As seen on my blog, Stumptown Books
Let me start by saying that I find this series very readable. It is basically fluff, doesn't require much brain power, and it was easy to pound out in a couple of days. I love the idea of a druid as hero, and I quite like the "Gods are around but are just out of reach" idea that has become pretty popular recently. I even learned a few things about the Norse pantheon; I knew little about it, but now I know a bit more.
Unfortunately, the list of problems that I have with this series is much more lengthy. My main issue stems from the old aphorism, "You can't write smarter than you are." Now I'm not calling Kevin Hearne dumb or anything, but Atticus is TWO THOUSAND YEARS OLD. That's pretty damn old. You would think in that time he would have picked up some wisdom or something. I like that he is lighthearted about being that old, but apparently all the things he knows about occurred within the last decade or so, with an occasional throwback to Star Wars and Star Trek. Almost all of the jokes came from some faction of nerd knowledge, including movies, TV shows, and internet memes. At one point Atticus has an angel and devil on his shoulders, and they took the form of Kirk and Spock. He mentions "pulling a Yoda." But when Atticus started speaking in "lolcats"
for a quick laugh, a line was crossed. I think I threw up a little in the back of my throat.
Nerds love nothing more than being in on a joke. The joke doesn't even have to be funny - a lot of memes aren't actually funny, they're only funny once you're "in the know." They are also only funny on the internet. Taken outside of that, the only people in real life that are going to laugh at your inside joke are other people "in the know." In effect, it's like any circle of friends where you look at one person and say an inside joke. Of course others are going to feel left out. It's like that guy at the party who quotes South Park/Family Guy/The Simpsons/what have you, and that's the extent of his humor. Nothing really gets added to a conversation, he's just pointing at something and hoping you get his regurgitated joke. It's lazy, and it's more annoying than funny.
I used to work at a bowling alley that played music videos constantly, and the first week I worked there, the video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up"
came on. I cracked up laughing and said to my co-workers, "Damn, we just got rick rolled!" They all gave me startled looks. I grinned sheepishly and mumbled, "Umm...nevermind." Lesson learned! No quoting nerd stuff around people who aren't nerds, got it. Just like you can't share an inside joke, because it doesn't make sense unless you're included on the inside.
The thing about the internet is that it moves so fast, and memes that everyone knew last summer are no longer funny. Saying "Honey badger don't care!"
anywhere on the internet nowadays will only earn you shouts of "So last year man!" Any meme is this way; they have a lifespan. A book...well, let's just say a book is forever because we all want them to last that long. If the majority of your jokes are pop culture references, or even worse, internet references, it is going to be dated incredibly fast. At one point Atticus makes a joke, saying "his voice and rugged good looks reminded me of that guy from the Old Spice body-wash commercials." (he was talking about Jesus here, by the way. page 107) That's already
dated, that guy isn't the spokesperson anymore. Sure, we all get the joke now, but give it a few years and it won't be funny anymore. Not that I did anything except groan when I read that line.
So we have this 2,000 year old druid who smugly reports he must leave behind his Chewbacca action figures in the original packaging...oh and he can also defeat GODS. Not singular either, he takes care of several over the course of the series. But the Norse pantheon...well, they're kind of a big deal. The scale just seems out of balance here, and if we're trying to make it believable, gods should be more powerful. A werewolf, vampire, or druid, should not be equally as strong as a god. Overcoming some weaknesses somewhere might have been entertaining, but instead we just get some bloody battles. Character development is given to us in the form of switching narratives instead of meaningful interaction. It was all very lacking, and I felt that the humor was supposed to make up for that.
Essentially, I feel that the Iron Druid Chronicles is not creating new content. It just points at pop culture references and says, "Hey, wasn't that funny!" It's regurgitating jokes, and while a lot of people enjoy being those people who are "in the know" and laughing at those jokes, I'm simply not one of them. There's definitely a market for this series, but I couldn't shake the feeling of reading lazy, premade content, with an exclusive sense of humor in place of character development.