So, The Book of All Hours is finished. And fine, fine stuff it is, too. This volume seems somehow more polished than the first , but perhaps not as exciting, as startling.
The story is brought to a conclusion of sorts, but as you might expect, it’s ambiguous, open to interpretation. This is, of course, not a bad thing: in fact, I thoroughly approve.
I’m not, though, going to try to give any details of it, or to explain what it ls about; just read it: it’s great.
I finally get to read Vellum, then. I'd been waiting for the paperback for a while, as I said back in Book Notes 7. I've pre-ordered the sequel, Ink, in hardback, though, which should be recommendation enough.
We are, once again, in the territory of myths walking the Earth. This time they are angels and demons, gods and devils, and their powers extend far beyond Earth, and into the Vellum. This is a kind of multiverse, a visual metaphor for the many-worlds theory, you might say (though the book walks the fantasy line, more than science fiction, the use of nanotech notwithstanding).
It starts really well, and I loved the whole first half, but the second half loses focus somewhat. The pace slows, and it seems a tad repetitive. Though I may have picked up this last criticism from John Clute’s review of it, which I glanced at while I was reading the book.
Reading the whole of Clute’s review now, I agree with much of it, though I’m left feeling considerably more positive about the book as a whole than Clute obviously was.
In a way it feels unfinished: not just that it leaves you wanting more, which is a good thing, but I found myself thinking, on more than one occasion after it ended, that I hadn’t actually finished reading it. However, Hal himself points us at a review which captures the meaning of the ending perfectly, and makes me think I need to read things more closely and think about them more carefully. Though sometimes you just need to have something pointed out to you, to make you realise that you understood it all along.
It is a great, sparkling debut (though whether it is possible for work to be simultaneously a debut and a ‘masterpiece’, as the blurb has it, is something that caused some discussion in my house), and highly recommended.