CHANGES by Jim Butcher

I like these Jim Butcher books, with the wizard Harry Dresden taking on all-comers. There’s lots of imaginative magic and supernatural characters; lots of quirky one-liners.  And Changes is not different from any of the others in the series.  So despite the fact that I thought it had a couple of flaws, I enjoyed it.
   The biggest problem I have with the book is what I dub the incremental soap problem.  You know the scenario – a television soap goes on for years and its writers have to think up more and more exciting plots to keep the viewers glued to the screens.  And as a result the plots get more and more unbelievable, because so much is crammed into the half hour that – well, it just seems unreal.  But having achieved it one week, the writers have to go one better next week... and so it goes.
   I feel that Changes suffers from this build-up problem.  There have been a number of Dresden novels (I’m not sure if I’ve read them all), and Butcher clearly thinks that he has to go “one better” each time one appears.  With the result that Changes, in my opinion, tries to do too much.  I was much happier with the smaller, neater, more personal plotlines.  These big, epic adventures don’t feel so real to me.
   And another thing.  Dresden is fighting for the life of his daughter, practically from page one.  It’s a desperately difficult and potentially tragic situation.  And yet the one-liners still come, the jokes and the wry comments.  I know, it’s a hard circle to square, because without them the novel wouldn’t *be* a Harry Dresden novel.  I don’t know the answer.  But I’m not the author, I haven’t got to know the answer – I only have to be a reader asking awkward questions.
   And one more thing. Especially in the first, oh, quarter of the book, the characters use so many ellipses in their speech that I found myself wanting to take a frequency distribution of how many times they appeared on a page.  If you’ve got a copy, go take a look.  If you don’t end up being as irritated by them as I was, then I’m a Dutch Uncle (whatever that means).
   All that said, I still enjoyed Changes.  There was a twist at the end which I didn’t expect (and didn’t like), and then another one at the very very end which leaves open the way to an obvious sequel.  I’ll watch out for it with interest.
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