The Dresden Files sequence has become one of the most popular speculative fiction series on the market today. Its last few installments all topped the New York Times bestseller list. With each new volume, Butcher elevated his game, bringing the Dresden Files to a higher level and setting the stage for a lot of fireworks to come. Moreover, the author demonstrated that urban fantasy can be as good and multilayered as any other subgenre.
But with fifteen volumes to date, the Dresden Files has become a huge series and it keeps growing. Hence, having the opportunity to read some related short fiction was a chance I didn't want to miss!
Here's the blurb:
Chicago wizard for hire Harry Dresden is used to mysterious clients with long hair and legs up to here. But when it turns out the long hair covers every square inch of his latest client’s body, and the legs contribute to a nine-foot height, even the redoubtable detective realizes he’s treading new ground. Strength of a River in His Shoulders is one of the legendary forest people, a Bigfoot, and he has a problem that only Harry can solve. His son Irwin is a scion, the child of a supernatural creature and a human. He’s a good kid, but the extraordinary strength of his magical aura has a way of attracting trouble. In the three novellas that make up Working For Bigfoot, collected together for the first time here, readers encounter Dresden at different points in his storied career, and in Irwin’s life. As a middle-schooler, in “B is For Bigfoot,” Irwin attracts the unwelcome attention of a pair of bullying brothers who are more than they seem, and when Harry steps in, it turns out they have a mystical guardian of their own. At a fancy private high school in “I Was a Teenage Bigfoot,” Harry is called in when Irwin grows ill for the first time, and it’s not just a case of mono. Finally, Irwin is all grown up and has a grown-up’s typical problems as a freshman in college in “Bigfoot on Campus,” or would have if typical included vampires. New York Times bestseller Jim Butcher explores the responsibilities of fatherhood and the difficulties of growing up with the elements Dresden Files fans crave—detection, adventure, humor, and magic.
Working for Bigfoot is an omnibus of three novellas, all featuring Irwin at different stages of his young life. Unable to take care of his son's problems himself, Strength of a River in His Shoulders is forced to hire the only wizard in the phone book to come to Irwin's rescue. This omnibus felt a bit like the first couple of Dresden Files installments, when Harry didn't have to face world-shaking paranormal threats that could destroy mankind in order to save the day. As such, these novellas definitely are throwback stories.
The short fiction format means that Jim Butcher writes with a much tighter focus, and it was good to see how each tale builds on the previous one. "B is for Bigfoot" features a young Irwin in middle school as he must deal with bullies. At first, Harry believes that this might be an easy problem to solve. But when he discovers that the bullying brothers have a guardian of their own and that not only facing it might be a bad idea, but could also cause a clash between the White Council of Wizards and a supernatural nation, he quickly realizes that he just might be in over his head. In "I Was a Teenage Bigfoot," Harry must visit Irwin, who has fallen ill. As he investigates, he soon realizes that the teenager is sick and it's not just a bad case of mono. The back-and-forth between the wizard and Nurse Jen makes for a very entertaining read! "Bigfoot on Campus" was a lot more erotic than I expected and was definitely the most adult-oriented novella of the bunch. Then I realized that it was first published in Hex Appeal, an anthology edited by P. N. Elrod. Having said that, it's not just a sex-crazed story. Far from that, as it's in this novella that Harry stands up to Strength of a River in His Shoulders and forces him to become a true father to Irwin.
As a matter of course, Working for Bigfoot features the first-person narrative of the endearing, if frequently inept, wizard Harry Dresden. Harry's heart heart is always in the right place, and his flawed nature makes him one of the most likeable SFF characters out there. These tales would never be as fun if we didn't witness events through Harry Dresden's eyes. And although Irwin is central to each of those three novellas, he never really takes center stage and remains a secondary character. On the other hand, Strength of a River in His Shoulders, who only appears in a few short scenes, leaves an indelible mark on each plotline. I truly enjoyed how Butcher wove the responsabilities inherent to fatherhood, supernatural or not, into the storylines of each novella.
Each story is a relatively fast-paced affair and sadly one reaches the end of this book all too quickly. Working for Bigfoot is the perfect companion book for all Dresden Files fans out there.