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Hexagram Kindle Edition
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If you have read any of Duncan's other books then you will know that he has a highly original voice in fiction. Put it this way, I can read one chapter and know if Mr Bradshaw wrote it. This is quite an unusual book in the way that it is written. It is a series of short stories set across a timeline that are all bound together by a single narrative. Does it work? Yes, very much so. The story could've been a train wreck but Bradshaw holds it together dragging us kicking and screaming through a story that is filled with gag-testing scenes of violence and gore, though it never loses its way. The tale sees an ancient ritual interrupted, setting off a chain of events spanning hundreds of years. We are taken from such places as the American Civil War to the Whitechapel murders of the late 1800s to the present day as we follow a series of time-spanning horrors and rituals that are hollowed out and dripping with leaked intestines.
The cover art is ace and is the perfect vehicle for Bradshaw's almost cartoon style violence and storytelling, and I don't mean this in a negative way. This book is a lot of fun to read. Some of the settings will resonate more than others, but I really enjoyed the whole journey, particularly the shipwreck in the early 1700s and the final scenes with Esther and her sister Stella. The dialogue is very Bradshaw; witty, casual, often amusing. It could be a little off-putting to somebody who hasn't read Bradshaw's work before but personally I really enjoyed it and felt that it injected some of the authors personality into it. Like I said earlier, it has a sort of rated R cartoon style feel to it that I really dig.
'Hexagram' is an ambitious novel that jumps around a lot and because of this it could become Bradshaw's Vegemite novel, meaning you either like it or you don't. I did like it, a lot. The pacing is very good and I felt the short stories intertwined well, whilst being long enough without outstaying their welcome. The witty dialogue was enjoyable and there were some great scenes of gore. I read it in two sessions so it's a thumbs up from me. Extra points to Bradshaw for mentioning the cricket, too!
Duncan P Bradshaw is a fella who writes stuff that always mesmerises me, but each book does this for a completely different reason. I have been lucky enough to read everything he has put out for human consumption. You can find links for all my other reviews of his stuff at the bottom of this review.
This one has been on the radar for a while so I was delighted to get a copy for review. I knew it was coming but I knew nothing about it and went at it totally blind. This one is put together in a unique and interesting way that will have a lot of people scratching their heads to begin with but begging for more by the end.
This is what I thought.
The story starts in 1538. A group of mysterious Inca’s are preparing for the ritual to end all rituals. No one is sure if it will even work. No one is sure what the outcome will be for all involved. They know what they would like it to be.
The conquistadors are hell bent on stopping the ritual and when they do, this sets a series of events in motion that spans over five hundred years, in countries all over the world. Many different people try many different methods to finish the ritual.
Does anyone actually realise that when the ritual is complete, it could be not only the end for themselves, but all of mankind?
This is a tricky book to review. Not because of any real negative reason but because of how it is structured. It reads as a novel following the many attempts at completing the ritual over many hundreds of years, but also has six very distinct stories within it, all set in different eras through time, with different characters being consumed by the draw of the ritual and what it could mean when completed.
To that end, giving you the low down on the individual characters is quite a mammoth task and to be honest, not one I really want to do because this is the sort of story that you need to grow with the characters for the little time that you know them.
We have the Incas in 1538. The originators of the ritual and all that it means. Determined to fulfil what they need to do but always seemingly doomed to failure. In 1716 we have a group of sailors, shipwrecked and running for their lives from the natives, all while one of them discovers the secrets of the ritual and again tries to fulfil it. This section is his story. In 1864 we have a group of religious people being the latest to discover the mysterious script and, again, they do everything they can to complete what no one has before. In 1888 we travel to England to listen to the story of a police detective as he tries to decipher many clues to discover the origins, and ultimately the destination that the ritual predicts. 1981 takes us to the Bahamas and a self-proclaimed religious leader, using devious ways to try and fulfil what he knows about the ritual. Finally, we arrive in the present day to follow the story of a meek and mild young woman who may finally be able to pull all the clues together, but still has no clue as to what she is actually doing.
You may have gathered the plot by now. There is an ancient ritual to be completed that does…….something. No one but the Incas are ever exactly sure what it is they are trying to do. No one realises just how dangerous their quest is. No one knows that success may actually result in the destruction of mankind.
The writing? Well, it’s Duncan Bradshaw that has written it so you know it’s going to be good. It always strikes me as sad in a way that writers like Duncan can’t just jump up on a big stage and shout “here I am” and instantly get all the praise they deserve in the writing world. His writing is sublime. Every story you read is totally different. I finished Prime Directive about a week ago. Totally different story in so many ways but it still has the beautifully paced, perfectly put together story that, as I said earlier, mesmerises you from start to finish.
Things to note in this one; each story is set in a very distinct period in time, in locations all over the world. For this you need different accents, a totally different use of language from the previous part so that you get the true feeling and atmosphere of the place you are now in. This is done perfectly. As you read, you are almost adding in the little inflections in the voices and to be able to make you do this is a wonderful talent. The scenes in 1888 were my favourites without doubt. I love the old Victorian style writing and this section was very reminiscent of William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki, in the style in which it was written. It was perfect.
To be able to give you the definite distinction between the worlds in a novel is not easy. This one needed to be written in such a way that it seemed as if you were reading a collection of stories whilst being fluid enough to be recognised as a novel as well. It achieved both extremely well for me.
In terms of the horror side of things? It could be scarier in that respect. Once you get into the meat of the story and understand what is happening, the concept of what the people are trying to achieve is scary as hell. Nothing scarier in fact. For me I would have liked more fear. Duncan Bradshaw has shown in the past that he is a master of building tension and fear and having you squirming in your seat and genuinely panicking. I didn’t feel that so much with this one.
If you want blood and guts, then this is the baby for you. There is more than one scene in this one that will test your gag reflex to the max and make sure that you grab hold of various parts of your body to make sure they are still there. Mr Bradshaw is a sick puppy.
To summarise: a novel following various groups of people as they all try and achieve one goal across many centuries. A scary concept that could have delivered more for me on the horror front but makes up for that with the blood and literal guts. Either way, it’s Duncan P Bradshaw. You need to read it.
★★★★ nearly perfect.
★★★.5 needed more of the scary stuff.
Hexagram is a difficult book to review because of the way it's put together. It's a novel composed of six completely different stories connected by one thread. That thread weaves a tapestry of horrific acts committed by people who are pious and truly believe and by those who are psychopathic murderers. The beginning of this book was rather slow for me but by the time I reached the third part I was hooked. My favorite parts include a fresh look at the Jack the Ripper case, a Jim Jones like commune, a Civil War story, and a pair of twins who want to stay together. The stories are all tied together with an explosive finale that makes me want to know more about the world at the end of the book. An entertaining and somewhat stomach turning 3.5 star read.
You better believe it !!
It's a fresh, humourous, and a very cleverly constructed novel. Brilliantly written in the authors own unique style with moments that will stay with you for a long time after reading. I can't recommended it enough.
As Carly Simon sang, "Nobody does it better".
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