Butcher, Jim: (01) Storm Front (audio)

I was casting around for an audiobook to listen to after finishing The Hundred Days, and landed on Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, the first book in the Dresden Files, as read by James Marsters, a.k.a. Spike on Buffy and Angel. I’d read this years ago but never picked up the rest of the series, and this seemed like it might be a good way to resume. I had no awkward associations with Marsters’ voice to overcome since I never watched Buffy or Angel, and he does a nice job overall, though female characters are not his strong point. However, he tends to speak fairly low which easily gets lost in traffic noise, so after not that many chapters I was thinking of dropping it.

Another reason was that Harry’s sexism is much harder to take when I have to listen to it. I’d already had plenty of time to reflect how annoying I found his statement that he liked to treat women as other than “shorter, weaker men with breasts”—hello, way to reveal that your default for humanity is not “person” but “man”! And then I got to his encounter with Bianca, which struck me as a textbook example of fear of female sexuality, and I said, “that’s it, I’m done.”

So I skimmed the rest of it, which was a good decision because I’d forgotten how annoying the “I’m going to keep you in ignorance for your own good, woman” thing had been on the page. If I’d had to listen to it, I would have been spitting fire. But with a little “la la la I can’t hear you,” it was a light entertaining read. I noticed this time that Harry already has a fair bit of backstory, and I understand that his life gets ever more complex as the series goes on, which interests me. I may even pick the series back up sooner than four and a half years, next time. Just not in audio.

4 Comments

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  1. I believe you’ve already heard it from other people, but the sexism problem is the character’s, not the author’s, and the universe is fair.

  2. I know Harry is explicitly designed as a sexist character. And I did read the scene in question without raising an eyebrow the first time. But I found it really nasty this time, and only part of it was attributable to Harry rather than decisions of the author.

  3. I don’t know if I’d call Butcher sexist, but the portrayal of the female characters leaves a lot to be desired. In particular, the hypersexualization of the women grates a fair bit — and it’s certainly not just the white court vampires.

  4. I’d suppose, but given that the series is basically Philip Marlowe with magic, the weak female characters seem like a (crappy) genre trope that he’s operating with, but doesn’t know/care how to subvert or exploit.
    Monica no-name was initially given a description dangling into femme fatal territory before becoming the abused housewife.

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