Backup, by Jim Butcher
November 3, 2008
Harry Dresden’s brother, Thomas, is the star of Butcher’s new mini-novel, Backup. I keep wanting to refer to it as a short story, but can you still call something that if it’s published in hardcover and includes a few illustrations?
Thomas is a vampire of the White Court, which means that he’s basically an incubus instead of a bloodsucker. He struggles to keep his hunger under control, feeding it in only small, controlled doses that neither seriously harm his victims nor fully satisfy him. Thomas gets word that an old enemy is trying to use Harry as a pawn in a secret war, a conflict so intense that knowledge of it would endanger both the war effort and Harry’s life. So Thomas needs to save the day while keeping Harry in the dark about the truth behind his latest case.
It’s a good enough story, I liked getting more insight into Thomas and seeing another person’s perspective on Harry. Since the story is from Thomas’s point of view, the style is a little different. Mike Mignola did the art for both the cover and inside of the book. But there are only 4 full-page illustrations, they’re fairly simplistic and hardly representative of the quality Mignola is capable of.
The story doesn’t seem closely tied in to the ongoing plot of the series, so I don’t think you’d be missing out on anything serious if you skipped it. It’s a bit pricey for what you get, so I’d only recommend this for completists, people who are huge Thomas fans, or people who still have plenty left in this month’s book budget. Because you realize that if you don’t spend your entire monthly book budget, then you’d have to start questioning if you really need that large a book budget in the first place. And nothing good will come of that.
So like I said, Backup is a little light for the price. But I’d still like to take a few moments to mock some of the people who reviewed this book on Amazon. It’s one thing to say that you aren’t sure that this type of product is worth the price, that’s a fair criticism. But some of the people who are panning it are acting like Jim Butcher personally killed their dog as well as their respect for the written word. It’s not his fault if people who seem to have no problem getting through his full-length books couldn’t read enough of the product description to get to the part that describes it as a “twelve thousand word novelette.” I can understand being disappointed if you were expecting a regular novel. But that’s still no reason to get all nasty about the author, people.