The New Death and Others
By James Hutchings
I was asked to review this book by the author, so here is my best attempt for my very first book review.
The New Death and Others is a collection of short stories and poems. Many of the stories are in the tradition of Jack Vance. Though with more modern trappings then his works. There are also some poems which seem to be poem version of classic stories by Lovecraft, Dunsany, and a few others.
His writing is good and I recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy stories. Yet most of them are very, very short. Like 1-2 paperback book pages. It actually took me a while to read through the book because at no point did I have long enough to get immersed into any of the stories. It was start, zip, end, next entry. The switch-up between the stories and the poems was also a bit jarring to my particular reading style. I think it would have been better to have the short fiction and the poetry in two different collections.
The overall feel I got was that I was reading through the author’s random ideas folder. Many of the really short stories could be summed up in a two-line statement and then you wouldn’t have any reason to actually read the two page story itself. So many of the ideas would be wonderful as full dozen-page short stories, and several of them could probably be fleshed out into full length novels. Reading the collection felt like bouncing around a lot without any real focus or time to develop anything in depth.
Another thing is that the author puts in a lot of internet-lingo and texting abbreviations into several of the stories. They are all mostly modern and so it fits, but having those stories mixed in with the Vance-style pulp fantasies was jarring at times. Which may have been what he was going for. Yet it was another thing that made this book a bit of a rough read for me. More than a few of the short stories are based on pop culture concepts or puns and that is all they have. This is fine for a longer story where the jokes are blended into the narrative, but as the sole supporting factor in a two-page story it is a bit shallow.
Many of the shorter works are more like parables than proper stories. Which is nice since I don’t think I’ve seen any other modern author attempt that sort of thing. Yet even they seemed to be incomplete. Part of that is the nature of a good parable, which prompts the reader to figure out the final result of whatever was being warned against. Yet I think several could have been a bit longer and more detailed.
My complaints about the book take a bit of time and space to detail, but overall I did like the book. It was well written and genuinely funny in places. If you don’t mind that you will be starting a new unrelated story every third page or so, I highly recommend you check it out. There are some very interesting ideas tucked away in even some of the half-page snippets.