Sunday 15 May 2016

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Hex has been receiving a lot of buzz and hype in the past few weeks, including this endorsement:
With praise like that, I just had to give it a try (even though I'm not a regular reader of horror).

The first few pages of Hex were quite disorienting. The world of Black Spring is an unusual one, and a veritable whirlwind of character names add to the confusion. I very nearly gave up as I struggled to keep up with all the names. However, once the setup became apparent, I was intrigued enough to want to find out more...

Black Spring is haunted by a 17th century witch. In today's town, this haunting takes the form of the witch appearing, corporeal and perfectly physical, anywhere in town. Everyone knows her and her story, no resident can leave the town, but, left in peace, she hasn't directly harmed anyone in many years.

So perhaps it is no surprise that, as the story develops, the youngsters of the town start to interfere with the witch...

Hex is a very, very 21st century novel. People have smartphones, use apps to track the witch, and the youngsters evade the old guard's electronic snooping by using the dark web. Much of the novel's uncanniness stems from the superposition of the Now and the Medieval.

That said, I found Hex intriguing rather than engrossing. I never felt fully invested in the characters or their plight, perhaps because most of the characters lacked memorable traits. The town council leader is a nasty piece of work, and the leader of the security forces is a jaded, slightly misanthropic good guy, but the main characters (one particular family) are pretty bland.

A lot of Hex is told in a very visual way. The omniscient narration describes video clips and character actions like a director or an observer or perhaps a scriptwriter. I imagine the book will be adapted into a TV show or a movie one day, and it's very well suited for that. That said, it's not a style I particularly love in a novel. It felt a little flat.

Typically for the genre, the actions of humans are every bit as horrible, even worse, than the horrors of the supernatural evil they are up against. The escalation of threat and misdeeds is nice and gradual, the build-up of horror a steady affair. The one thing I missed is being scared.

Perhaps I am not the right reader for books like this: I wanted to be scared but wasn't, and I could not really care about the fates of any of the characters. I found the premise intriguing, but the flesh and bones of the story a bit underwhelming.

Rating: 3/5

1 comment:

Nicky said...

Hmm, interesting. I was all set to be terrified by this, knowing how much of a wuss I am...