Dusted Off: Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Small Favor (The Dresden Files, #10)Small Favor by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this book the first time I read it, and it’s better the second time around (if for no other reason than I could slow down and enjoy it more rather than have to race to find out what happens). Like he’s been doing for awhile now, the stakes get bigger–as do the foes–in this book, as does the cast.

At the same time–for most of the book anyway–this is a lighter read than the last couple have been, it’s a bit more “fun” in the midst of the darkness and destruction, I guess you could say.

And then the fun goes away and you get only darkness and destruction for awhile–and an emotional punch in the gut that fans really didn’t want (but love anyway).

I’m not sure how well this’d work as a jumping on point for someone new to the Dresden Files, but I think it’d stand on it’s own, and show readers why they’d want to go back and read all of the best Urban Fantasy series going.

Dusted Off: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

I’m not big on the short story form. Outside the Nero Wolfe short story collections, I could count on one hand the number of short stories I’ve read in the past 5-10 years. Lately, there’s been a decent number of my favorite Urban Fantasy writers contributing to short story collections–usually on a theme, and usually using characters I really want to read about. But being short fiction, and being surrounded by stories about characters I don’t care about/don’t know/don’t have time to get to know even if I wanted to, I don’t get around to getting my hands on them.

From what I can tell, that’s resulted in me missing some interesting stuff–even the start of a series I’m invested in (maybe more than one, come to think of it, but I’m not going to double check now).

Which is a whole lotta rambling set up to saying why I was very happy to hear that Jim Butcher was going to release a collection of previously published and new Harry Dresden stories. And even happier to get my hands on it last week.

Being short works of fiction, basically every story was this–some sort of problem, Harry investigating rather quickly and then moving right on to the fireworks, usually dazzlingly so. Wham, blam-o, thank you, sir. Each of them also tended to focus on at least one member of the supporting cast in a way we don’t get enough of in the novels. I really appreciated getting to spend a little time with each of these people in this setting.

It was, admittedly, a mixed-bag. The first story, “Restoration of Faith,” was the first Dresden story, and it’s clearly that. There’s a lot to our favorite wizard PI that is recognizable here, and a lot that get’s tossed before Storm Front. A fun read, but I’m glad Butcher tweaked things the way he did.

The rest were better executed–mostly because Butcher’s grown a lot as a writer since then, all were good reads, some better than others.

A couple of other stand-outs for me were the lighter, “Day Off” about Harry’s fruitless quest for a quiet, relaxing day; “The Warrior” in which we get to see post-Small Favor Michael in action–even if it was a tad preachy, Butcher pulled it off, and I was so, so glad to see Michael like this; and “Love Hurts,” which is the kind of story we’ve seen/read countless times about what happens when two will-they/won’t-they friends fall under a spell/temporary delusion/whatever and fall madly, temporarily in love–it’s been done a lot, frequently poorly, but not here.

“Love Hurts” was also a perfect set-up to the novelette Aftermath, which starts up hours after the jaw-dropping/rage-inducing last page of Changes and was, for me, worth the purchase price. If I’d remembered that this was going to be at the end of this collection, I’d have finished the thing in one setting, rather than over a period of days. Great, great story, both for the plot/characters itself, and for what Butcher shows us about how these characters will act without the man in the duster around. Loved it.

Now, this hasn’t convinced me to get these other collections I mentioned earlier–but I just now have hope that some of my other favorite authors will get in gear and publish collections like this one.

Dusted Off: An Open Letter to Jim Butcher

Dear Mr. Butcher,

I just finished reading your latest Dresden Files novel, Changes and would like to thank you for one of the best reads I’ve had in months. And by thanks I mean to say that I hope you die a slow, agonizing death. Not anytime soon, mind you, it needs to be after you’ve completed the next novel (if not the whole series). Still, I hope it happens, and I hope you dread its coming.

I actually am just kidding, sir. If nothing else, the intensity of my initial reaction speaks to the connection that exists between the great characters you’ve created and your readers. Honestly, you seem like a pretty cool guy, I’d love to buy you a Whopper some time and just chat–‘course what I’d really love is to take that Whopper and shove it so far down your throat that…

maybe I should finish this some other time.

Sincerely,

Dusted Off: In nomine pizza domine!

a quick peak into my geekery:

*

Thanks to the virtual signing hosted by Dog Eared Books last week, I received my signed copy of the new Dresden Files novel, Turn Coat this weekend. This being the, I think, 6th signed book in my meager library,** this one is obviously being added to my “do not loan” list–honestly, not sure I’m going to let myself read it.

——

*The inscription, “In nomine pizza domine!” is the battle cry of Toot-Toot and his dewdrop faerie friends, as they attack the Summer Court in Summer Knight.

**I fully expect certain readers, like TLomL, will dispute the use of the word “meager.” On this, however, she is uncharacteristically wrong.

Dusted Off: Backup by Jim Butcher

Well, that was a fun, 45 minutes (give or take).

Just knocked off Jim Butcher’s Backup: A Story of the Dresden Files. Weighing in at about 12K words, it’s almost as meaty as the 4-issue mini-series comic book Welcome to the Jungle (recently collected and published in hardcover form).

This is a different way of telling a Harry Dresden story, coming at it from the POV of his brother, Thomas. Not only does this give us a new way of seeing Harry, it gives us a better appreciation for Thomas. (In many ways, it reminded me of Crais’ The Watchman from last year.)

Quick read; decent story–resolution came a bit too soon, but given the length, such was unavoidable; probably paid too much for it, given my budget; hope some of the backstory spills over into the regular Dresden File novels. Something any fan should pick up.

Dusted Off: Summer Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

So the Offspring are out of stuff to read, and since I have to drop by my doctor’s office anyway, we head off to the library. There’s virtually nothing left on my “to read” list that isn’t also on my “to buy as soon as I have the $” list–and the exceptions aren’t owned by the library [sigh]. So I just start meandering (not a fun thing to do with 4 kidlets in tow).

I vaguely remembered reading something about The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and lo and behold, the library has the 7th in the series–Dead Beat. I try not to jump in so mid-stream, but figured it was worth a shot. Here’s the set-up, Harry Dresden’s a PI. Loner-type. Has a pal in the police department that feeds him some work. But he free-lances as well. Loose collection of friends who can help him out–Bob, who seems to have background on everything; his half-brother who’s good for added muscle and to bounce ideas off of; Butters in the morgue; and so on. Typical hard-boiled PI novel stuff.

Oh…but there’s a twist: Harry’s a wizard, Bob’s a talking skull, his brother’s a vampire, and Butters is a one-man Polka band.

This was a great read, basically Harry Potter meets Elvis Cole. That’s pretty much all I need to say. I loved it. Knocked it off in less than a day. Would’ve been better if I’d been able to start with the first book, but now I have a reason to make an effort to get it.

Characters were good, plot moved along alright, good mix of humor and action from the hero, and a satisfactory conclusion. Denouement could’ve been a bit longer for me. But that’s what the next book is for, I guess.

Figured since I’d recently talked about how amazon could’ve done better than recommend Harris to me, I should point out that this had also been recommended to me by everyone’s favorite internet store. So for this summer, they’re batting .500

Grade: A. Solid effort, great twist on the genre.