The Greens by Andrew Hook
Review by Gary Fry
I read a lot of Hook’s short fiction back in the day, during the good-natured rivalry between us hard horror types and his fey slipstream folk (joke). Hook’s fiction always struck me as inventive, cleanly written and often unsettling, so I was looking forward to what he was up to lately in this lengthy novella.
The tale begins with a prologue of sorts, detailing the emergence of a couple of unusual children in an olde English community. It’s an intriguing opening, and when the piece switches to the latter-day, with a woman going about her familiar domestic routines, the stage is set for some kind of ancestral connection, some merging of the presence with the past.
And so it goes. The central character’s husband is researching his and his wife’s genealogical trees, soon chancing upon a decidedly odd episode among her family’s distant relatives. But what have these strange children to do with this woman’s obsessive compulsive behaviours, the way she tries to keep her own offspring safe with torturous daily rituals? Well, that’s the basis of this novella.
Hook’s narrative, arrestingly written, takes us on a voyage from very normal everyday British family life to the horror of a snatched child, to a manic billionaire intent on discovering one of the world’s great secrets, to outlandish conspiracy theories and forbidden knowledge, and finally to a stirring conclusion set among agents eager to take more than their reticence threatens.
It’s a derring-do story, with traditional Wellsian strands and some nice speculative history concerning the likes of Hollow Earth. The narrative switching between characters works well, even though I felt that the piece’s big traumatic scene – a snatched child – was rather underplayed. I would have preferred to hear a bit more anguish from both parents in the immediate aftermath.
I think Hook tackled the issue of OCD quite sensitively, given that it’s a serious psychological disorder and shouldn’t necessarily be twisted to genre ends. I’m a sufferer myself and recognised the woman’s obsessive routines, her irrational and yet psychoLOGICAL belief in the power of her actions. The way this strand dovetails with the plot-proper also worked well, with a particularly strong conclusion tying up loose ends.
Overall I enjoyed this offbeat adventure a great deal. It’s very Andrew Hook, a reminder for me of that earlier work (some of which I enthusiastically published) and his capacity to take aspects of everyday life and make magic out of them. An intriguing, readable and satisfying piece.