Thursday, 29 December 2011

The New Death and others : eBook review and a GIVEAWAY

This time my blog post will be an actual book review of an eBook which is available for purchase here and here.

The New Death and others, written by James Hutchings, is a collection of short stories and poems with dark, amusing yet slightly macabre twists.

The book consists of 44 short stories and 19 poems, varying in length from a piece of flash fiction to poems with dozens of verses. The themes of the stories are comprised of dark fantasy, science fiction, remarkably dark humor, mystic fairy tales and twisted viewpoints to our reality. Diversity of the stories in this collection is vast.

The fantasy stories combine divine beings, sorcerers, demons and mystical creatures, placing them in temples, palaces and strange cities which are likely to bring about recollections of One Thousand And One Nights. Many of the stories revolve around a city called Telelee.

In the aforementioned city of Telelee there stood a temple to Averna. She was a goddess of dancing and athletics, and her followers possessed an athlete's vigor and zeal.
– The God of the City of Dust
Although dark and bizarre humor is a part of the majority of the stories, those which have harnessed probably the best of it are dealing with abstract things being humanized. In these stories characters such as Death, Destiny, Fame and Justice are presented in a way that makes them seem almost approachable. The wit in these stories is admirable, giving the reader some new viewpoints to such phenomena which are part of our everyday lives yet still only remotely familiar.
Those suitors who failed to win Fame often ended up with Death. Sometimes this made Fame jealous, which is why many only find Fame after Death.
– The Doom That Was Laid Upon Fame
Many stories utilize references to particularly modern phenomena, such as reality TV, online dating, fan-fiction and social media, and quite often these things are handled with mercilessly black humor and even cynicism. Quite often the stories leave one utterly confused at first, but a second thought given to what was just read, the pieces turn out extremely cunning and very convincing. Not just once was the initial impression of “what the hell” quickly replaced by some strange certainty – the moment when one realizes that even the most absurd thoughts presented in the stories can actually make sense.

The humor in the collection is best served black, a good example being Everlasting Fire, telling a story of a demon called Lilly with twisted jokes following one another and very amusing footnotes completing the slap-up piece. Sigrun and the Shepherd is an example of a piece with a more serious style of storytelling with a bittersweet and amusing ending implying utter disappointment of having one's dreams crushed in an instant.

The language in the stories is remarkably rich with hilarious puns, and the style of dialogue varies a lot depending on the theme of the story.
He had exposed the secrets even of the mysterious ninjas (although he been attacked by them, and suffered a ninjury).
– The Adventure of the Murdered Philanthropist
While the short stories are exciting and ingenious at best, their quality varies and the weakest ones don't stand out nor will be imprinted on one's mind – yet on average the stories are very entertaining and interesting. However, each less polished story can be excused with the brilliant poems of the collection. Each poem is a masterpiece with magnificent verbal style – and with rhymes nearing perfection. Yours truly rarely finds poetry which is equally enjoyable. Some of the poems are remarkably long with dozens of verses and fascinating tales – and some of them are based on stories by such authors as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Lord Dunsany.
And truth to tell they seemed to share
all virtues that a blade could bear:
as sharp as spite yet light as smoke
and longing for the killing stroke
– Diamanda and the Isle of Wives
All the stories are relatively quick to read as even the longest ones comprise just a few thousand words. Their entertainment value is high and many of them are worth reading more than once. Although some of the stories are very similar to each other in atmosphere, the overall spectrum is so heterogeneous that the factor which unites the separate pieces into one book is probably their diversity. The wit in general may remind one of that of Terry Pratchett's, while some details resemble Tim Burton's style in poetry. Some of the pieces are very deep and thoughtful – also very thought-provoking, while others are light prose, raising little bursts of laughter.

The book is a must-read for lovers of dark fantasy and speculative fiction, and all those who are eager to find out what McDonald's restaurants in Hell are like, what means Death resorts to in an attempt to train another Death to become more frightening, what could be done about the bad behavior of the construction workers in the city of Telelee, what is so suspicious about a typical festival dragon team costume and what the hell Todd actually went through in the drains. The collection is certainly worth reading – and not a waste of money.

And now, are you interested in reading this eBook? Mr Hutchings agreed on arranging a giveaway and one lucky winner of a draw held on January 6th will get to read his work.

