Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Hype of Books

There have been a few times during my book-reading lifespan when I felt overwhelmed about a certain book. These normally involved books that had a certain hype--usually within the genre community. But the end result is price be damned and full-speed ahead.

Some of these include finding a copy of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Angelica Gorodischer's Kalpa Imperial on our local shores.

Imagine my surprise then when I found a copy of Hal Duncan's first book Vellum at Powerbooks in Shangri-la Edsa. After all, this book-- the first part of The Book of All Hours-- had only been recently released abroad by British publishing Pan Macmillan. Likewise, respected fantasist Jeff Vandermeer and reviewer-you-cannot-escape Jay Tomio has raved about it here and here respectively. (Though I'm not sure if Vandermeer raves because he doesn't seem to be a raving kind of guy... but I digress.)

And speaking as a bibliophile, the cover looks great too, something that's always a factor when getting a much-hyped book.

But what is it about? Ah, now that's the question. Duncan tries to answer:

It's 2017 and angels walk the earth, beings that were human once, now unkin, emade by the ancient machine-code language of reality itself. Now, with the very book in hich reality is written lost somewhere in the Vellum - the vast realm of eternity on which our world is just a scratch - the unkin are gathering for war.

On one side there's Metatron and his Covenant of angels, out to create Heaven on Earth even if it means an apocalypse to clear the way. On the other, there's the splinter-groups of ancient gods still hungry for the power that was once theirs, bitter enough to destroy the world if they can't rule it. And caught in the middle of it all are a handful of refuseniks still young enough to remember what it's like to be human... and to want to stay that way:

There's Phreedom Messenger, trailer-park tomboy, searching for her brother, Thomas, on the run in the Vellum. There's Seamus Finnan, the draft-dodging Irish angel hiding out in the desert, friend and mentor to both of them, who taught them just a little too much for their own good. And then there's Jack Carter, Covenant footsoldier, pawn of Metatron, a sleeper agent who doesn't even know he's unkin, who doesn't know that when he answers the phone, hears a certain word, another part of him takes over, and who doesn't know why he's haunted by a face he doesn't recognise, the face of someone he's been ordered to hunt down and kill... Thomas.

As Phreedom tracks her brother through the twisted timespace of the Vellum, determined to save him from the Covenant even if it means her own destruction, Jack, a time-bomb waiting to go off, is also on his trail. In the Vellum, a falling angel and a renegade devil are about to come to blows. In the Vellum, blood magic made in hell is about to come face to face with nanotechnology forged in heaven. Past, present and future will collide with other worlds and ancient myths.

And the Vellum will burn.

Puzzled? Confused? I know I am. But I'm still buzzed to check this one out.

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