It’s potentially very embarrassing to write commentary on something after having read only a part of it, but here goes: after Dead Beat, book 7 of the 13 currently available of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, I am torn.
Mild spoilers follow.
In Dead Beat, our hero Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only publicly practising wizard, has among all his other problems a fallen angel trapped inside his mind.
A fallen angel that is nothing but helpfulness and sweetness, promising all kinds of help if Harry would just co-operate, but Harry has a problem with the “fallen angel” part.
I don’t know if I do.
This is probably because I’m an atheist and I don’t come with good prejudices to the White God, the Dresdenverse Christian God that possibly exists and if so, probably is just some kind of a spirit. (See endnote.)
Thus I don’t feel good just accepting the idea that, duh, it’s an angel fallen away from God, it can’t be good. And though the readers have seen some other fallen angels that were real bastards, they have not seen this one do anything evil. They’ve heard one Michael, Harry’s friend and a sword-bearing Christian, describe this one as the Seducer, the Webweaver, the Temptress. As one who may at first seem reasonable and give you power and wisdom but then bam! she’ll take your soul, corrupt you, possess you and whatnot.
It’s an interesting place to be in: to see this as the thing Harry believes, and that probably is true in the world of the story… and still have this suspicion in my head, whispering: “Well, that’s what someone like Michael would say, isn’t it? Who is no longer on his God’s side is all evil, all the time! Death to defectors! Uninformed prejudiced propaganda bullshit!”
I’m probably forgetting many details (and because of fear of spoilers can’t go looking for them), but that’s my view of the thing. I would end with something like, “good and evil are often more nuanced than these blanket denunciations issued by simple men of action, and one does not need to be God’s good to not be evil” — but that sounds like a fallen angel line.
* * *
Endnote, on the White God as the faeries call him. It seems Dresden’s faerie folk are not Christians, and not especially damned either; I’ve seen no religion in them, and they don’t seem to give a wizard’s cuss about the supposed Big-G God. Are they then outside the dominion of this world’s Christian God, making Him a spirit not unlike the Winter and Summer Queens of faerie? Do the faeries have afterlives?
Do Dresdenverse’s humans?
In Dead Beat Harry meets his father’s ghost — and no sooner it appears than Harry says, this must be a hallucination brought by exhaustion; again, very cleverly, Butcher keeps ambiguous about the real-world-religion thing, for obvious reasons. It’s not a good marketing move in America, I think, to say “The Christian God exists but is this lesser limited lord of a part of the world!” (I can’t even say if it means anything pro or con that the irritating Christian sinfighter and wife team of Michael and Charity Carpenter, note the ha-ha surname, is not from the most pleasant and easygoing end of the Christian pool. Sweet Lucifer, the uncharitable prissiness of those people!)
And we’ve seen an afterlife of Harry’s mother, in Blood Rites I think, but only as a magical voicemail. So Heaven and Hell — Dresdenverse canon or not? Do I even want to… well of course I do; must keep reading.
Or is the Dresdenverse God just a fiction, since Harry frequently stresses that emotion, faith alone, deep honest conviction alone, is enough to power and empower the magic the Knights of the Cross and similar folks do? (I think that on that Michael the holy knight would say Harry is in a bit of denial, and I’m neck deep next to the pyramids, but that’s just the “you’re close-minded!” line Christians and placebo-merchants always say, isn’t it? One shouldn’t postulate Gods, when magic is enough to explain things.)
I don’t think the books have had an angel in them so far; so is it possible the fallen angels of the Denarius band are something else, some other creatures who like play-acting and having the Knights as their chew toys? And if there are angels in Dresdenverse, who says they can’t be liars too — or also confused between faith-is-magic and faith-implies-God?
Or perhaps this is one of those settings where all myths and religions are true. In which case, huge problems since the definition of “monotheism” is, there is but one God and he is this God of mine. If all religions are true, then many gods must be weaker than promised in the original texts. (Or there is this big hovering vague all-good God who has no position on abortion and homosexuality and isn’t Christian, Jewish or Muslim but goody good; I hate that noncommittal spectre and the writerly good sense and cowardice it implies.)
(Wait — did I just call “not pissing off the majority of your potential readers” “cowardice”? Dear fnord!)
See — being an atheist makes everything funner!