Hexagram is the new novel from Duncan B Bradshaw and is published by The Sinister HorrorCompany. It’s a bit of an epic, with the story spanning almost 500 years and taking in a variety of locations, beginning in the Inca capital of Cuzco in 1538 and progressing, via separate sections, through the Florida of 1716, American Civil War Cobb County, Georgia 1864, Ripper-era London and the Bahamas of 1981 before culminating (almost) in present day Wiltshire.
The underlying concept of the book is the notion that we are all made of stardust but provides a very dark twist on it – namely that the use of said dust, harvested from the dead, could be used in a religious ceremony to summon Gods.
The harvesting, of course, requires much rummaging around in viscera – a process gleefully described by the author on many occasions and which provides the core of the horror on display within the novel. It takes skill to write scenes like this, it’s all too easy to go for shock and gross-out but the scenes of disembowelment and evisceration are actually reined in, presented in such a way as to not be over the top and gratuitous but as a natural progression of the narrative – and, as such, are all the more effective for it.
It’s a gory book for sure but there’s a lot more to it than that. There is great imagination on display here, along with some very good writing indeed. There are even moments of real emotion amidst the gloriously dark humour. Again, it’s a fine line between being humorous and, well… being stupid but it’s one Duncan stays absolutely on the right side of all the way through.
There may be some dialogue in the opening chapters which feels a little anachronistic, but other than that the period detail is spot on. Duncan has obviously done his research and it shows. Facts are never shoe-horned into the narrative (no doing a Dan Simmons here) but are placed carefully to enhance the reading experience. If I have a criticism it’s that the Ripper section felt a wee bit short to me but that’s maybe because it’s a period of history I’m (a little bit too) fascinated in myself.
The story’s a high-concept one and its narrative is cleverly kept going with subtle links between the different sections. I have to say I had a blast with Hexagram, devouring it in a couple of sittings. (Despite its epic themes, it’s not a long novel). Clever, witty and extremely well written, I highly recommend it to your reading pleasure.