Thanks for the reply, dreamrider!
I suppose one of the essential questions would be: can it be done? Do you know of anyone that survived all the way through with a Melee Alchemist?
I did have one playthrough, on Hard and normal play (not hardcore). I remember I had my trouble with the Mycons and the Black Palace area. Basically, it's these I'm not sure how I could deal with without dying. One way I suppose would be to simply keep to a higher level than the one I'm currently at.
Do you have any suggestions as far as skills go? I guess weapon and shield is a must, dual wield is pretty much out of the question?
Do you reckon it's worth going for offensive spell mastery just for Dervish or to increase the damage output of Ember Shock? I'd rather go Defensive, to be honest.
Finally, when you die with a HC character, you don't get to leave a heirloom, do you?