I feel I need to be up-front about something before I go any further: this is a troll-face review. I had heard that the Harry Dresden books were awful and I chose this to review next specifically to make fun of it.
However! That doesn’t mean I didn’t give the book a fair shake. I went into this fully prepared for my preconceptions to be proven wrong, to discover that everything I had heard about the book was wrong, the product of vile slander and insidious rumors. Which didn’t end up happening- Stormfront is just as awful as everyone told me, and then some- but at least I tried, right?
This is going to be more of a read-through with commentary than a straight-up review, since I ended up putting in enough excerpts to violate copyright laws, but the book really deserves it. The misogyny alone could fuel ten blog posts, to say nothing of the mediocre prose and non-existent world building. I don’t normally feel entirely qualified to devote an entire review to misogyny in a novel (not being a woman and all), however in this case if I didn’t talk about the rampant sexism the review would be two paragraphs long. To make up for it I’ll try to link to some other pieces written by women at the end (Jim Butcher is something of a favourite target of internet feminists, for reasons that will become abundantly clear in a minute).
Let’s get to it:
Did you see The Matrix when it first came out? I’d wager most of the people reading this (all three of you) probably did. It sure was cool wasn’t it? The visual style, the kinetic wire-fu fight scenes, the central conceit of our world being merely a virtual prison…… Nothing like it had ever been done before.
Except for all the places the Watchowskis cribbed their ideas from of course, but most people in the west either weren’t familiar with that stuff or had never seen it brought together in one movie before. To the average American or European cinema-goer The Matrix seemed like a wildly creative and unique film. It’s now been almost 13 years since The Matrix came out, which means kids born after the film’s release are now reaching the “technically-not-old-enough-to-watch-it-but-will-anyway” age. I have a feeling a lot of them aren’t going to find it quite as impressive as their parents did for the simple reason that the Matrix’s innovations quickly ceased to be innovative after it came out. The unique visual elements of the movie were parodied and ripped off so quickly and to such an extent that they had become cliches long before the sequels came out four years later. People born in the last 13 years have most likely been exposed to the films’ imagery and ideas thousands of times without even realizing where they came from. How would you go about forming an opinion on them under those conditions? Even going in with prior knowledge of their initial impact, would it be possible to detach yourself from how strongly The Matrix has embedded itself into the cultural ether?
Reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer brought up similar questions for me. It also raised the ethical quandary of whether it’s acceptable to review a book after only reading 50 pages of it.