Podcast Review #16: 7th Son: Book One – Descent

Title: 7th Son: Book One – Descent
Author: J.C. Hutchins
Genre: Apocalyptic Science Fiction Thriller
Released: 24 February 2006 – 23 July 2006
Located: Podibooks, iTunes, Author’s Site
Formats Available: Podcast, dead tree version through St. Martin’s Press, multiple ebook versions

When I decided to write reviews of podcast fiction, I created a spreadsheet and began listing all the stories I had listened too. I placed them in the order I planned on reviewing them and put a tentative date next to each. Several times the remaining titles on the list have been moved down due to the fact that I’ve finished listening to a newly completed podcast and want to review it immediately.

When I’m reviewing legacy podcasts, it usually isn’t that I’ve finally gotten around to listening to them, but that I have gone back to that original spreadsheet and picked the next title off the list.

And hence we come to 7th Son. While I did not listen to 7th Son: Book One – Descent as it dropped, I had caught up by the time the second and the third books dropped.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Three weeks ago, the U.S. president was murdered by a four-year-old boy.

Today, seven men stare at each other in a locked conference room. Kidnapped and brought to this underground facility, the strangers are sitting in silence, thunderstruck. Despite minor physical differences, they all appear to be the same man, with the same name … and the same childhood memories.

Unwitting participants in a secret human cloning experiment, these seven “John Michael Smiths” have been gathered by their creators for one reason — to capture the mastermind behind the president’s assassination.

Their target? The man they were cloned from; the original John Michael Smith, code-named John Alpha.

Soon our heroes — John, Jack, Michael, Kilroy2.0 and the others — realize the president’s murder was merely a prologue to Alpha’s plans. As the mystery deepens and the implications of Alpha’s scheme are slowly revealed, the clones decide to stand against John Alpha. The outcome will unearth a conspiracy larger than they could have ever imagined. (stolen from Podiobooks site)

I am also going to include the Author’s Note that Mr. Hutchins now provides at Podiobooks: This is “The Beta Version” of this podiobook. 7th Son: Descent is now available as a print novel from St. Martin’s Press. During the editorial process, significant changes and improvements were made to Descent’s print manuscript. Character names were changed, and events at the end of the print novel were modified in ways that will impact the rest of the print trilogy. The print novel represents an official reboot of the 7th Son series.

Due to these changes, this “Beta Version” of Book One: Descent is no longer the “official” version of the podiobook. Please visit the 7th Son: Descent (The Print Edition) page to subscribe to the definitive version of the story.

Production: As you can see by the release date, Mr. Hutchins is no “johnny come lately” to the podcasting scene. He has been working at his trade from early on in the game. That being said, his production on 7th Son is very strong. All of the audio levels are quite professional sounding and I never had a complaint about audio at all. My biggest area of dissatisfaction with Mr. Hutchins production was with the inclusion of “The Story So Far” being used in every episode of all three books. In fact, whether it is true or not, I have heard it said that Mr. Hutchins “invented” TSSF as many of us know it today. If you are unaware of my feelings of this device, I’ll simply state I don’t like it, at all.

Cast: Mr. Hutchins does all of the voice work for 7th Son, but I am almost loathe to call it a straight read. Mr. Hutchins attacks his narration with great energy. Each character comes alive with a personality of their own due to Mr. Hutchins handling. No, definitely not a straight read.

Story: As far as stories go, this is one of the more original I’ve stumbled upon. From the opening scene it is unique. I have read a few critiques complaining about lack of realism in some of these scenes. If ultra realism is your hangup, I suggest you stay away from science fiction, because at some point most stories are going to ask you to hang up what you “know” and go along for the ride. 7th Son asks you to do this early and often.

Verdict: I would love to give 7th Son a “Must Listen” verdict simply because I know how many people have loved it. In fact, I believe it is based on that love and fan faithfulness, at least in part, that helped Mr. Hutchins secure a contract for 7th Son from a big New York Publisher. Sadly, I can’t give that recommendation. Simply stated, I didn’t enjoy 7th Son. Why? (Feeling like I should be ducking virtual thrown rotten tomatoes at this point. LOL) Stay with me. I DID listen to all three books in their original format. I did not listen to most of the additional content. I haven’t listened to anything else by Mr. Hutchins.

