Wednesday, October 18, 2006

REVIEW: Vellum by Hal Duncan

OK, I'm making no bones about it. It doesn't happen often but I failed this book. I got to page 117 and gave up. Before I go further,to give a sense of the book's prose I'm going to quote from the authors blog, something that had I read, and his blog is pretty much like this all the way through, I might never have bought it.

If we are to see the metaphysical narrative as utilising a third vector of dislocation in a 3D timespace, as part of a deeper system in which it is the Z-axis to the X and Y of parallel and future narratives, then the logical question is whether the metaphysicals are treated in the same way as the counterfactuals or hypotheticals. What I mean is: do writers use the same techniques we have identified within parallel / future narratives to validate these metaphysical unrealities, to prevent the collapse of suspension of disbelief? Do they explain them or excuse them? Do they exploit them?

Now, the book starts fantastically; it has an urgency, an immedicacy, a need to get the story out. It reads like the final reel of a thriller, the killer about to strike and I sat there thinking 'Wow'. Not since reading Stephen King's Dark Tower - with it's superb prose after years of him producing guff, which I since realised he wrote Dark Tower way before his 'guff' which gives you a sense of how his career his gone dontchathink? - have I had that feeling.

Then the second plotline kicks in. And the second. And the third, fourth and possibly fifth (I'm no longer quite sure). All of which occur at different times, in different places, in different perspectives and in different styles of writing. Headfuck? Oh yeah. And this would be fine, I'm not a dullard, I can cope with this complicated stuff, except for the schizophrenic nature of it. At no point is it clear just what the hell is going on. The plot, apparently (having taken this from various sources) is about armageddon and Heaven and Hell are searching for people to join their sid, including Big Good, Metatron. It's just so damn hard to give a toss when the narrative intertwines mid paragraph with the fate of characters in different timelines, when the prose makes no semantic, grammatic or plot-ic sense.

Some describe this as the best book of 2005 and for a short period I agreed. Unfortunately I'd describe it as Most Obtuse 20th Century.

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