Book Talk: HEX, Chapter 22

Posted January 22, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Bilingual read-through of HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

List of Prominent Characters

So, the NL and EN tags are the ones actually used in the story. If it’s listed for both then it’s a shorthand I’m using to note which of the characters is which. Where no name for ‘both’ is included I haven’t used a name for both. (Expect this list to get updated per chapter!)

  • Beek (NL), Black Spring/Black Rock (EN), Black Beek (both)
  • Stefan (NL), Steve (EN), Ste (both)
  • Katherina (NL), Katherine (EN), Kat (both), aka Wylerheks (NL), Black Rock Witch (EN) Wyler Witch (both)
  • Jolanda (NL), Jocelyn (EN), Jo (both)
  • Timo (NL), Tyler (EN), Tiy (both)
  • Oma (NL), Gramma (EN), Granny (both)
  • Max (NL), Matt (EN), Maxmatt (both)
  • Robert Grim (NL, EN)
  • Claire Hamer (NL), Claire Hammer (EN)
  • Jens van der Heijden (NL), Warren Castillo (EN), Jenren (both)
  • Jasmine Aerendonck (NL), Bammy Delarosa (EN), Jasmy (both)
  • The Aerandoncks/The Delarosas, Aerenrosa (both)
  • Martijn Winkel (NL), Marty Keller (EN),Winler (both)
  • Loes Krijgsman (NL), Lucy Everett (EN), Loucy (both)
  • Pieter van Meerten (NL), Pete VanderMeer (EN), Pete van Meer (both)
  • Marieke (NL), Mary (EN), Marie (both)
  • Laurens (NL), Lawrence (EN), Lau (both)
  • Jelmer Holst (NL), Jaydon Holst (EN), Jaymer (both)
  • Mirna (NL), Sue (EN)
  • Burak Sayers (NL), Burak Şayers (EN)
  • Bert Aerendonck (NL), Burt Delarosa (EN)
  • Gemma Holst (NL), Griselda Holst (EN), Gemelda (both)
  • Kobus Mater (NL), Colton Mathers (EN), Colbus (both)
  • Jules Helsloot (NL), Justin Walker (En), Ju (both)

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 seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

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, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

In chapter 21: The flogging has taken place. Yep. That’s the only plot-relevant thing that happened.

Chapter 22 – Scene 1

Timo studies French (a core curriculum subject for his study path). Tyler studies Spanish. He did badly on both, courtesy of everything that’s been going on.

Also, this is the point where we learn that Maxmatt is probably queer. By which I mean that Tiy sees a gay porn site in his brother’s browsing history and he “realized he loved Matt more than he would ever say out loud” and… that’s it. And the only reason it’s in here at all is to help build more tension and foreshadowing. Yep. His assumed queerness is little more than a plot device to make what happens in this chapter Yet More Tragic.

For completeness’ sake: one of the council members or the HEX staff is also (presumably) queer. We learned this when they went to investigate Gemelda’s involvement with the Wyler Witch a few chapters ago and he mentioned how he and his partner wanted to give the Witch a gift too. Presumably, since this is a smallish town, that won’t actually work as a ruse if he doesn’t actually have a partner and the context its in is definitely that of “This is my significant other”. I just wanted to mention that because Maxmatt otherwise reads very much like a token queer person in much the same way as Burak reads like a token non-white person. Personally, I think they still read more like tokens than anything, but YMMV and all that.

Oh, look. Now we’re referencing North Korea when talking about how the conservative council (and yes it is not capitalised) would want to shut down the whole internet in town. (Like that’s going to work.)

AHA. And now. NOW we’re getting to the section that’s the whole reason I’ve been struggling through this book to see how the localisation handles it. Okay, so. You may or may not have heard about Sinterklaas. Given how much of an international outrage it was a few years ago, I’m assuming you might have heard of it. But I’m also just going to outline the absolute basics insofar as they matter for this chapter and post:

Sinterklaas is a children’s feast and if you think the name looks similar to Santa Claus, you’d be absolutely correct. It’s basically the Santa Claus aspect of Christmas, except without the polar references or the stockings or the fat jolly man. It’s… actually feast that starts somewhere mid-Novemberish and kids put out their shoe every day until the Big Day (well, evening) and every day they get something small, like a chocolate letter or that one single My Little Pony that’s missing from their collection. Basically: if it fits in a stocking, it’s what goes in the shoes. Except for at least a whole week instead of a single night. And then the Big Evening is a large family feast in which gifts are shared and passed around. They can be hidden for children to find (often in a bag) or adults can dress up as Sinterklaas (and Black Pete) and make a whole improve play out of the whole thing. Others, especially the older people who celebrate, have elaborate gift systems and there can be a lot of creativity involved. Classes, for example, may do the gift exchange and expect the children to create packaging that looks like something the student is interested in. So you may have a package that looks like a computer or a book or a horse or whatever the kids can think of (usually with lots of parental help) that’s stuffed with gifts that fit the school’s guidelines about prices etc. And they make a big school day out of the whole thing.