At the time I was listening to 7th Son, there weren’t NEARLY as many works of fiction being podcast as there are now. Partly due to that fact, and partly due to the fact that I always hope that “things will get better” and can’t stand not knowing how something ends, I usually stick with things I start.

My main reason for my antipathy for 7th Son lies in the fact that in almost all my choices of entertainment, I am VERY character driven. If you can make me love your characters, I’ll forgive almost anything. If you can’t, it really doesn’t matter how tightly the story is crafted or how the action leads you from one scene to the next, I’m going to walk away with a feeling of promise unfulfilled. This was true for me with 7th Son. There were many characters, both clones and non-clones, and I really couldn’t make myself care for a single one of them.

In a minor secondary matter, I didn’t care for Mr. Hutchins reading style. On this issue, it is just a matter of personal preference and I almost didn’t include it, but to be fair, I talk about the readings that I love, and feel I should mention that the narration in this book tends to be “over the top”.

I know I am greatly in the minority. 7th Son has become a podcast phenomena, and I am glad for Mr. Hutchins. I am truly happy when ANY podcast author is awarded a publishing contract. These authors give alot to us for free. This is true of Mr. Hutchins as well. While researching this review, I discovered what many all ready know: not only are the original versions of these stories available, but the edited and published versions are as well. In both podcast and pdf form. For free. Stellar. Simply Stellar.

So.. back to that verdict. While I might not have enjoyed the story, many many people have. If you like a tight, action driven science fiction thriller that moves along at a brisk pace, and characterization isn’t an issue for you, 7th Son is definitely something you should check out. If, however, you’re a reader/listener that wants to get to know the characters, feel for them, live through their eyes, feel free to go ahead and give 7th Son a shot, but don’t feel bad if you decide to hit the stop button.

Disclaimer: I do not follow Mr. Hutchins () on Twitter. To the best of my knowledge, he has never followed me. I was not offered anything to write this review (or not to, as the case may be).

~ by odin1eye on 13 February, 2010.

18 Responses to “Podcast Review #16: 7th Son: Book One – Descent”

  1. Hooooonestyyyy is such a lonely word. šŸ˜‰

    Interestingly enough I don’t disagree with you. While I thoroughly enjoyed 7th Son, I think your assessment of character is pretty accurate. As a thriller I think it’s awesome and as is usually the case most of the characters seem to be a bit thin.

    I will say that Father Thomas resonated with me quite intensely and if you are so inclined to listen to any more of Hutch’s work I recommend giving his back story podcast a try. It’s made up of short stories that flesh out the clones a bit more.

    Good on ya for being truthful.

    • I am glad you found the review at least interesting and agree in content if not in verdict. Thanks as always for thoughtful consideration!

  2. I should say up front that I absolutely loved both the podcast and the print version of 7th Son, and I wrote a gushing review. But good on you for being honest in your review. It’s sometimes a hard thing to do for a popular book when you liked some things about it, but not others.

    • I am glad that you took the time to review. One of the reasons I started doing these reviews here is that I feel like we as listeners often do not provide enough feedback to authors (which is not my goal) OR roadmaps for other listeners (which IS my goal). Keep finding authors you enjoy and let others know about them!

  3. Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful review, Odin! I appreciate that you made the time to listen to my story, and to share your thoughts with your readers.

    • Thanks for reading sir. I do appreciate what you have done and am glad I didn’t offend (over much). I also hope that perhaps I have steared a few listeners your way. I know I am in a minority and that 7th Son is widely loved. Thanks for your graciousness.

  4. This is one of those rare times Odin1eye and I have a difference of tastes. I really enjoyed “7th Son: Descent”. It IS more of an “action film” kind of scifi, so I definitely understand Odin1eye’s review comments.

    I did connect with several of the characters, but I can understand where others might not. I also don’t mind “the story so far” – especially as I tend to listen to podcast novels as they come out and not all at once.

    As much as I like the straight podiobook releases, for J.C. Hutchins’ work I really enjoyed the original releases with brief author comments before and with more comments & news after the main content. However, much of this would be dated now.

    My recommendation: Listen to two or three episodes of the podiobook versions. If you like it, check out the rest at podiobooks.com. If you later subscribe to J.C.’s new podcast episodes as they come out, I think you will have fun listening along with the rest of the “Beta Clone Army” community.

