Friday, November 18, 2011

Beastmaster Pits

This idea came to me while watching an episode of Samurai Jack. It's basically a psychotic version of the druid.
The Beastmasters form packs of primitive scavenger scum who live in the outskirts of a city, usually in a garbage dump or a scrapyard. A Beastmaster pack is lead by from 1 - 3 alphas, one or more of whom is a shaman. These shamans have the ability to command all kinds of animals (and even some animalistic humans) and force the minds of an animal and a human to change places. A Beastmaster pack always has a cadre of beasts with them, ranging from carrion birds to vermin swarms and frenzied, degenerate dog-things.

The favorite entertainment/justice system with many Beastmaster packs is to exchange the minds of two humans with two dogs and then pit them against each other in their makeshift arena. Meanwhile, the human bodies with the dog spirits inside are kept in their cages. When one or both of the combatants die, their original body lives on, and the beastmasters use the resulting creatures as shock troops and disposable cannon fodder.

Usually the Beastmasters pit captured outsiders against their champions, as the dazed victim usually has little control of his new body. Some prominent alphas even manage to intimidate the shamans to give them a sort of immortality; moving their minds to new bodies as they begin to age. Though this is a risky business, as the alpha is easy to betray when mindswapped.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The New Death and Others - a review

Though I usually don't do reviews, I thought this was a nice chance to mix this blog up a bit.

So, The New Death. It's a collection of short stories and vignettes, 94 pages long.
It also contains a few poems, of which Under the Pyramids (based on the H.P. Lovecraft/Harry Houdini story) was my favourite. This poem, and other gems like The Face in the Hill, Rumpelstiltskin, The Jeweled City, The New Death are the best parts of the book, and I heartily recommend buying and reading the ebook for those stories alone.

However, even Under the Pyramids has a problem that pervades the whole book, however. The quality is very variable, which makes me think that Mr. Hutchings could use a good editor. As it is, there are some stories that seem to be there just for the sake of it. This, however, wouldn't bother me nearly as much if it weren't for the good ones. Especially in the case of the poems. It is extremely jarring to read excellent, flowing verse, only to come to a part that uncomfortably stumbles on the words. I think the book would be better off with careful cultivation and cutting of the worse material. Sometimes less is more.

Though the main cause of this problem is that the book's style is all over the place, which is not a bad thing in itself. I can easily see that some parts that didn't appeal to me would appeal to another. The bright side is that this allows almost anyone to find something they like.

The New Death and Others costs 99 American cents and can be bought at Amazon or Smashwords. I recommend reading the preview pages at Smashwords, though it doesn't have some of the best parts of the ebook. Overall, I'm glad I read this.