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Archive for May 13th, 2015

Review: Vellum and Ink

May 13th, 2015 | Category: Opinions

I’ve finally finished Vellum and Ink by Hal Duncan, both books comprise his epic series, The Book of All Hours. I want to take back what I said about Vellum in my pre-review, I totally didn’t see what Duncan was really trying to do, I didn’t see the brilliance. If you think of Vellum and Ink as typical novels, with a plot that goes and then and then and then until a resolution, you’ll miss the point, and you’ll be astonishingly angry from page one on.

The series is very complex, but the basic framework is this: There’s this Book written in the language of creation, the Cant, the language of Gods, Angels, Demons, and any number of Unkin (human beings whose eyes are open a little too wide).

It’s said that the God of Gods asked His Scribe to write a Book that contains the entire story of humanity, The Book of All Hours, not just past to present to future, but rather, countless possible permutations of each. None of it is fiction, everything happens somewhere, somewhen. The Book’s pages are alive, the skin of Angels, the Cant inscribed in Angels’ blood as ink. Yet, otherwise, it looks like any old tome to be carried in some scholar’s satchel. In the Cant, one word equals a thousand written in the languages of humanity. One line, akin to a thousand pages. One page, akin to a thousand books. The Cant is perfection, purity of expression. When the war in Heaven breaks out, the Book, the master edition, is given to humanity by those Angels who take no sides, who don’t want the Book re-written for one side’s gain. The Book is guarded for countless ages, until it vanishes into obscurity. At least, that’s one story of the Book. Remember, time, reality itself, isn’t a straight line.

Vellum is a book of permutations. Duncan tells the story of Inanna, the Goddess of Earth, her descent into the Underworld and ultimate escape by giving her lover, Damuzi, to take her place. He tells the story of Phreedom and her brother, Thomas, two kids, two Unkin, trying to escape being drafted into the War in Heaven. Like Inanna, Phreedom confronts the Queen of Hell, like Damuzi, Thomas doesn’t escape his fate. The stories are different, but not. Duncan writes the Book’s possibles in noir, fantasy, sci-fi, epic poem, dystopian action-adventure erotica, the depth is astonishing.

Ink is a continuation of Vellum, but more focused. Tales of how people tried to change the Book to avoid something awful, only to bring about something worse. Angels trying to finish the war. Those who seek the book, and a way out of reality.

I really don’t want to give anything away, Vellum and Ink are best read fresh. At the end, the connections are there, the overall story exists, but until you get there, it’s best to enjoy each section as its own entity.