Recently I have been reading The New Death and Others by James Hutchings; a collection of spooky poems, many based on favourite stories of classic horror, and satirical, yet sinister tales told with the flair and pacing of the traditional storyteller.
|(c) James Hutchings|
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?"
This e-book collection contains over sixty charming pieces, each a little dark and many blackly humorous, with titles like The Face in the Hill and My Cat is Not Like Your Cat. Hutchings's clever combinations of horror, fairy tale, humour and fable are immensely enjoyable and rather witty, and his poems are beautifully written.
One of the things I enjoyed about this collection was the combination of tales with the ring of classic fairy tale or legend with funny, often satirical stories featuring more modern characters and locales. Not all storytellers could get away with combining stories of ancient gods, goddesses and monsters (How the Isle of Cats Got Its Name, The God of the Poor) with hilarious renderings such as Everlasting Fire and The Adventure of the Murdering Philanthropist (the latter being a riproaring send-up of pop culture set in an alternate-reality Victorian London, with extra steampunk).
Not every story quite hit its mark with me; whilst there were some I really enjoyed and would definitely re-read, there were one or two that I felt fell a bit short of the mark, my least favourite being The End which I don't feel lived up to the rest of the collection in terms of quality. Also, I would like to note that if you are looking for political correctness you won't find it here - be warned that there are some political and religious views stated here which personally I found interesting and quite amusing, but if you are easily offended you may not.
Mr Hutchings has used this collection to interweave several fantasy worlds amongst his other stories and poems - the world of his anthropomorphic creations Death, Fame, Time, Destiny, Justice and others, showing some influences from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and his fantastical realm of Telelee, again somewhat akin to Terry Pratchett meeting J.R.R. Tolkien. At first I wasn't sure if these should have stood as separate collections, but after reading for a while it was like greeting an old friend every time Death reared his skeletal head.
If you are expecting these stories to be interspersed with examples of Bad Goth Poetry, think again. If My Life Was Filmed is a brilliantly witty piece of verse (bonus points for the mention of ninjas) and Under the Pyramids, based on a classic horror story by H.P. Lovecraft, does its inspiration justice as a tribute; these poems are a treat in themselves.
Laden with enough sarcasm, satire, and clever plays-on-words to make a Goth girl smile, this collection of dark fantasy has been a real delight to read. If you like anthropormorphic personifications of aspects of the universe with a little more personality than you might expect (that Fame is a real bitch), modern takes on some favourite fairy tales, poking fun at society and popular culture, and some really ironic punishments (and really bad puns - deliberately bad, I might add), you'll enjoy this.
The New Death and Others is for sale from Amazon and Smashwords, where you can also view samples for yourself.