Becky's Reviews > Hexwood

Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
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Sep 19, 09

Read in September, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Woah, this book is trippy!

DWJ is quite ambitious in this one. A Bannus has accidentally been activated at Hexwood Farm. It's a machine that manipulates time and reality in order to act out solutions to a problem, and it co-opts any people that cross into its field.

Because most of our characters are at the mercy of the Bannus, their perception of reality is highly altered. They never know quite what has happened to them, and events occur out of order, especially at first. So, yeah, it's all a bit postmodern, which Jones uses to talk about some important postmodern topics: power, agency, and injustice.

As the controlling element of the plot, the Bannus is an author figure in its little world. So it's quite appropriate that this is one incredibly intertextual novel. First of all, much of the plot is quietly adapted from The Tempest. Not just any version of the Tempest, mind you, but a post-colonial reading of the Tempest overlaid with Forbidden Planet and with a splash of As You Like It for good measure (because As You Like It is after all The Tempest with less plot and more jokes.) Prospero and Ariel/Caliban are everywhere you look, Antonio is Reigner One, Miranda has become young Hume, and the island becomes Hexwood (or the Forbidden Planet Earth, rather interestingly.) I don't imagine Jones expects very many readers to notice the similarities, but she does draw her source material from the best.

There are also explicit references: a somewhat tongue-in-cheek Grail Quest, some Arthur and Beowulf, a couple Hamlet references, and an Alice in Wonderland bit, for those of us keeping track at home. The Bannus, we learn, has had a library at its disposal, so it too uses the best. Basically it gets a big A+ from a English major's standpoint.

From a reader's standpoint, it's also quite a good book. Jones for the most part handles all this wackiness quite deftly. The plot requires a bit of patience at first, but by the end it's a page-turner. Most of the characters are pretty strong and likable, which is impressive because the surreal mechanism of the plot is between us and them all the time, and because we jump around between brains quite a lot in order to keep abreast of what is happening. I did feel, nevertheless, a bit distanced at times from the heart of the novel, because the characters' identities and motivations kept coming into question - Hume especially was perplexing. Then there is the usual Jonesian expanse of elaborate minor b-plot, which was occasionally WTF-ish, although still entertaining.

What did really like was how clear the themes were by the end - it made a really strong statement about the misuse of power and how it affects both disenfranchised individuals and those who try to restore a balance of power.

A strong and ambitious novel!
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message 1: by Kaion (last edited May 23, 2011 03:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaion I didn't know "The Tempest" connection. (Guess I have to stop slacking on the Shakespeare!)


Becky Kaion wrote: "I didn't know "The Tempest" connection. (Guess I have to stop slacking on the Shakespeare!)"

People have gone "Huh what?" when I pointed out the similarities to The Tempest, but the parallels really stuck out to me.


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