Review: Thomas Olde Heuvelt – HEX

Review: Thomas Olde Heuvelt – HEX

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Genre: Horror
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: 26th April 2016
Pages: 384

 

REVIEWED BY KIMBERLY

 

HEX, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, is one of the most intriguing, thought-provoking novels I’ve read lately. The central idea concerns the modern-day town of Black Spring, NY, and a 17th century witch that appears to all the residents – even inside their homes – at all hours of the day. Anyone that moves into the town is likewise trapped there for the rest of their lives. They are able to leave the town for short periods of time, but after a prolonged absence, they are bombarded by suicidal feelings so potent that they end up taking their own lives, unless they quickly return to the town. Due to the curse the HEX council has cameras, sensors, and other modern technology in place to record the witch’s physical sightings in order to hide her from outsiders–not wanting others to become entangled in their misfortune.

“. . . For many newcomers in Black Spring, the irreversibility of their fate, its finality, was their first uncanny confrontation with their own mortality . . . “

It’s precisely this infusion of a 17th century curse, merged with today’s technology and state of the art surveillance that makes HEX truly stand out among other books of its kind.

One of the main things I usually take into account when reviewing is characterization. I have to say that this was most definitely not a strong point in this novel. While I got a feeling mainly for some of the town’s kids – and a bit from Katherine, the witch – there really wasn’t enough here to feel that I knew any of the main characters.

Why the five-star review, then?

I get the distinct impression that Thomas Olde Heuvelt meant for it to be like this. The story isn’t so much about the individuals in Black Spring, as it is about the town as a community – the whole.

“. . . Imprisoned in a fate they all shared, not one of them raised their voice higher than that of their neighbor or suffered any less. These were the rules of chaos, and from that chaos a sort of deranged solidarity emerged . . .”

I won’t go into further details about the story itself, for this is one that I feel you truly need to read for yourselves in order to draw your own conclusions. I will say that some scenes were nearly unbelievable to me when I first read them, but when taken in context with the entire novel, they were the only plausible outcomes. This was a book that kept me entranced each and every page – and yes, the horror element was strong here, especially in a cerebral sense.

“. . . inexplicable things happened, bewildering things, even in a world that regarded itself as fully unenlightened . . .”

In an afterword, Heuvelt explains that he translated his original Dutch version of this novel into English, and completely rewrote the ending. What the original ending was, he won’t say, but personally, I believe this version of HEX ended on the most perfect note it could.

“One evil spawned another, greater evil, and ultimately everything could be traced back to Black Spring.”

HEX was an incredible novel that brought together elements of the 17th century civilization and fused them together with our modern-day devices and practices, so seamlessly that I couldn’t believe this was the first book I had read by this author. As a social commentary, this gave me an incredible insight into our human mentality and the evil that we, as a species, can bring about on our own. It is a book that I cannot stop thinking about, and mentally following the subtle scenes that began immediately and continued throughout the entirety of the book – almost a trail of breadcrumbs that leads us to the end.

“Sometimes you did it because of Black Spring.”

A powerful, original book that I give my highest recommendation to!

 

General rating:
★★★★★

 

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Book Synopsis:

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 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.

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 send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.

 

Dutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt (1983) is the author of five novels and many short stories of the fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in English, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages. He won a 2015 Hugo Award for his novelette The Day the World Turned Upside Down. He has also been awarded the Harland Award for best Dutch fantasty on multiple occasions, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award.

Olde Heuvelt wrote his debut novel at the age of sixteen. He studied English language and American literature in his hometown of Nijmegen and at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Since, he has become a bestselling author in The Netherlands and Belgium. He calls Roald Dahl and Stephen King the literary heroes of his childhood, creating a love for grim and dark fiction.

HEX is Olde Heuvelt’s worldwide debut. Warner Bros is currently developing a TV series based on the book.

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