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The Rats in the Walls (Part Two)

Horror in written form rarely scares me. I feel scared for characters, but I hardly ever feel general sense of horror. A few works of the father of the detective story: Poe give me goosebumps like this did, but I confess I haven’t read any Lovecraft. This was my first introduction to his works and now I’m kind of afraid to read his stories, especially in the dark. The narration just brought up the creepiness level that much.

The Rats in the Walls (Part One)

This is a reading, which surprised me in the sense that I wasn’t expecting a reading of an H.P. Lovecraft story. I expected an adaption, though that didn’t ruin my experience. In fact, it was a nice change of scenery for me. My two complaints are the occasional popped P-sounds and the cello’s volume level. At times the cello would be louder, and thus distract me from the story. The popping of the P-sounds, while few in between also had that same negative effect. These are all just nitpicks, but I feel they’re worth mentioning. I do have to give props to the narrator. He did an excellent job in bringing a horror story to life, using just his voice. I felt a sense of genuine horror and tension when listening that I got goose bumps.

Horror in written form rarely scares me. I feel scared for characters, but I hardly ever feel general sense of horror. A few works of the father of the detective story: Poe give me goosebumps like this did, but I confess I haven’t read any Lovecraft. This was my first introduction to his works and now I’m kind of afraid to read his stories, especially in the dark. The narration just brought up the creepiness level that much.

7th Son: Descent (Chapters 4 and 5)

Chapter 4

The proof chapter in which the listener learns that they do have the same memories, but cloning is still in the skeptical pile as Jack (the geneticist) doesn’t believe that humans can clone other humans. And with good reason too. Dr. Mike, Thomas, Killroy 2.0 and Jonathan all sit in their own rooms while Michael (the marine), John (musician) and Jack discuss their childhood and find the evidence that there memories are in fact exactly the same. The other four clones each have their own questions and fears to face.

While I’m not that big on reaction chapters, I felt this was necessary as who wouldn’t be thinking what the clones are thinking after hearing what they heard. The way Hutchins shows how the clones have the same memories is simple, yet creative. And I think that was the best route to go.

Chapter 5

The chapter after the storm starts out just reintroducing the characters. Which is necessary when you have seven protagonists. The focus of the chapter is on Dr. Mike (the criminal psychologist) and how is unwilling to except the truth that he is a clone. It’s an interesting parallel with the POV character, John, who takes the opposite view. It’s a matter of fact vs belief. Dr. Mike has some evidence supporting his claim that all of this is an attempt to brainwash the seven of them. Everyone else barely has any proof, other than the worn out photographs of each of the clones Uncle Carl and Aunt Jaclyn.

It is possible for the listener to be skeptical as human cloning seems impossible with today’s technology in 2011 and this podcast novel was written in 2006. Add in the ability to record, copy and paste entire memories and you get yourself a science fiction story that will divide the readers into two categories: ones that love the book and ones that hate it. Even though previously mentioned in the last chapter, I still had a hard time believing it.

But just like real life, the majority is often right. Same goes for fiction as the six other clones are confident that all seven of them are indeed clones with the same memories of the man dubbed, John Alpha.

7th Son: Descent (Chapters 2 and 3)

Chapter 2

This is where things get interesting, but not a lot is answered. The listener can now conclude, if they haven’t already, that the seven different kidnappings were part of some larger scheme. What makes this chapter interesting is the POV character, John, who has been selected to be the eyes and ears of the listener. For those playing the home game, John is the guitarist. There is a brief flashback as John looks at a cracked mirror and remembers how it became cracked. As to why it’s included at all, I don’t know. After the flashback scene, Killroy 2.0 enters, but we don’t know that’s his name, because we are looking through the eyes of the character. And he isn’t called Killroy 2.0 in the chapter. In fact all the character’s names remain a mystery to John. And even though the listener knows, or should know, all the names from the previous chapter, there is a sense of mystery about them. It’s almost as if J.C. hit the reset button on the story. But instead of it feeling like you died and have to restart from the last checkpoint, it adds to the mystery with out stopping the flow of the story.

The mystery was not just who these people are, but also how they are related. I think it’s hard to pull off a double mystery that is compelling and believable all in one chapter, but J.C. Succeeds in doing just that.

Chapter 3

The chapter is from the POV of a newly introduced character, Kenneth Kleinman. He knows exactly what’s going on and withholds that information from the listener for as long as possible. Until someone asks, “The billion dollar question.” That question being, “are we brothers?” and not “why are we here?” Even after listening to the entire podcast novel and knowing how events play out, I was still surprised that that was the question Kleinman was referring to.

Hutchins goes back in time after the first scene is done in order to tell the history of John Michael Smith starting from his inception. This would be mere telling, but J.C. intertwines that brief flashback seamlessly to the current narrative. It was as if it was a long dialogue-induced info dump that never happened. That part blew my mind at how simple it was, but at the same time creative.

The rest of the chapter plays out in this way and ends with the clones finding out why they’ve been summoned. Which was kind of weird way to end a chapter as I was more fascinated by the science and technology mentioned in the chapter. I mean Hutchins introduced us to it and then sort of went: oh yeah, by the way we need you to stop the person you were cloned from. It changed subjects to quickly. But, still a good chapter nonetheless.

7th Son: Descent (Prologue and Chapter 1)

Trailer

This and future reviews of this podcast audiobook is of the BETA version (released in 2006), NOT the print edition version (released in 2009).

For more information visit jchutchins.net

Prologue

The first line of this podcast audiobook: “The President is dead. He was murdered, in the morning sunlight, by a four year old boy.” is a great hook. But, as listeners we can’t grasp how that’s possible. But don’t worry, because that gets explained later in the book. Descent’s Hook is both a strength and a fault. It’s “fault” generates from the listener who has to have a weak suspension of disbelief to believe that a four year old boy could murder the president. I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen, in fact quite the opposite. I’m saying that what Hutchins says to make it believable is really up to the listener. Without the explanation of “memory totality” and “nepth charge” I could buy into the possibility of a young kid assassinating the President. The reason is who would suspect a little boy to begin with?

However, without the exposition about the 7th son facility the book would not have been able to keep my enticed as a listener. I mean, who wants to hear about how a four year boy killed the President if there’s no mystery or sense of tension?

Chapter 1

While the Prologue raises so many interesting questions, the first chapter is an introduction to the seven main characters of the story, right before they are kidnapped. My biggest complaint is that a lot of the introductions drag on for too long. The old saying in writing fiction, “in late, out early, seems to have taken a back seat to such scenes that started like “Saturday sex with Sara was the best.” While people generally read on at the sign of sex in fiction it is quite a gamble to mention it after the fact as it comes across as a bit misogynistic.

I won’t go into too much detail, but out of the seven character introductions, I’d have to say I enjoyed Professor Mike’s the best. I really enjoyed the character’s voice and found him to be very interesting, despite having a bit of a big ego in his introductory scene. But, then again, who wouldn’t after a book you just published was about to be featured on Larry King Live along with an interview.

As a listener you wonder how all these stories are going to play out. Because, as it stands at the end of chapter one, the seven protagonists don’t have a strong enough plot thread connecting them. And this gets the listener interested in wanting more, but at the same time could turn the listener off as they could be of the mindset, like I was when I first listened to it, of boredom. After a month or so I went back and listened to it, along with chapter two, and all I can say is I’m glad on pushed on through.

Generally, professional writers don’t want to start a novel or story with an info dump, especially seven times. And J.C. Hutchins is able to find the line between that and conflict, but for some introductions, he missed that middle ground.