style to make it merely unreadable, instead of disastrous. A book I am glad is done and out of the way, so that the series can progress. That said, the nature of good and evil, and the contemplation of “doing the right thing” really whet the appetite, and I am excited to see just how far Butcher will push the boundaries of expectation when it comes to Harry’s magical nature, and moreover, his morals.

Disappointing, messy, scattered—but with some excellent insight slipped between the crummy plot.

3/5

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