- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First American Edition edition (April 26, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765378809
- ISBN-13: 978-0765378804
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 248 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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HEX Hardcover – April 26, 2016
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From School Library Journal
In his acknowledgements at the end of the book, Heuvelt discusses how he rewrote his original story (published in the Netherlands in 2013) while it was being translated into English. He changed the setting to a small town in the Hudson Valley and gave the work a completely new ending. Although he provided his characters with American names, he allowed them to retain their "Dutchness," which makes for a charming, quirky, and humorous cast. They seem amazingly well-adjusted considering the restrictions that govern their lives. But when a group of Internet and social media savvy high school seniors confront the reality of being trapped forever in Black Spring by a 17th-century witch's curse, town law is no obstacle to their determination to change the status quo. Unfortunately, well-intentioned, testosterone-fueled teen bravado can quickly turn ugly. The teens pursue a series of activities that awaken the witch's wrath, but it is the townsfolk's dehumanizing descent into fear that turns Heuvelt's charming, don't-turn-out-the-lights ghost story into a bona fide tale of horror. Teens will relate to the characters' dilemma and appreciate how decisions made in the grip of either fear or love can have disastrous consequences. VERDICT Definitely not for the faint of heart, Heuvelt's cinematic descriptions will appeal to horror movie fans and lovers of psychological thrillers.—Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA
“This is totally, brilliantly original.” ―Stephen King
“HEX is creepy and gripping and original, sure to be one of the top horror novels of 2016.” ―George R.R. Martin
“Thomas is a great writer, the next genre superstar.” ―Paul Cornell
"[A] touch of strangeness, of alienness, avoiding sub-Stephen King clichés. [Olde Heuvelt] has written five novels already, and publishers should be lining up to translate them." ―The Wall Street Journal
“HEX is reminiscent of vintage Stephen King, and I can think of no higher praise. Chilling, moving and . . . profound.” ―John Connolly
“Olde Heuvelt’s HEX sets ancient magic against contemporary technology to create a kind of dark fairy tale that seems ultimately believable in today’s world. A terrific debut novel.” ―Jeffrey Ford
“HEX is a thoughtful horror story, and one that is all the more chilling for its uncompromising view of humanity. . . . I found the story and its ending uncompromising and inevitable.” ―Robin Hobb
“HEX takes the horror/thriller genre to a whole new level. It’s deeply unsettling, wholly original, brilliantly written and contains scenes that will haunt you for a long time to come. I dare you to read it.” ―Sarah Lotz
“Thomas Olde Heuvelt's HEX is a treat for all fans of dark fiction . . . a modern spin on the witch's curse story that forces us to take a closer look at ourselves. Who is really evil after all? It's may not be who you think. This is just the beginning and I can't wait to read his next one.” ―Ann VanderMeer)
“Hidden tensions and human weakness trigger a witch-hunt that boils over into persecution, scapegoating and a shocking denouement. A powerfully spooky piece of writing.” ―Financial Times
“The best horror debut since John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In.” ―Alan Kelly, Rue Morgue
“Equal parts Stephen King and The Cabin in the Woods, Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s novel is a pop page-turner with an intriguingly weird ambience . . . a funny, surprising and eerie novel.” ―SFX Magazine
“Olde Heuvelt offers up a truly terrifying parable about mankind’s depravity and the depths of evil of which we are capable. The story is not merely unsettling, it is horrifying” –Kirkus Reviews
“[I]ntriguing premise . . . Heuvelt develops his characters enough to give their tragic lives resonance” ―Publishers Weekly
[S]imilarities to early Stephen King . . . Spielbergian in the way Olde Heuvelt shows supernatural goings-on in the midst of everyday life . . . It’s a fabulous, unforgettable conceit and Olde Heuvelt makes the most of it.” ―The Guardian
“Heuvelt’s masterfully frightening debut will haunt the reader for days afterward.” ―Book Riot
“A great read for fans of The Blair Witch Project or The Crucible. “ ―Booklist
“[O]ne of the most original, clever, and terrifying books to be published in the 21st century”. ―New York Journal of Books
