As a Constant Reader of Stephen King, when he likes a book he goes out of his way to praise it and that means I’ll have to read it (much as King did with Fieldwork from a few years ago). Getting high praise from the master of horror is a good sign that Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Hex, his first novel to be released in the United States, is a force to be reckoned with.
“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.”
It’s a well-written book, but as mentioned before in other posts, I don’t find these books scary; I won’t have nightmares as this book gave folks when it was published in the Netherlands. Perhaps my rational mind understands the fantasy aspect of this and many other books in this genre and accepts them as entertainment. It is creepy and atmospheric, though, and that works very well. My only complaint may be that it takes too long to get the book going. The authors spends an inordinate amount of time setting up the books final set piece, but I felt the lead up was, at times boring. But that’s just my opinion, as I still think it’s a worthy read.
The authors note at the end explains that while Nancy Forest-Flier translated the book from Dutch to English, Thomas Olde Heuvelt speaks fluent English. While he explains why he updated the book for an American audience (here), I feel slighted that this book is not a true translation –that the Dutch version is slightly not the same and has a different ending. While I understand from a business point of view why this was done, I’m disappointed that I will not be able to read it as the author originally released it (though he did write the new finale in English himself).
Heuvelt is the author of five novels and many short stories. His work has appeared in many languages, including English, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and French. In 2015, his story The Day the World Turned Upside Down was the first ever translated work to win a Hugo Award. Two more of his stories have been nominated for both Hugo and World Fantasy Awards.