    And I also highly recommend reading all of Odin1eye podcast novel reviews as they are VERY well written and can introduce you to some really good (& free) podcast entertainment.

    • Thanks so much for the comment, because you are ABSOLUTELY correct. I think it was Sigler that first said give me 4 eps to convince you. Very very good advice. I usually go beyond that. In fact VERY rarely do I ever not finish one I start. And with 7th Son, as much as any other, I am hoping to help audiences find what they like. I know I am in the minority, and I’m okay with that. Thank you for such a thoughtful and considered comment.

  5. This is a book I had to try because of all the hype. I’m really glad I listened all the way through, because it seemed to get better as it went along, and it was worth it. I must admit that I found a lot of parts slow. When there are people sitting around talking, I get bored. I have this same problem with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but I still love the books. I don’t think I would have finished the first book if I hadn’t heard so much hype about it, but I’m certainly glad I did. Though parts were slow for me, when stuff happens it is really awesome, and the action scales up as the series goes on to the third book. Father Thomas was my favorite character as well interestingly enough. (Referencing Scott’s comment) I wonder if that’s because were both Christians, even though Thomas is Catholic. Good review, thanks for the honesty.

    • Thank you for your comment on this one. I have to admit that I felt a little badly after J.C. made his announcement, but then I decided truth is truth. Anyone is free to disagree with me to their hearts content, and I will always try to be positive any when negative and balance what I don’t like with the positive things that are available in any story. I admit, Thomas was the character I enjoyed most as well. Thanks!

  6. 7th Son is one of the best Podcast novels out in the wild.

    • I KNOW I was in a minority, and while I definitely WASN’T wanting to stir up a war, I was hoping someone would provide a definitive alternate POV. For me, it just didn’t work. However, I sincerely appreciate J.C.’s huge contribution to the podcast community and hope he is able to turn around the luck he has been having and to make a living with his writing.

      • Did you read the blog post where one guy really shredded the novel?

        • No. Really? Did he give his rationale why he didn’t enjoy it or was it just vitriol and/or sour grapes? Like I said, I can’t knock the work. It was well done through and through. It just didn’t gel with me for the reasons stated.

          • He did give a few sound reasons, at least one of which you stated, the characters. Much of his disdain stemmed from the fact that he just didn’t care for thrillers.

            He did say that, for a thriller, it was well done. So he didn’t knock it for what it was. He just didn’t like it.

          • Hmmm… I personally understand the character issue (obviously) but disdain reviews that tell me I don’t like this kind of thing but this is good/bad this kind of thing.

            If I don’t like Mexican food, I wouldn’t try to tell people what good/bad Mexican food was.

            I am glad that he gave some rationale. Now, I’m going to have go find it. Thanks for giving me something else to do. šŸ˜‰ And thanks again for the comment.

      • O.K. alternate POV: 7th Son (like Seth Harwood’s “Jack Wakes Up”) is more an action movie/mini-series experience than a traditional sci-fi novel. Likewise, “Personal Effects:Dark Arts” is really a suspense/near-horror movie put to a book.

        I tend to enjoy my media “as is” rather than have expectations. Hence, I was able to enjoy the movie “Avatar” more that Tee Morris did, since he was expecting more of a “James Cameron” movie. (I’m over-simplifying Tee’s position, and I think Tee’s objections to “Avatar” are valid.)

        I like the characters, but the story is more centered on the action & plot than the characters. So anyone with more traditional science fiction expections may not enjoy 7th Son as much as I do. As soon as I realized that 7th Son was a “ride” of an experience, I just got on and enjoyed it to the end. Others may and may not.

        Now by my comments, I’m not making any assumptions that Odin1Eye’s opinions are anything more or different than what he’s already stated. I’m just giving him his requested alternate POV – because he’s cool and all that šŸ™‚

        Also if you are reading this, you too have the right to disagree with everything I just wrote as well. And because the readers of this blog are cool & intelligent people, I’m sure at least one of you do – if you are that person, know that it is because YOU are awesome. šŸ™‚

        • Thanks Mainframe! I do agree with you in that it is always better to TRY and take things for what they are. Doesn’t mean you have to like them, but it might help not being disappointed. Thanks for the differing POV. They are ALWAYS welcome here.

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