Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hemlock Grove - Brian McGreevy

The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for. 

Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.

At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.

I really wanted to like Hemlock Grove and in some ways, I did. I love gothic novels and this looked to reinvent them so that they fit better into modern times, something I could really get behind. I wanted to fall in love with Peter and Roman and Shelley (okay, maybe I did fall in love with Shelley) and I wanted this to completely work. It didn't.

Hemlock Grove's problem seems to be that it has too much on its plate. It sets up a ridiculous amount of plotlines that you keep expecting to meet somewhere in the middle and then they never do. So many things are brought up and then completely discarded to the point where you don't know why they even happened in the first place.

There were some things I liked about the novel, though. For one, I really enjoyed the narrative voice. You thought for the longest time that it was third person omniscient and then, out of nowhere, there's an "I" and it throws your whole world for a loop. I was especially thrilled at the end of the first part where the narrator revealed who they were. I thought that was an underscored brilliance.

Hemlock Grove is a great attempt that doesn't realize its full potential. I think Brian McGreevy is very talented and I am looking forward to whatever he writes next. He creates interesting characters and writes some very fascinating scenes; he just needs to figure out how to structure plots better.

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