There are a handful of podcasting authors whom I consider pioneers. At the top of this list are Scott Sigler, now a NY Times Bestselling Author, Mur Lafferty, author of the Heaven series of podcast novels, and JC Hutchins, author of 7th Son.
The 7th Son Trilogy already has a veritable legion of fans, being constantly referred to by commentators across the podcast world as "the hugely popular podcast series" or "the audiobook phenomenon", or words to that effect.
I deduced that my podcast novel education had not even begun until I had listened to this book in its entirety, and so I did. Do you see this grin? I can see why 7th Son is such an enduring and seminal work, such a standout specimen for its genre.
Not only that, but it is a pioneering work. 7th Son was among the first of the free-to-the-wild audiobook releases that have come to characterise and define the podcast novel community in the past couple of years, and continues to rank highly in the charts at Podiobooks.com; at the time of writing this, 7th Son Book 1:Descent features at #4 Overall by Votes, #7 by Subscriptions in the Last 30 Days, and #2 in All-Time Top Subscriptions - while Book 2, Deceit, holds its place at #6.
In large part, I'm sure that this success has to do not only with Hutchins' skill at weaving a narrative and leaving the reader hanging out for more, but also his tireless devotion to promoting both his own books and those of others in the podcast community. Nothing gives back to you like giving something away, be it fiction or help and support.
Hutchins' ability to tease every possible opportunity for exposure out of the emerging social media devices available to him is extraordinary, from his constant presence on Twitter to the transmedia novel experience that is Personal Effects: Dark Art, which brought about an explosion of book trailers and video blurbs by authors and fans alike in its support.
Hutch is the guru of the social media world, and this has paid off for him in spades.
Of course, none of this would be worth a bar of soap if the writing and story aren't fantastic. So what is it about 7th Son that has made it such an instant classic? Hutchins brings the skill of a master storyteller to this tale, weaving a diabolical web of tech-noir, intrigue, science fiction, and a dash of horror for good measure, and wraps it all up with a heart-thumping pace.
In short, this book doesn't know what the phrase "dull moment" even looks like, much less means.
Book 1, Descent, starts with the murder of thePresident of the US by a 4-year old boy, which sets in motion a series of events that leads to seven complete strangers being brought together for the first time - or so they think. As first the US and then the world are thrown into chaos, this group of young men discover that they are not as different as they seem at first; that they are in fact more alike than they could have ever imagined.
They are clones, the product of an uber-secret government project called 7th Son, and it is their Alpha - the man they were cloned from - that is behind the murder of the President. But this murder is only the start of the mayhem that Alpha has in store for the world. As the clones start to track a breadcrumb trail of clues in the hope of finding and thwarting Alpha, more violent and chilling acts are brought down on the world, and time is always running out.
This is the setup, and the story only gets better from there. Hutchins writes his characters with wit, precision, and a depth of character that most novelists should envy. For seven characters all cut from the same cloth, they are remarkably different, yet share enough nuances that it is clear they are brothers, after a fashion, however different their lives may have made them.
The same can be said of Hutchins' performance. Unlike Sigler, whose characters tend to have wildly different voices for the sake of clarity, the Beta Clones are all a subtle variation on the same aural theme, and as the sole voice talent in a book with a huge cast of characters, the author still manages to project something unique with each of the clone's voices. It's one thing to shift accents and drop octaves while jumping between massively different personas, but quite something else to tease out subtle shades of the same voice and manage this consistently over several hours of performance. But Hutch pulls this off with class.
Aside from this victory, Hutchins' audio productions are slick and professional. He opted out of using atmos or sound effects tracks, so the weight of the story rests completely in the power of the narrative, the art of the words used to deliver that narrative, and his own performance. If I have one minor complaint about the mastering, it is that the music that rocks up at every cliffhanger episode ending always seems just a fraction too loud. Captivated by the story and whatever new twist Hutchins has just unleashed, the sudden shock of guitars and drums always had me ripping the headphones from my ears. I learned to watch the time and be ready to get them out ahead of the sudden burst of over-adrenalised rock, but it never stopped me diving into the next chapter as soon as I could.
Hutchins also has a publishing deal with St Martins Press, and 7th Son: Descent is due for release as a real-life book in October. And just to prove that its not just podcast fans who think Hutchins is a genius, Warner Bros have optioned the rights to develop 7th Son as a film, perhaps (hopefully) a series of films.
Podagogue gives 7th Son the full 5 Star treatment.
If you're looking for a place to start listening to podcast novels and you enjoy a good tech-noir thriller, you'll be hard pressed to find a series better than 7th Son.
Click on any of the images above to go the Podiobooks.com page for the pictured book.