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Book Review of ‘Hemlock Grove’ by Brian McGreevy: Under a too ripe moon

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Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy was a difficult book to read. It serves as the basis for the 2013 Netflix series of the same name. As far as Netflix series go, its fame has been eclipsed by other Netflix fare such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. The second season of the series was released on July 18th.

I speculate that McGreevy already had a production deal when his novel was published in 2012. The book reads more like a script than a novel with a narrative flow. It was easier to visualize the action taking place on a screen than to follow it page by page as a story. It jumped around a lot with little segue way from one piece of the story to the next.

One of the first things I noticed when starting Hemlock Grove was that it wasn’t written for the traditional young adult crowd. It is a darker story, one where a rapist acts like a decent guy some of the time and a protagonist often has psychic feelings emerging from his “balls” (which was noted at one point to have “aged in dog years.” page 168). Yet despite being a story with a much darker point of view than say the Twilight franchise, it isn’t really an adult novel either since much of the action takes place in a teen induced twilight zone.

Readers are told numerous times that Roman Godfrey is heir apparent to a Fortune 500 company that started out producing steel back in the day but now is a biotech corporation with a secret white tower and its own Josef Mengele figure. There is some reason given for Roman being enrolled in a public school, but most of the time he reads as just another privileged upper middle-class screw wad and not someone who commands respect because his family can buy and sell everyone in town; because you know, there is rich and than there is RICH. Also little is mentioned about how his social life is affected by having a sister who is the dictionary definition of different. Listen, although I wasn’t charmed by the novel, I am tempted to watch the series (first season at least) in order to spy Shelly because she sounds like the bees knees. She sounded like a kinder and more elephant looking version of Dren in the movie Splice. I thought she was much more interesting than her upir brother and his werewolf buddy.

The solving of the murder mystery was not overly thrilling. Basically at the end it was werewolf versus werewolf but the secret of just how werewolf number two was made was anticlimactic. The explanation felt like a copout and made it sound easier to catch werewolfism than the West Nile Virus.

Interspersed throughout Hemlock Grove was some very good writing and observations however much of that wasn’t followed by good old fashion storytelling. To borrow a term from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, the plot of Hemlock Grover didn’t have the “stickiness factor.” Many of the characters were blurred in my mind with other characters and I often found myself rereading passages to see if I was missing something because I didn’t quite get how Point H was derived from Point A. Much was hinted at, but little was produced.

I don’t recommend Hemlock Grove because (and this is from someone who has not watched the Netflix series) I think the TV version is probably a better than the novel version. I didn’t find many aspects of the story believable especially the young love story.

Happy reading!

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