My point is: as far as quintessentially Dutch holidays go, Sinterklaas is the holiday to beat. It’s a massive part of Dutch culture. (Which is partially why white Dutch people are so defensive about the feast being called racist, if you were curious about that.) It is not a massive part of this book, but it is present and it impacts the narrative enough that you can’t just remove it without having to significantly alter the section it happens in. I mean, take one of the biggest “family gathers for a nice, special evening together” holidays that has personal meaning to you and imagine it in a story you’re writing. And then imagine cutting it out because you’re localising it to a language and country where the feast just plain does not exist. Either you change the whole section or you find some other way for the family to gather together in ways it would not normally do.

In the case of this book, Sinterklaas (evening of December 5th) gets replaced with Jocelyn’s birthday (December 4th). The VanderMeers come over with birthday cake. Only Matt writes a poem (I’ll get to this in a bit), and Tyler sees two early Christmas presents.

And that’s it. After that brief paragraph of cultural information we move on to the next week, so let’s compare it to the Dutch version instead! You can probably predict some of the changes already. The Van Meertens bring no birthday cake. The surprises I mentioned as being part of the tradition for older Sinterklaas participants is present as Timo has made his friend Laurens a cardboard blow-up doll because Laurens doesn’t have a girlfriend yet. Which I don’t think is particularly funny, but I can see why Timo would think so.

Huh, okay, so in the Dutch version Max is also the only one to write a poem. Okay. Apparently the general tradition of Sinterklaas is that all participants write (bad) poetry for the recipients of their gift. There’s little booklets about how to write it that you can find and everything!

It also makes the gifts Timo and Max receive make more sense because there’s a social reason to keep them back until December. When they’re early Christmas presents, I’m actually just wondering why, since they’re being given early anyway, they weren’t given a lot sooner. We know both boys are incredibly upset, so a gift might actually ease their spirits even if it means they’ll get less (expected) gifts for the holiday itself. With Sinterklaas, which is pretty much a month sooner, it’s a lot easier to see why they’d hold off and keep them for the big holiday because it’s closer and they could probably sneak in smaller things throughout the time leading up to the feast if they really wanted to.

And… beyond that it’s just basically people trying to resume their lives, realising they can’t and then VERY HEAVY-HANDED FORESHADOWING. I really hate the “If only they’d known X” and “This would be the last time they Xed” kind of foreshadowing. For me, at least, it deflates the tension like a balloon instead of building it up. It’s just… It’s a horror book. I expect bad things to happen. I don’t need BIG NEON SIGNS to tell me they’re about to happen NOW/SOON. Takes all the surprise and uncertainty out of it if nothing else. DO BETTER.

Chapter 22 – Scene 2

This is pretty much the same. All we learn that as a shape plays a file next to a sleeping Tiy over and over. And then the scene and chapter is over. Because, of course, this wouldn’t be a horror book if we actually told readers what was going on in this chapter. Nope. No, instead we’ll go to the next chapter where we experience the aftermath of the whole thing.

So. Because I’m about to go on posting hiatus for a while, I’ll just let you know what happens briefly. I can’t trigger warn specifics because that’s basically the amount of detail I’m going to go into for this, but if you want to know what happens before the posts resume tread with some caution and read on in the next paragraph. Otherwise skip it.

Remember the recording that they made of what the Wyler Witch said that Tiy swears was deleted? Jaymer kept a copy and he’s played it next to Tiy’s ear for who knows how long. And so Tiy commits suicide. Maxmatt also ends up in hospital in a coma, but I forget exactly how or why and I did promise no graphic details, just a heads-up on what’s coming. You know if this VERY HEAVY-HANDED FORESHADOWING hadn’t led you to expect it already anyway.

And that’s it. That’s what we’ll be getting back to next chapter after the hiatus. Please remember, I’m on hiatus because I’m moving and may or may not have time and/or internet access to finish up the last 11 chapters and epilogue in a timely fashion, so, since this is the end of Part 1, I figured it was a good time to call a hiatus and I’ll get back to it as soon as I can. I’ll d my best to keep it from being a long hiatus, but there’s just no telling when I’ll get back to this, I’m really sorry.

But I will return and finish the project! I’ll be my best to finish up the remaining chapters before I start posting too. For now I’m just prioritising other things, as I hope you’ll understand, and I need a break anyway. We’re slowly getting to the point where I can actually keep reading in longer stretches, though, so hopefully when I do get back to it it won’t take me forever to finish up.

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