“Working for Bigfoot” by Jim Butcher (Subterranean Press, 2015)

Jim Butcher, author of the bestselling Dresden Files, released his first short story collection, Side Jobs, in 2010, but he continues to write stories set in the Dresden universe for various anthologies, and it’s probably going to be a while before he releases his next collection. Thankfully, he is releasing his collected bigfoot stories with Subterranean Press.

Working for Bigfoot features the three stories (so far) where Harry Dresden helped out a client he clearly respects, the bigfoot Strength of a River in His Shoulders. In each of the stories, Dresden ends up having to help the bigfoot’s son, Irwin, whose mother is human. So while he looks like a normal person – albeit very big and muscley – as he grows through his teenage years he begins to develop his “abilities” as the son of a bigfoot. Naturally, there are those who can sense the power and ability within him and wish to prey on that. It’s up to Dresden to help keep the kid out of trouble.

The stories are classic Dresden Files, but also about Harry’s growing respect for young Irwin, and the world of magic that is the bigfoot.

Originally written on April 16, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Skin Game” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2014)

Skin Game
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For the fifteenth novel of the Dresden Files, bestselling author Jim Butcher decided to go for the ultimate “What if?” for urban fantasy that fans might’ve thought he would’ve tackled in an earlier book in the series, but as the saying goes: “Better late than never.” Fans of the series will gobble Skin Game up, as they have the whole series, even if Butcher seems not to be that big of a fan of his female characters.

As the winter knight to Queen Mab, Dresden has certain obligations he must fulfill. Mab makes up a solution for Dresden who’s dealing with his big headache problem that he knows will eventually kill him if he doesn’t do anything about it. In exchange for an earring that will minimize the pain he has to grant her a favor. This involves entering into a heist operation with a number of unlikeable characters including a rogue warlock, Hanna Ascher, a shapeshifter named Binder and an old enemy, Anna Valmont. The whole operation is being run by Nicodemus Archeleone. Dresden isn’t happy with any of this by any means, but he knows he is under the honored agreement with Mab and can’t say no, or will have to suffer the consequences. He does at least enlist Karrin Murphy to watch his back and help him however she can.

The plan is to open a way into Hades and steal something from the vault of the devil himself. No biggie, right? In return each member of the group will get millions, as well as their own ability to steal whatever they want from Satan’s vault in hell. Dresden is sure he smells a trap, but he also has his own revenge plans. Ultimately, there will be a lot of double-crossing and even triple-crossing before the book is done, but Butcher clearly had a lot of fun throwing his characters into a heist setup within an urban fantasy universe. As with all Dresden books, there’s plenty of conflict so the reader never gets a chance to grow bored, and unlike some of the other Dresden books, Harry doesn’t get quite as much thrown at him making it seem a little less farfetched.

The failing of the book is in what Butcher does to his female characters. Murphy has an unfortunate accident and is out for most of the book, replaced by the familiar face and sword of Michael Carpenter. As for the other female characters, they either meet untimely ends or get put through the ringer to the extent one wonders if Butcher has something about doing cruel things to his female characters. Nevertheless, Skin Game is a run romp to Hell and back, with Dresden biting off way more than he can chew; fortunately he has the winter mantle to keep his strength up, but that will only last to a point, and it if ever gets taken away, he’ll quickly learn just how human he still is.

Originally written on June 28, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Ghost Story” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2011)

Ghost Story

Jim Butcher returns – a little behind schedule – with his thirteenth Dresden Files book, which was pushed back a couple of months as Butcher explains in his introduction because he needed that extra bit of time to make Ghost Story perfect.  We last left Harry Dresden shot and sinking beneath the waters, left for dead in Changes; between then and now a short story collection was published, revealing some great adventures, as well as some very interesting and important story- and plotlines that hadn’t been discussed in the regular novels.  Now fans finally get to find out what exactly happened to Harry . . . if you don’t want to get spoiled, stop reading.

And Harry is pretty much . . . dead, but then that doesn’t really stop Dresden.  He finds himself initially in a sort of between world which is a different form of Chicago, and gets some help from none other than Murphy’s dad, and before he knows it, he’s back in regular Chicago, only he’s a ghost and can’t be his regular old self.  Harry has to think and work differently now, and employs the help of an old friend, the ectomancer Mort, to get by and help him find out just who exactly executed him, as well as to protect his friends.

Unsurprisingly, Harry gets into more problems and fires than he can handle, real fast, but to use magic in his incorporeal state he must use the power of memory.  Butcher uses a great ploy here to give some great back story and history on Harry and his life that readers have been curious about for many books, to make his magic that more powerful.  Harry doesn’t get to be his usual self as a ghost, so he needs to think about what he does, and be creative about it.  Ghost Story is a more mature Harry that has been overdue, as he must now face his reality for what it is without any pretension.  This thirteenth book represents Harry Dresden at his very best, as he must now begin a new chapter in his life, and this definitely shows in Butcher’s writing and storytelling, setting up for a great next book and a whole new world for Harry Dresden, wizard at large.

Originally written on August 15, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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