Aftermath (fromSide Jobs) by Jim Butcher (Orbit)
Aftermath is set after the ending of Changes and focuses on Karrin Murphy, who is dressed up but with no sign of Harry has to go home. And if you’ve read Changes you’ll know why.
With Harry predisposed it’s up to Murphy to help Will get his werewolf wife back if she can. Now Harry normally narrates his tales so it’s natural for Murphy to take up the mantel of hero as well as narrator for this novella.
What can I say without giving away too much? Murphy is more than a sidekick and that is illustrated perfectly here. She knows how the supernatural game is played around Chicago, which is lucky for her as otherwise she’d be dead.
Even though she has her own problems her natural instincts as protector of the city and investigator shines here. Her leads take to place that shows with Harry’s absence the game as changed and not for the better.
I’m not sure Murphy’s final destination. I’m hoping and guessing it’s got something to do with how she shined, literally, in Changes and how the fallout of those events, including this milestone as it’s part of the fallout that have altered balance of supernatural power around the globe. Harry Dresden doesn’t do things on a small scale.
If you’ve read Changes then Aftermath (and the whole of Side Jobs) is a must. I’m now prepared as I can be to start Ghost Story.
If you’ve read Changes that last moment of the book lived up the to title. Not that the rest of the book didn’t have lots of changes but being dead is as final as it gets. Or it should be. But if your name ist Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden that doesn’t seem to stop you.
Instead Harry is given a choice. Move on to the next place or haunt Chicago in order save the lives of three of your friends. And we all now that he’s a friends first kind of guy.
So Harry finds himself back in Chicago six months after he left not able to touch or affect the real world without the help of those who are sensitive to ghosts.
If you’re expecting not a lot to happen as Harry is powerless you’d be wrong. Quite cleverly Butcher manages to make this as action packed as the rest of the series. Partly this is down to the rules of the ghostly realm and partly is that the afterlife isn’t exactly empty. In fact mere moments after arriving back Dresden is helpless as a stranger fights for him. Harry isn’t used his newborn state at the start but boy does he learn quickly.
Now then the Dresden Files has been going for quite a few books and you’d think that this being 13th would be unlucky for the series and that surely a series couldn’t be going strong after this many books. You’d be totally wrong. It can and it does. If you’ve liked the series up to this point you’re in for a treat.
Butcher’s skill is reinvigorating his main cast. He doesn’t throw them aside as paper thin constructs. They hang around and grow, usually through supporting in with whatever Dresden has managed to get himself tangled up in.
And it’s a good job they do as the world is more dangerous place without Harry’s presence though it could be argued that it is only that way through Dresden’s actions especially after creating a massive power vacuum in Changes.
Murphy is most obviously affected, as touched on in Aftermath, her reliable role as policewomen has been taken away but she is still protecting the city of Chicago though now she is leading a band of Harry’s associates to defend it from the more darker and dangerous side.
Butcher focuses a lot on memories and consequences in Ghost Story, which can only be deliberate as shades (or ghosts) are just bundles of memories. We get to see a couple Harry’s key memories like the first time he used magic and when he left his adopted home and the first big bad he encountered and defeated. And rightly they are presented as life changing moments.
There is a strong theme of choices and consequences in Ghost Story especially when Harry discovers how Molly, and other close friends, have been distorted by his absence. But Molly is unique in his responsibilities as she’s his apprentice and soon become apparent he hasn’t been a good enough teacher. Especially when her new teacher uses pain as a necessary teaching tool something that is hard for Dresden to watch.
There is an interesting cannibalisation to the whole series as Butcher keeps reusing characters both good and bad guys but instead of wearing away his canon and his source material but he continues to mine depths of connections that keep giving back.
For example Mort, who has appeared in early early books as a bit of two bit crook, can talk to the dead of Chicago. But it appears he has been keeping the nature of his power under the radar as well as what he does to protect the city.
And this is what I admire about the story as a whole. As we only see things from Dresden’s perspective we get this biases and his hangups but in Ghost Story can’t mostly just say Fuego first and ask questions later so he has to see things differently.
Then there are minor actions in previous books like in Dead Beat asking Bob to lock away the part of himself that allowed him to go rogue but in Ghost Story we see exactly where that part of Bob went and it can only be described as a Nazi Officer.
None of this goes into the main purpose of Harry’s return to Earth. The need to find his killer before his friends end up hurt. But even their Dresden is friends first killer later. Not that they are really separate.
The Dresden File defines all odds by getting better and better. Apart from Sir Terry I really can’t think of another series that is as stronger now than when it started. And cruelly the ending of Ghost Story doesn’t let Harry off easy. Instead he’s dropped straight in a situation he can only spend the next book trying to get out of.
If you love Urban Fantasy drop everything to catch up now. There is no other UF series that comes close.