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HEX Hardcover – April 26, 2016
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel Hex from Thomas Olde Heuvelt a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watchWhoever is born here is doomed to stay til death Whoever settles never leaves Welcome to Black Spring the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut Muzzled she walks the streets and enters homes at will She stands next to children s bed for nights on end Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading Frustrated with being kept in lockdown the town s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting But in so doing they send the town spiraling into dark medieval practices of the distant past This chilling novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in mainstream horror and dark fantasy 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 The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel Hex from Thomas Olde Heuvelt a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watch Whoever is born here is doomed to stay til death Whoever settles never leaves Welcome to Black Spring the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut Muzzled she walks the streets and enters homes at will She stands next to children s bed for nights on end Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading Frustrated with b
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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.
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.