I received a curious request a couple of weeks ago from a gentleman known as James Hutchings: To review his collection of novels and poems, an ebook called The New Death and others. I was somewhat baffled, as I am a game designer and connoisseur, and know little about literature (despite my claims of writing novels myself). Nevertheless, who am I to deny a random request from the Internet?
Since I read little nowadays due to my attention being fully in the other artistic medium, I decided to analyse the book by how entertaining or thoughtful I found it, not by how well it compared to other literature. At first I opened the ebook with my ehands and took its volume in. That, compared with having to absorb new characters, settings and styles after every story, put a damper in my eagerness to read it through. Plus, the first short story, while being somewhat clever, was promising a predictable commentary on how the world is crap. So I let it lie for some time, instead playing Eschalon and cursing at it.
But then I finally found the energy to read the second story. It was written in a style that reminded me of an arabic story (I don’t know whether this is a correct assessment. Shows what I know). It described a greedy sorceress’ long journey towards godly knowledge. And then her journey ended. Abruptly and quite humorously. The twist ending was funny enough to give me energy to keep reading.
Soon I had started to form an opinion on the whole. The New Death and others takes well-known stories and situations in fiction and infuses modern popular culture in them. The story depicting Hell as a quite normal office, albeit with an infernal decoration, where the Ninth Deadly Sin was saying ”lol” out loud was a polarising one. At that point I dismissed book as a crude attempt on making a bunch of popular culture references artistic with stylistic writing.
As I read on, however, I began to like the stories. Many of them follow the same formula: A straight-faced story with a coherent style and a surprise ending. The thing was, I could identify with many of them. I knew the pop culture references and I knew the themes of many of the stories. Slowly, my previous opinion started to change. Like many other works of literature, The New Death and others is an observation of the current age from the perspective of the author. An age where humanity is reacting to the global connectivity offered by the Internet and where the quality of entertainment is the greatest issue of a western person. At that moment, all antipathy towards the book evaporated. It was a legitimate work of art.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. In any case, art or not, The New Death and others was entertaining. It is full of humor and a few drops of horror here and there. I especially liked the story where the characters find the edge of the known universe, which is a text file.