Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Book Review: The New Death and Others
Author: James Hutchings
Based on the theme: Author Request
Published by: Self-published
Date published: 2011
Length: 94 pages
Genres: Dark fantasy, Anthology, Humour, Short-Stories, Poetry, Flash Fiction,
The Synopsis: Death gets a roommate...An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...44 stories, 19 poems, no sparkly vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?
Plot & pace - The book cover is sadly the stand-out feature of this anthology; it's Tim Burton inspired illustration on the front is great, what a shame about the content. I first had issues with the structure as it seemed to really be a collection that was thrown together at the last minute. It made for difficult reading when you were going from the good rhythm of a poem to the slower 'Flash Fiction' and thus I couldn't really sink my teeth into it.
The poems were far, far better than the short-stories and indeed I would have much preferred that the anthology was just a series of poems alone rather than the short stories. The poems prose varied in length and style but all were succinct, well-thought out and well written. The majority of the stories tried to have some 'meaning' at the end, i.e. "the message of the story is...". That said, there were a few instances where I was questioning what the end article actually was referring to. I was glad that at the end of the Rumpelstiltskin story when he gave the moral of the story; it would have good if the author had done this for most of the tales.
Perhaps it was an error in the 'Flash Fiction' element as with most of the stories, I found them to be underdeveloped and in opposite to the poetry, not well thought out nor well written. I cannot list all the plots within this review though I will list those stories I did enjoy.
The Doom That Was Laid Upon Fame - the Gods Death, Fame, Destiny and Justice battling over the Oscars which spirals into why we have reality TV (trust me it's funny).
The End - Vampires, Demons and Monsters realise they've taken over the world and now there are no humans left. What next?
That was really it.
Language Used and Dialogue - I loved the irony and used of comic language packed with dark humour through the poems. It was a joy to read. This element fell short in the stories as the author could not really sustain the comic pace and so the stories seems to be something which would entertain the author but not those reading. His poetry I felt flowed better when read out loud. In terms of the styles, many seemed to be in a free verse format or rhyming cuplets. I do think the poetic rhythm needs polishing though as especially when reading aloud you can tell a few need more work.
Characters - Within the collection you had the occasional few characters popping up again, Famine, Cats, Death. I enjoyed some of the characters particularly those portrayed in The Doom That Was Laid Upon Fame. I liked play on the bad-Gods if you like and I thought that Hutchings has really drawn upon certain aspects and personality traits really well through some of the dialogue exchanged between them.
As with 'Flash Fiction' you cannot expect too much of a back-story nor description alongside the characters. This factor doesn't matter when the plots are entertaining to sustain your interest but if not you need some element to draw you back in and with no attachment or regular character to do that, the stories felt disjointed.
Setting - Sometimes we were in Hutching's fictional fantasy world of Telelee, otherwise I presumed it was the current day setting of America. Likewise with the comment above, with the stories being so short you cannot expect much time devoted to the topic of setting else it would fit within the 'Flash Fiction' genre and so cannot really take points based on that factor.
Narration - third person for some and occasionally first person.
Themes and Ideas - there are some gems scattered within the text and if you hunt closely you will find them. I absolutely loved the idea of all the monster in the world achieving their objective of demolishing the human race and then going what next? That could have been the start of a really good book.
The Verdict: If the author writes a poetry anthology I would definitely read it. But the 19 poems alone cannot save it. The collection seems put together hazardously, with the short stories either not well thought out or not entertaining. So in answer to the question in the synopsis, it's definitely from an insane angle as no way is it 'genius'. It really is a needle in a haystack to find the good bits and is it worth it; well, not really. 0.5* Stars.