Friday, April 8, 2011

Side Jobs

Anyone who has read this blog for any time knows that I'm a fan of Jim Butcher's Wizard for Hire Harry Dresden.

Side Jobs is a collection of short stories that Butcher wrote about Harry Dresden and Co between 2002 and 2010. Two of the stories, the first (A Restoration of Faith) and the last (Aftermath) have never before been published. The stories are presented in chronological order. A Restoration of Faith was the first ever Harry Dresden story that Jim Butcher wrote and it shows, he was still developing the character and the world at this stage. Most of the stories were done for various anthologies and there's a short introduction from the author explaining what he wrote it for and where his head was at when he did.

As the stories progress readers get to see the evolution of Harry and get to spend time with his friends, allies and enemies as they came into the series. Two of the stories: Backup and Aftermath, are not told from Harry's point of view. Harry's half brother; White Court vampire (it's complicated) Thomas is the central character in Backup and Harry's friend and sparring partner feisty little Chicago cop Karrin Murphy is the focus of Aftermath. I felt there was mixed success with these two stories. Thomas as the point of view character didn't really work for me, but I did enjoy seeing things as Murphy did with her front and centre. That probably has a lot to do with Murphy being one of my favourites from the series and me being rather so so about Thomas.

The collection would an excellent jumping off point to introduce someone to the series, as most of the stories are self contained and not very spoilery. The one exception is Aftermath which takes place after the most recently published book of the Dresden Files; Changes, and does have some minor spoilers for that entry, which ended on a cliffhanger. For the most part the stories have a lighter hearted feel than the books and it's nice to see Harry kicking back and enjoying life with his friends. Any fan of the series will also enjoy the collection as it's a chance to spend more time with Harry and learn something about him and the wide and varied group of people with whom he associates.

There's a brief exchange between Harry and Murphy in Something Borrowed which captures some of the things I like so much about the books, Harry's outlook and the relationship between he and Murphy:

"Feel like saving the day?"
Her eyes sparkled, but she kept her tone bored "On the weekend? Sounds too much like work."
We started from the apartment together. "I'll pay you in doughnuts."
"Dresden, you pig. That cop-doughnut thing is a vicious stereoptype."
"Doughnuts with little pink sprinkles." I said.
"Professional profiling is just as bad as racial profiling."
I nodded. "Yeah. But I know you want the little pink sprinkles."
"That isn't the point," she said loftily, and we got into her car.

If you're a new fan this is a good one to dip your toes in the water with and if you're an existing one you're gonna love Side Jobs.

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