The reason I enjoy these books so much (despite the somewhat graphically described violence), is that they have Wiccans in them. Also re-enactors, and bikers. It’s like reading a book with all your mates in it.
Add to that the epic destruction of the world we know (this book contains not so much world-building as world-wrecking and then world-reassembling), and its replacement with a very plausible new order, given that the Change has caused guns, electricity, and internal combustion engines not to work any more. I also enjoy the clever way that events unfold, and the in-jokes for Wiccans and re-enactors and Tolkien fans: it’s just so much fun. And I’m glad to say that Indigenous Peoples do rather well in the post-Change world, too.
I have wondered whether the Change is a metaphor for what will happen when the oil runs out and climate change starts to bite even harder than it is now.
I think the reason that the violence is described in such a graphic way is to point out that violence is not fun, or admirable, and that if it’s necessary (because a gang of hungry urban cannibals is coming to eat you and your kids), people should not start enjoying it, except for appreciating the skill involved. The descriptions of the violence are the verbal equivalent of the way violence is depicted in Deadpool.
The characters in these books are interesting, too. There’s Juniper Mackenzie, the Wiccan high priestess and folk singer, and her coven. There’s Mike Havel (who should be played by Nathan Fillion if there’s ever a film version). And there’s the evil Norman Arminger and his cronies from the SCA. I’m willing to bet that there’s an SCA in-joke right there, but the whole thing is pretty funny if you’re familiar with re-enactment in general. And the Tolkien in-jokes are awesome, especially the whole thing with the Rangers.
The first three books are mostly set in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, which has some pretty spectacular landscapes.