About a month ago, something interesting happened. I received an email from someone I didn't know asking me to review a book. Now those of you who have existed in the blogoverse (is there a word for what we do that doesn't sound so twee?) for a while probably have had this happen to you before quite a few times, but to me this is a first, so after another email or two, I was presented with a copy of The New Death and Others by James Hutchings. I was excited. It made me feel important.
The New Death and Others is a collection of short stories and poems written by the tremendously talented James Hutchings. Now, to describe the collection will be challenging, but I feel I'm man enough for the job, so here we go.
James has invented a fantasy world called Telelee where a majority of his stories are told. In this world there are talking cats, gargoyles, consultant gnomes and a robot pope. Death, Destiny, Ambition and Love are characters in his various tales. Needless to say that after the past two sentences you are probably thinking that the stories are a bit darkly comic and you would be right.
Some of his stories are written in a prose style that initially I found a bit difficult to get into, but as I read on and discovered Mr Hutchings tremendous flair for phrase and knack for killer one liners, I couldn't get enough. One of the beauties of this collection is that it is eminently quotable. For example, in one story he describes something as being so impossible it would be "like taking a sword to the sea or arguing against old age". The prose writing really is quite beautiful, but James Hutchings is no one trick pony. He writes long form poetry inspired by classic novels and authors, snappy one paragraph scenes that light up your imagination and very funny almost "here's one I made earlier" type poems that made me laugh out loud. A personal favourite story of mine is about some monsters on a camping trip. Its very subtle satire and that's difficult to do. His poem "If my Life was Filmed" is also hilarious. The satire in the book is done well and doesn't ever come across as too preachy or earnest.
He doffs his cap to many writing styles in the volume and that's no bad thing. Imagine, HP Lovecraft telling Aesop's fables or Terry Pratchett's bottom of the page inside gags and you will be somewhere near where James is coming from. Due to the book being full of short stories and poetry it is ideal for reading piecemeal. It can be bought from Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble for about a dollar, so quite frankly, I think it's almost rude not to. James Hutchings also has a blog about Telelee and other projects he has on the go here. Follow it, you won't be disappointed. So go on, smash it onto your e-reader of choice or smartphone. Everyone needs some darkly comic satire in their lives and The New Death and Others is a great place to start.