Side Jobs: Stories from the Dresden Files
By Jim Butcher
Published by Roc
Dresden fans will have to wait a bit longer to find out what happened to their favorite Chicago PI since the harrowing cliff-hanger at the end of Butcher’s last outing in Changes. In the meantime, readers will have to satisfy their Dresden craving with Side Jobs, a compilation of several short stories and novellas.
The Dresden Files is an immensely popular urban fantasy series starring Harry Dresden, a wizard private investigator. He battles the forces of the supernatural alongside a cast of colorful characters including politce officer Karrin Murphy, a talking skull named Bob, and half-brother vampire Thomas. Known for its fast pace, thrilling action, noir elements and humor, The Dresden Files is already on its twelfth novel.
Side Jobs consists of 11 stories, nine of which were originally published in fantasy anthologies in other works. Of special interest are stories like the first, “A Restoration of Faith.” One of the earliest Dresden stories ever written, Butcher asks the reader to acknowledge it as “an anxious beginner’s first effort,” and looks as if it has only been published online. “Backup” is a short story that switches perspective from Harry Dresden to his half-brother Thomas. “Aftermath,” an as-yet-before unpublished novella, brings us to Chicago right after the harrowing events of the last novel Changes and told through the point-of-view of Karrin Murphy.
The stories range from quick reads to longer pieces, and for the most part fall into a very similar pattern: Dresden discovers some form of supernatural trickery afoot, finds the person or monster behind it, and exterminates it with extreme prejudice. While the novels can be far more complex, with more characters, story, and development, the short stories give us a good range of Dresden’s history and personality. Unfortunately with the lack of true story connecting them, many of the tales become classic “Monsters of the Week” that you’d find in television shows: episodic and repetitive. Even the last story that is completely devoid of Dresden’s physical presence follows the same formula. Luckily, there is enough variety among the stories to keep the reader interested, and any die-hard Dresden fan won’t mind. Butcher’s writing is precise and on par with the best of his later work, so each section is an enjoyable read.
If you’re into urban fantasy or supernatural thrillers and haven’t taken the time to read Butcher’s work, I highly recommend looking into the series. Unfortunately this work will do little to induct new initiates. Even though each gives a little introduction so that readers will not feel completely lost, there is a lot of mythos backing up Dresden’s escapades.