Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: The New Death and Others by James Hutchings

The New Death and Others by James Hutchings is a collection of short stories and poetry. Published in 2011, this eBook can be found on both Amazon and Smashwords and contains 44 stories with 19 poems. The current retail price is $0.99.

The tales within this collection run the gamut of funny to horrific, long and short, and truthful l, yet not. Readers of such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Robert E. Howard, and perhaps Voltaire may enjoy reading this short tome. Mr. Hutchings appears to be influenced by those authors and many more.

For those of you looking for your own inspiration, I think you will find it in these pages. Mr. Hutchings relives tales from Robert E. Howard’s Kull in “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune,” giving us a new take of the same story. He also delves into the world of Lovecraft with “Under the Pyramid.” He provides gods, monsters, and men – complete with desires base and unseemly.

Mr. Hutchings modernizes old tales, such as Rumpelstiltskin. He brings them into the 21st century and introduces old concepts to new, with tales such as “A Date With Destiny” (internet dating), “The Jeweled City” (we are but the thoughts of an author in a Microsoft Word document), and “The Auto-Pope” gives us a story of robots.

Commentary on today’s world of love moves beyond internet dating with “Compatibility” while “The Uncharted Isle” gives way to “Weary Love” wherein Commerce takes over for Love at the call center. Yet, Mr. Hutchings does not stop there when it comes to love. He delves in to the realm of concept-gods, ala Neil Gaiman, and reveals that even the gods have trouble in the world of love.

Mr. Hutchings does not shy away from any topics. He dives into politics with “Monsters” and reminds us of our modern horrors. Rumpelstiltskin’s tale doubles as commentary upon what one can do for work, when one can do nothing else.

He even includes ninjas.

The medium-length tales in The New Death and Others do little for me. The voice of the story is oft times lost on me and the voices of the characters too often sound the same. I lost my place looking at the text of these stories for too long. Mr. Hutchings should work on establishing voice as quickly in these medium-length tales as he does in his short pieces.

The shortest works are better than their more medium sized brethren. They are quick blurbs about a topic and often meant to be funny. Taken in small doses, they help to break up the monotony of their larger cousins.

The best works in this book are those of more significant length. Mr. Hutchings does a fine job telling tales through prose or poetry, when he lets himself become long in the tooth. In these stories, he does a much better job of bringing forth the horror and mystery reminiscent of Lovecraft and Howard. In some of these tales, he also delves into the world of Teleleli, a world he has created and continues to develop in his blog. “The God of the City of Dust” is set in this setting, called Teleleli. It describes the actions of three priestesses, the followers of a rival deity, and what comes of converting from one deity to another.

The tale of “Todd” reminds me of something I would expect by John Shirley or Jack Ketchum. The story begins nice and neat and becomes a bloody mess by the end. Or, at least in my mind it becomes a bloody mess. We are not really told what happened to Todd and Kimberly, but I guarantee you it was not a nice thing to write home about.

Overall, the quality of material is a steal for less than one dollar. I think Mr. Hutchings should continue to work on his prose and poetry, continue to expand his ability to wax verbose, and continue to write. His writing in this novel comes across as very “common” and no yet refined into a style of his own. It is obvious that he loves his work and for a first outing, this collection of writing is not a bad one.

Fans of Vertigo comics, early fantasy authors, and role players looking for ideas should enjoy this book. However, if none of the topics I have mentioned throughout this review are of interest to you, I cannot recommend picking this work up.

I have attempted to provide you, the reader, with not only quick glimpses into the material contained within this volume, but also with my thoughts on the author’s abilities.

I would give this book a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. The topics at hand are good, but the writing itself needs more development.