[FoRK] The Book of All Hours

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Sat Jun 9 10:21:18 PDT 2007

Lengthier review forthcoming, but --- after a misspent youth of too  
much fiction of all varieties, I've found myself reading less and  
less of it over the last several years.  Difficult to find stuff  
that's novel (pun intended) and innovative enough to hold my interest  
lately.  In particular fantasy of any kind just isn't my cup of tea  
anymore, hasn't been for a very long time - most of my adult life -  
with a few notable exceptions.

But:  just started a book last night that, thus far, seems quite  
likely to be one of "those" books, those few, that captures your  
imagination and stands out among all the rest as something truly  
wonderful.

Vellum:  The Book of All Hours

It's the book that Gaiman was trying to write with American Gods and  
Anansi Boys --- but more, the Borges prototype of those books and all  
their variant other instantiations besides.  It's got the multiverse- 
ranging vision and the shifting heroic templates and genealogies of  
Moorcock, the obsessive attention to weird detail and the fluid sense  
of archetypal place and time of Jeff Vandermeer and M. John Harris;   
Zelazny's jarring sense of mundane and magical superimposed --- the  
subtle darkness and epic cosmology of Pullman, the suffocating sense  
of history and the cryptobiblia and love of musty museums and  
libraries of Lovecraft, and the twisty, delicious gnostic heresy of  
all the latter-day Dantes from Milton through Twain and Lewis to  
Steven Brust and more recently Glen Duncan.  Blaylock comes to mind;   
also Doug Bell, Terry Bisson, Tanith Lee, Saberhagen and Sean Stewart  
--- and maybe even a little Robert Anton Wilson;  stew with a heaping  
helping of chopped Jung, season liberally with Tom Robbins and stir  
with a Golden Bough.

This writer is set to be to contemporary dark fantasy what Gibson was  
to science fiction circa the 80s;  both pinnacle of a particular form  
and signpost to a paradigm shift.  The book is at once mythopoesis  
and mythic synthesis, parody and paradigm, post-contemporary and  
seminal yet exquisitely, painfully respectful of the long and storied  
tradition it terminates.

It's 2017 and The War in Heaven ranges across all space and time,  
throughout the plenum underlying all reality --- the Vellum.  A  
powerful book --- the God of Gods' own Book of Hours (it contains  
every possible world;  or is it just a map of possible worlds, or is  
it the laws of physics reified, or is it the book of all true names,  
or the list of final judgments?) has been lost.  Or wait, maybe it's  
1939, or the Fertile Crescent, 2000 BC.  It's the end of time, or the  
beginning of everything.  Two families --- the Messengers and the  
Carters --- whose destinies are inextricably linked seek to avoid  
being caught up in the fight between the Convenant of Metatron  
(angels - fallen, but orderly) and the Sovereigns (demons, also  
fallen angels but independent spirits.)  Inanna incarnate --- the  
goddess's true name tattooed in magical ink upon her soul --- biker- 
babe and newly-minted angel (or "unkin") Phreedom Messenger seeks her  
missing brother Thomas, or Puck, among the worlds while on the run  
from the forces of Heaven and Hell alike.  Assisting in her quest are  
her AI sidekick Lady Cypher and her own nascent facility with The  
Cant, the language of power, the "machine code" from which reality is  
created.  Meanwhile, across several generations the Carters seek to  
find the hidden book --- or is it their duty to keep it hidden?   
Woven throughout these interleaved narratives the occasional narrator  
hints at the story of writing the story, shifting back and forth  
until you're unsure which is the subject and which the object of this  
tale.

Wow.

There's a second book by the same author (Ink:  The Book of All  
Hours) but I'm not there yet, crawling through the first one savoring  
every very intentional word.

If you like this sort of thing, I think you'll enjoy this one...

jb




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