Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent reading: HEXWOOD

You know, I looked a list of all the books Diana Wynne Jones ever wrote, and I was wrong about the Chrestomanci ones being my favorites. My ACTUAL favorite was DOGSBODY,which of course won’t surprise anybody — I mean, dogs, me, it’s a given!

Except it’s really not, because the fact is, Dogsbody is really perfect in a lot of ways, particularly characterization. And the plot would sound a bit weird if you tried to describe it to somebody who doesn’t read SF/F, but it’s actually a very clean plot. And it’s not easy to write humanized animals, and DWJ did a fabulous job with that, though of course Sirius isn’t really an animal, but the actual dogs in the story are really nicely done, too.

It makes a nice contrast with HEXWOOD.

The thing about Hexwood is . . . you know how people will say pretty often about a book or movie that “Nobody in this story is who they seem!”, right?

Well, that statement should be reserved for Hexwood, in which almost all the characters are literally not whom they seem to be. At all. The only exceptions are the bad guys.

Man, this was such a strange book!

I’m glad I read Time of the Ghost first, because it was, like, practice for Hexwood.

Okay, I don’t want to put any major spoilers in here, because eventually I want to loan this book to my brother (Hi, Craig!) and see what he thinks, but did I LIKE this book?

Yes. More than Time of the Ghost, because whereas I didn’t actually like any of the characters in that one, I really did like Ann, and I also liked the person she turned out to be, and the same goes for Mordion. Come to think of it, you could in fact sort of know who Mordion was for the whole thing if you were paying attention. Couldn’t you?

The extremely weird shifts in time and reality didn’t bother me, actually the story was amazingly easy to follow given the way it was written, I can just see DWJ going to one friend after another and saying, “Read this and tell me if you loose track of what’s going on.” I bet she did that way more for this one than for most of her others. But the way it was written did stop me from really “falling into the story” or really getting to know any of the characters, so no, Hexwood will never be on my DWJ top-ten list.

One book this reminds me of is Patricia McKillip’s ALPHABET OF THORNS, only that was beautiful and totally successful in weaving different layers of reality or time or whatever all together(though yes, all right, the ending did seem a little truncated, but still). HEXWOOD strikes me as clever but not beautiful and therefore not totally successful. I think that’s exactly what Elaine meant when she said HEXWOOD missed being numinous. I think that’s right.

DOGSBODY had depth. HEXWOOD had cleverness. Given a choice between the two, I’d go for depth every time.

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