“An entertaining read with a chilling concept. Not for the faint hearted.” ―Brave New Words
“Truly absorbing and keeps you locked into the horrifying events as they unfold.” ―Fantasy Book Review
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What impressed me so much about this book was how much it relied on human evil as opposed to supernatural evil. There's a definite supernatural presence, so much so that the townsfolk have learned how to adapt their lives to the constant presence of the Black Rock Witch, to the point where it actually ends up making some of the townspeople complacent. I will try not to elaborate too much at the risk of spoilers, but it's likely the adults' begrudging acceptance of "this is how it is" that causes the teenagers to start recording and even taunting the Black Rock Witch. It's natural for children to try to see how far they can bend or break the rules as a way of challenging authority and while they know that the witch is deadly, they've also grown up with the knowledge that not much (if anything) will happen as long as you don't touch her, listen to her words, or undo any of her bindings. That leaves a lot open to interpretation. Another thing that intrigued me is that the witch isn't entirely portrayed as this horrible evil thing. This I can't really spell out without spoilers, but I will say that Olde Heuvelt does try to show that life does not deal in absolutes and that actions can have an impact on outcomes.
I will warn people that this book is slow moving, so much so that the action doesn't really get started until the last fourth of the novel. You can see where things are going and there is tension, it just takes a while for the powder keg to explode here. This isn't entirely surprising since there has been a lot of movement towards books of this type, but I know that this won't be everyone's cup of tea. I suppose the best endorsement I can give this book is that I started listening to this on audiobook and ended up purchasing an e-book copy because I got so into the novel that the audiobook version just went too slowly for me.
1. Too Much Exposition
Celebrated ghost story writer M.R. James once noted that "nicely managed crescendo" is essential to any horror tale. "Into a calm environment," he said, "let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.” In "HEX," the "ominous thing" is with us from page one -- and then for numerous pages, before we get any clarification that explains what's going on. Unfortunately, once that exposition arrives, it floods the story so it almost feels we're listening to a rambling documentary about the ominous thing. Which makes the thing feel a LOT less ominous.
2. Technology Too Clever for Its Own Good
I get it. This is a modern witch tale, and technology is actually intrinsic to the dynamic that (eventually) makes everything fall apart. But that technology takes such center stage that it practically becomes a main character -- again, greatly distracting from the slow burn of the "ominous thing." Worse, the presence of that same technology leads to plot holes larger than the Lincoln Tunnel. The author asks us to believe that this New York hamlet is utterly disconnected from the outside world -- then force-feeds us every manner of modern media, making us realize (repeatedly) why this dynamic would be impossible in any first world country today.
3. Weirdly (Over-)Similar Narrative Structure
This is perhaps the most troubling aspect of "HEX." Flip to Part 2 of "HEX," which begins with Chapter 23. Simultaneously, flip to Part 2 of 1983's "Pet Sematary" (which begins, "It's probably wrong to believe there can be any limit to the horror which the human mind can experience."). Read the succeeding chapters side-by-side. I'm all for creating a tribute to a modern master (and elements of "HEX" are *definitely* based on "Pet Sematary" throughout). But these latter chapters are a little too close for comfort. Entire phrases, cadences, narrative beats, even word choices have been used to craft this newer novel's framework. As a lifelong horror reader, I felt insulted that someone would think this could actually go unnoticed. I also felt confused by the Stephen King review on the cover: "Totally, brilliantly original." Wait, are you kidding???
4. Off-the-Rails Ending
So much for the "ominous thing." The ending of "HEX" -- which I understand was re-written from the original Dutch, for some reason -- is the horror movie equivalent of hurling everything at the camera simultaneously. Please don't tell me over and over "this situation is totally terrifying" -- SHOW me scenes that unnerve me. Don't crank the chaos meter to 14+ -- take a cue from "The Monkey's Paw," which proves understated scares are the most horrifying kind. The ending of this book was over-the-top confusing, inconsistent, frenzied, silly and awful.