In order to participate, comment on this entry with your email address enclosed.

Being my regular follower on Blogger is not required. Also, the book is available in various formats and thus no actual eBook reader device is required.
If you want to improve your chances of winning, link this review to your own blog and leave another comment with a link to your post. With this you may earn another entry for the draw (max two per person).
Good luck!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Jolly holidays!

With this quick mobile update I wish all my dear readers, old and new, a very merry Christmas, or whatever you are celebrating!

I have no idea what these mobile posts will look like - especially the uploads, but I will enclose a photo of my Gingerbread Pirate Crew! Arrr, jolly holidays! And thank you all who have been reading my blog!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

When the morning comes we'll kiss the day goodnight

Apologies for a long silence again. Laziness struck me.

I will quickly update now to tell about a band I went to see live yesterday. It would be Greenrose Faire, and they had a gig in a local pub last night. I cannot remember how I had originally found out about them – somewhere on the internet anyway, and I had got interested since to me they seemed and sounded like Blackmore's Night. And I guess they really have been a source of inspiration for GF since they played a cover version of The Circle.

So yeah, basically they play folk rock/pop in a medieval style. Very much like Blackmore's Night indeed. The gig was very enjoyable although I had only heard a fraction of their songs – and somehow I'm the type who often has trouble enjoying live music that isn't familiar.

They released an album in the autumn, and I can say it's quite nice, with some very catchy tracks such as Beggars and Thieves, Dance 'Til Morning Light (oh yeah why not!) and Witchdance. The album seems to be available in Spotify, so I recommend you to go check it out if that kind of music has ever been of any interest to you. Personally I really enjoy listening to Blackmore's Night when I'm roleplaying (or just playing) something with a touch of medieval fantasy, and I guess Greenrose Faire will be added to my gaming playlists (although certain gaming scenes require folk metal instead – or should I say, battle metal).

Finally, I shall embed a video of the album opening song. Although the video consists of mere still images, I think they're quite impressive as well, and fascinating with their mystic atmosphere. Enjoy, so long!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Properly coated

I'm participating in another theme post by Sophistiqué Noir. This month's theme was outerwear, which isn't the easiest topic for me as I'm not satisfied with the jackets and coats I have. In fact I've been hunting for a proper winter coat for long, as well as an autumn/spring coat – but to no avail. I'm very picky; most of the coats and jackets sold in the regular clothes stores are too boring. When I move onto alternative fashion brands and their outerwear lines, the products are often too fancy; too full of mismatching details, cut in a way that doesn't flatter anyone, too edgy to be worn to work...

Thus, I'm not showing photos of my own clothes. Instead, I decided to draw a few rough sketches of the kind of jackets I'd like to find. (Stress on the word rough – I can draw better, yet maybe not fashion illustrations as I'm not a fashion designer.)

Steampunk and pirates inspired me a lot, but I had to tune down those styles in order to achieve designs which could go well with my many diverse outfits and especially work outfits. I know there are many stores which sell steampunk and pirate style outerwear, but most of those are, although very beautiful and nice, still too complex to suit my everyday style. It's a shame, but I would really need something more practical than what a stunning pirate-credible jacket with a fixed vest would be. Besides, I would need a winter coat for extreme weather after all (when it goes below zero in Fahrenheit too).

"Gather lords and ladies fair"
– Blackmore's Night
I might like a simple jacket with vertical stripes. And if it was in neutral colors, it would be easy to mix with colorful clothes and accessories (as if I wore such).

"Tilt the galley over for no emperor
nor chain will stand in my way!"
– Turisas
The drawing is barely flattering my idea, which I think is better than the sketch. I'm not sure what would be the best way to carry it out though; maybe a pirate ship embroidery somewhere in the hem, or with the right type of fabric it could be a print too.

"We’re the terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves now"
– Abney Park
A simple jacket could be fancified with a leather harness.

"I stand here alone on the bow of the ship
counting the hours 'til I die"
– Alestorm
A few military/navy inspired details would be enough, without making the whole piece in such a style.

I wouldn't mind being directed to a good web store selling something nice that would be at least a bit in-keeping with my idea of a stylish jacket. However, the most important part would be warmth – I live in Finland after all, and I certainly need a winter coat with full lining and such. Suggestions are very welcome.
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