I've been reading Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvalt, and I'm a quarter of the way through and I might need to take a break. I'd say that I might need to stop reading, except I actually do find the story interesting and want to know where it goes. It's good horror.
But--oh, the buts. The writing is adequate; when I am occasionally confused, it's usually cleared up by pushing through for a while till I get to a part where it makes sense again. At first I thought it was because of the worldbuilding that was going on in the first couple of chapters, but no--sometimes it's just not clear in a scene who is doing what, or how the person who was standing over there is now sitting over here.
Whatever--that's nitpicking, and if it's detracting from my ability to get lost in the story or trust the author to take care of the details, I can live with it on the path to the creepy old witch.
The place where it really falls apart, though, is the squicky woman problem. Really, it's a broader problem of the characters all being pretty shallow and caricatured. The head of the "police" force is singleminded and kind of crude; our main focal character is an upright, settled, liberal man of middle years. There's the smart teenager who wants more, the troublemaker, the perfect wife, the wise and levelheaded neighbor, the beaten woman who's maybe a little unstable.
But the thing I keep noticing is that in this loosely outlined world, the women are helpmeets and sidekicks. It's all very 1950s, in feeling if nothing else. Our hero's wife is a great partner, but we get no glimpse of her personality, except that she was once very excited to move to Black Spring because of the local geology. Another woman, a new neighbor whose arrival allows an infodump explaining the town's curse, is named Bammy (which strikes me as kind of gross for some reason) and her only notable moments are using a particularly prudish and original euphemism for sex and asking her husband if it's all right to relate information to the people they're conversing with. Another local woman was beaten by her husband, and her personality and feelings about that were clearly written by someone who has very little insight into the minds of others.
I don't know, maybe it's just that I'm feeling emotionally rough today, but I don't have it in me to watch this author condescend to these characters. There are moments of casual sexism (and racism) that are clearly intended by the author to provide information about the characters who think and say these things, but the more minor offenses that the author commits himself keep me from trusting him to be using those bad-guy-mannerisms carefully.
Basically I feel kind of punched in the face, and I'm just not in the mood. I'll definitely finish it, and maybe I'll blog about it again with some details. For now, though, it's getting set aside for something more thoughtful--if equally trashy.
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