Vellum - Hal Duncan

Vellum is a very ambitious and challenging novel, and a surpsisingly successful one. Set in a multiverse being torn apart by meta-war, it is mostly constructed from snippets of mythology, history and sci-fi, with the real story played out by archetypes constructed over equivalence classes through these snippets. Needless to say, time is non-linear, and understanding is more like looking at a cubist painting than anything else.

It is perhaps easiest to describe by saying what it reminds me of. The Sumerian element and random epic nuttiness is Stephenson-like. The Gods and Myths has a bit of Gaiman to it, and the nanotech plague is somewhat reminiscent of Greg Bear's Blood Music. To be honest, each element isn't done as well, but the combination is impressive. In a way, though, it reminds me most of a book it isn't like. Several years ago, after reading a rave review of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, I got it, read it, and was massively disappointed. Vellum is the kind of book I was hoping Rainbow would be.

For all that, I'm not particularly impressed by the main plot so far. Some stuff happens and things fall apart a bit. Some sub-plots are loosely tied up for the moment. This isn't a standalone novel, so it looks like I'm going to have to get Ink soon.

Posted 2008-11-09.