Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden FilesSide Jobs is a collection of short stories from THE DRESDEN FILES. Some of the stories have been previously published in other collections, and some are being published for the first time. The timeline for the stories range from before Storm Front to after Changes, so aspects from every possible point in time in Harry Dresden’s life are represented.

There isn’t much of a central theme to Side Jobs, besides Harry himself. This collection is exclusively for Dresden fans — it makes no sense for anyone who hasn’t read all 13 novels to even take a peek at Side Jobs. Since it’s for fans, one of the most enjoyable parts of this collection is the opening comments by Butcher prior to each story. He provides some personal insight into the making of the story and THE DRESDEN FILES as a whole.

Side Jobs opens with the first story ever written about Harry Dresden which Mr. Butcher wrote as a writing assignment for a class at a local university. He has this to say about “A Restoration of Faith”:

It was perhaps the third or fourth short story I’d ever written, if you include projects in grade school…. Read this story for what it is — an anxious beginner’s first effort, meant to be simple, straightforward fun.

He’s a little hard on himself since the story was actually quite good. It was cool to see the DRESDEN characters in their infancy, only hinting at the fully developed versions in the books today. Side Jobs progresses chronologically in the DRESDEN Universe. Along the way you get treated to some real gems, like the very hard to find Subterranean Press novella Backup. There are many fans that have never read this, and will now finally get the chance.

Backup isn’t the only novella included. Aftermath is the final story, and it takes on the perspective of Sgt. Karen Murphy just hours after the events of Changes. There isn’t much progression in the overall DRESDEN story, but it is a nice teaser to get you through until Ghost Story is released next spring.

DRESDEN fans will be delighted with this collection of stories. The quality of the writing varies depending on the time and circumstances in which they were written. Most of the stories are meant to be as Butcher said: “simple, straightforward fun,” and mostly it’s the novellas that take a more serious tone.

I listened to Side Jobs on MP3 audio from Penguin Audio (downloadable now). James Marsters returns as the voice of Harry Dresden and he's fantastic, as always. The day they switch to a different voice actor will be the last time I listen to DRESDEN on audio — for me, Marsters has become essential to the DRESDEN audio experience. —Justin

You can also learn more about Jim Butcher's books at the Fantasyliterature Butcher's page

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