Thursday, 3 November 2011
The New Death Review
The New Death is an e-book by James Hutchings.
At its finest it recalls Dunsany, and Dunsany would not be ashamed to acknowledge it.
(For anyone who doesn't know who Dunsany is, if you took Lovecraft, dragged him out of the cellar, gave him a decent meal, took him for a walk in the hills in summer, got him laid that evening, got him a bit drunk, then smacked him round the face a few times and told him to pull himself together, then what he wrote next would be a bit like Dunsany. But not quite, and not as good.)
There is whimsy. The whimsy trips readily and rapidly from the authors mind. Like the weird bits of cereal being the first parts to leave the box as you pour it out. The work is spread between pieces of various lengths. Because the whimsy flows quickly, like strange cereal, it becomes the dominant factor in the shorter pieces.
Your attitude to this will depend very much on your reaction with, and tolerance for, whimsy, and that is a thing governed by strange and fleeting reaches of time and mood.
The cover illustration has two skeletons, arm-in-arm, wearing 19th century period costume, so no-one can claim they were taken unexpectedly by the contents .
In the longer pieces the imaginative flow is deeper and more sustained. The whimsy is still there, but, other things seep into the fiction and the relationship between the parts changes. Characters emerge and clever lightness from a character is quite a different thing than clever lightness directly from a writer. A sense of time and consequence emerges. Few of the stories are fully tragic, though the endings are often sad.
I think the word is 'picaresque'. This is no bad thing.
The concentration and imaginative depth of the work improves with length and these were my favourite parts of the book. I think if they were submitted to Weird Tales in the 1920's (or 30's, I forget when) then they would have a strong chance of getting in. I consider this to be a high standard of praise.
There are two poems about the sea which are good. The other poems are good if you are in your early 20's, a bit clever, and a bit left-wing. Since your are reading a blog about D&D on the internet, there's a good chance you are.
There are several longer poems based short stories by Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Dunsany and Lovecraft. I think that if any of those writers read the poems inspired by their work, none would make any objection to their quality.
If you have any love for the above creators, or any affection for fiction in the vein of the weird, then you would certainly make a fair bargain by purchasing Mr Hutchings book. I believe the price is 0.99 something, so regardless of the currency (which I cannot recall) the New Death is well worth the money.
(Edit) You can get it here. And it was American cents.