If you don’t know the name JC Hutchins, it’s time to get hip to it. This might be your last chance to be able to say “I knew him when…” JC was one of the vanguard in the podiobooks movement, and has established himself as a skilled writer and transmedia creative. He has just released his latest fiction project, The 33.
It’s an episodic science fiction / supernatural / action series based in a world much like our own, but with some intriguing differences. For starters, there’s “The 33” – thirty-three men and women, unknown to the world at large and possessing certain special skills, recruited into a shadowy organization to “maintain the status quo”. You meet five of them in this first episode in the series, including the protagonist, Addison Creel. He was on the run from unnamed sinister forces, until he was approached by a representative of “The 33”, who offered to clean up his problems in exchange for making himself – and his “unique abilities” – available should they so need them.
Over the course of a mere 28 pages, you learn about Creel, the other members of his “team”, supporting members, the farmhouse that acts as their home base, the layout of the organization, and the rules of the universe “The 33” operates in – the multiverse, technically. It’s an impressive bit of world-building to squeeze into a single chapter, and it’s done without a hitch. By the end of this episode, you understand where things are going, how they got there, how big the stakes are, and you know just enough about the characters that you’re curious to know more.
But this first episode is 35 pages. That only covers 28. What about the rest? That’s even more world-building, in a totally separate section of the world, the one “The 33” have been called in to check out. You can consider it “Chapter 0”, since you get to read it before the title page (or the opening credits, since The 33 is being released as both an audiobook and e-book). It’s a totally different setting, bringing to mind some sort of 70’s sci-fi utopian society. The problem with utopian societies is that something always seems to mess them up, which happens, in a big way – big enough to need the attention of “The 33”. (This section also contains the phrase “liquor-slick innuendo”, which as good a way to set the mood of a conversation as I’ve ever read… and which makes the plot twist that much more shocking.)
As I mentioned, The 33 is being released as both an ebook and audiobook. JC is building on his podiobook experience and performing the readings himself – no big-name production studio, no high-priced voice talent. And it’s great work. The audio quality is crisp and clean, with the intro and outro music very much fitting the story. JC has a strong and clear voice, and having the author voice his characters gives their parts a greater depth, a more nuanced delivery, than if it was just some guy reading from a page.
I will admit that I am a poor reader, in both senses of the word. I don’t read anywhere near as much as I would like, and what I do read comes from the library, or free downloads, or sample work. I just don’t buy digital media. I will definitely be buying the next episodes of this story as they are released.