Monday, January 24, 2011

"Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden, the only publicly practicing wizard in Chicago, has a lot of history behind him. Most of it shows up in each installment of the series The Dresden Files (now 12 entries strong, and I'm sure Butcher is working on the 13th). But lucky for us, Butcher has been asked several times to contribute short stories to various anthologies, and pretty much each time, he's chosen to write about Harry.

If you're a die-hard Dresden fan, then most of these will be familiar territory. I realized I'd read at least half of them in their original appearances. But there are one or two that I missed, including the first story, "A Restoration of Faith". Butcher writes a nice little intro to each offering, letting the reader know where the story falls chronologically in the The Files, and also how it came to be written. "Faith" is one of the first times Butcher wrote about Harry, and it actually comes before any of the books. He admits it's rough writing, not the polished stuff he puts out now, but I still enjoyed it. And it was very interesting (and wonderful) to read it since a very important character in The Files is also first introduced to the reader: Karin Murphy. Much as I love Harry, it's the interaction between him and Murphy that tends to really pull me into the stories.

This also includes the novelette put out about 2 years back called "Backup"; it was Butcher's first attempt at telling a story from Thomas' view. Yep, Thomas, Harry's vampire half-brother. I'd read it when it first came out, and my opinion is still the same: not bad, but not my favorite.

The only story I skipped here was the last one, and I know that sounds strange, but there's a very good reason. The action in "Aftermath" takes place directly after the last Dresden novel, "Changes" - and I have yet to read that book. I read about two lines of "Aftermath" and realized I might ruin the whole book "Changes" for myself, and so I stopped. Gotta go pick up that last installment first, get it read, then I can go back to "Side Jobs" and truly finish the book.

If you've never read anything by Butcher, this would be a fairly decent thing to pick up. However, I'm not entirely sure that a newbie would really understand a lot of the finer nuances going on in each story. If you've read most of the Dresden Files but never had the chance (or maybe the desire) to read any of the accompanying stories, well, now's your chance.

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