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Hexagram, from Duncan P. Bradshaw, is one of those transcending reads. It is a connected narrative split into six shorter pieces bookended by a message from the future. The six separate tales inhabit different eras, containing different tones, and are told in different voices. If I didn’t know better I’d believe that they were written by different authors. That is quite a feat. And may I add that Hexagram in itself is entirely different from my previous two Bradshaw reads, Celebrity Culture & Prime Directive. Duncan is a man of many literary hats and he wears them all well.
Kicking off in Cuzco, 1538 (174,942 days from the end of the world) Hexagram ushers the reader around the world, through the eyes of many astonishing characters as they follow the trail and the instructions of an ancient text. From a ship of Cuban treasure hunters an American shores, 1716, to a Civil War battlefield in 1884. From the stoping grounds of Jack the Ripper, 1888, on to a Jim Jones-esque religious cult in 1981 (my favorite overall piece, cults are fascinating). Wrapping up in current times with elderly twins, one of whom a mortician’s assistant (second favorite overall piece). Hexagram is a hell of a ride, captivating from page one, and highly recommended.
The immense pleasure taken from reading Hexagram has put a sense of urgency for me to get to the other Bradshaw novels that I’ve had sitting on the shelf for far to long, Class Three & Class Four. I am also excited to see what he crafts in the future.
“The pause that followed bookended eternity.”
**Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher/ publicist on the promise of an honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation, these are my unbiased feelings.
The basic premise is that the ancient Inca believed we are all made of stardust, and if they harvest enough, they can call down their God to save them from the Conquistadors and make the world a better place. When the ritual is interrupted, though, the belief turns to obsession that lasts throughout history until finally enough has been collected that it can be completed.
Don’t think this is just a straight horror novel. While it has elements of it, certainly, it also touches on science fiction, alternate history, and straight fantasy. This is in no way a detriment, either. Bradshaw weaves these things together into a story (or should I say, series of stories) that are compelling and powerful in their own right.
I particularly enjoyed the way he interspersed real-world events such as Jack the Ripper and Jonestown into the story, giving a method to the madness of those who actually committed those atrocities. While I seriously doubt the Ripper or Jim Jones (who goes by a different name here) were harvesting stardust from their victims, it’s a nice thought experiment to think that maybe they did.
Also of note is the way the stories connect to one another, but are their own tales. Each even seems to have a slightly different writing style, based on the point in history they occur, the location, and the characters involved. It kept me entertained since there was always something new right around the corner, and is a testament to Bradshaw’s writing ability to flow so seamlessly between those sometimes disparate styles.
The only complaint I have is that the Prologue and Epilogue felt a little rough in comparison to the rest of the book. While the connection to the whole is there, it still felt a little like an entirely different meta-arc from what we got in the rest of the tales through history. Definitely the most fantastical of the tales woven together here.
Still though, I definitely say this is a book worth reading, and in fact worth re-reading as well. I plan to, if for no other reason than so I can look back over Bradshaw’s presented history with the foreknowledge of where it’s all going to see better how it all fits together. If you’re looking for something a little different from the typical horror fare, grab Hexagram; you will not be disappointed.
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