Three weeks ago, I shared my review of Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski. At the time, I said I’d already read the next in the series and would review that shortly after. Always dangerous to make a promise like that – life does tend to get in the way. Still, I’ve finally made the time so, remember, good things are worth waiting for…
For those of you who haven’t read any of Matt’s books, or my reviews of Six Stories and Beast, it’s worth explaining the concept. Rather than a straight narrative, each novel is presented in the form of a series of podcasts. I suppose it’s a bit like an updated version of novels like Dracula and Frankenstein, which were written as a collection of letters and journal entries. These are probably good examples because, in spite of the use of contemporary communication methods, each book has had a gothic feel to it.
The podcast host takes a look at an historical event over the course of six episodes. Each episode tells a different story about the event being investigated – a different perspective on the background and/or characters involved. The objective is a better understanding of what happened. And there are plenty of revelations.
I won’t talk much about the story. The blurb gives you as much as you need to know in advance. To be fair, it doesn’t tell you much but, before you start, you don’t really want to know more. I’ve now read four of Matt’s books (yes, there is another review coming, but I won’t promise any timelines) and there are sensitive issues in all of them that have the potential to make difficult reading. They are handled really well, though, and get you thinking about the causes of those issues as well as the impacts. They also keep you on your toes as they add to the shock value of the twists and turns. And yet it’s not gratuitous. The balance can be very difficult to achieve, but Matt does it well.
The crime here is brutal. The story behind it… Well, that’s for you to find out. I’ve said before that the podcast format means you expect to feel slightly removed from events, but Matt ramps up the tension in ways I didn’t expect. The sense of menace is palpable.
Yet again, we get commentary on today’s society. It’s not rammed down your throat, but it leaves you feeling reflective. Not so reflective, though, that the narrative doesn’t pull you along.
A tool that’s often used to ramp up the pace in a book (I do it myself) is short, sharp, punchy chapters. In the Six Stories world, that’s not possible. With episodes rather than chapters – and only six of them – they cover relatively large numbers of pages. When I read Beast, I was apprehensive about whether the pace would be maintained. It was. There are short items between the episodes (each book does it differently, so I can’t explain them more clearly), and these help to break things down as well as offering momentum. But the podcast format also leaves the reader wanting to read on anyway.
Hydra takes many twists and turns along the way and, with each one, the picture changes. What you thought was true either wasn’t or was different enough for you to change your opinion. In this instance, when the final twist came I was expecting it, though I’d only reached that conclusion a few pages before. Yet it still surprised because of the way it was revealed. Interest piqued? It should be.
Matt Wesolowski has created a winning formula, and I’m only hesitating about moving on to book five for the simple reason that there’s currently only one more after it – and I really don’t want to have too long a wait once I’ve got past book six. So I’m tempted to pace myself. I’ll let you know whether I do when I review Changeling. Just don’t expect to read it soon…
You’ll see I’ve used The Hive for the paperback. If you want to know why, I explain here.