Some weeks ago, I met a fellow named James Hutchings. He wrote a collage of poetry and short fiction that he called The New Death And Others. He was gracious enough to extend to me a copy for review, which I gladly took. I think I’m ready to tell you what I made of it all.
I think you will be entertained. I can guarantee nothing, but I think you will be entertained. This will depend on what you’re looking for. Do you want an exciting adventure story, or a heart-warming romance? You won’t find either here. What you will find instead is an oddball variety show about vengeful gods, sentient cats, and even a few honest questions about God.
I enjoyed the variety. There is actually one romance (set in Hell), but it is far more rib-tickling than it is heart-warming. “Everlasting Fire” is what John Milton might have come up with if he grew up in the 20/21st century and wrote a rom-com. It’s devilishly funny. Other highlights include “Under the Pyramids”, a compelling poem about one man’s world-changing encounter; “The End”, about a camping trip that turns wacky and supernatural in a hurry; “Legend: The Story of Kevin Marley”, a tongue-in-cheek satire of alternative music; and “The Lamb’s Speech”, a darkly comic poem that slaps William Blake in the face.
This is some of the most witty and original material I’ve seen in indie books.
This collection would have been better if Mr. Hutchings had included less material. These little gems that I mention above get lost among several other works which simply do not compare. He has a wearying habit of writing three-paragraph stories and throwing them into the mix. I skipped past a few of these after a while; they didn’t grab me. Mr. Hutchings’ best work would show better in a tighter volume.
There are times when Mr. Hutchings tries to be too clever. In “The Construction Workers of Telele” I read the following…
We have to do something about these guy’s!!!!!” said the writers of signs with unnecessary apostrophe’s (in a strong Comic Sans accent).
I cringed. Humor is better delivered one point at a time; the parentheses is unnecessary and sucks away the humor.
His philosophical musings are intriguing. They come out most memorably in “Under the Pyramids”, although I am not entirely sure what he means when he says, “All health was sickness. / Life was death. / The greatest was the least. / My human soul gave up control / and I became a beast.”
These musings stumble sometimes. “The Auto-Pope” is only seven sentences long, and directly attacks the Catholic Church on grounds of hypocrisy. This is a fine goal for a man who seeks the truth, but the Catholic Church he attacks in the story is not the Catholic Church that actually exists. Happily, moments like these do not pervade the collection.
Overall, “The New Death” is difficult to judge. It is an ambitious, feisty collection. It wants to be witty and soul-searching, and to some extent it accomplishes both. It is a diamond in the rough. I look forward to what James Hutchings releases in the future. You should, too.
Get The New Death at the Kindle Store or Smashwords. If you’re strapped for cash, check out this fun little game he made called Age of Fable. It’s a text-based, choose-your-own-adventure game. It’s a delight. At the very least, say hi to him at his blog.
No matter what you do, have a wonderful weekend, and beware demons with obscure names.