Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Hal Duncan: Ink (2007)

Edition: MacMillan, 2007
Review number: 1391

Book two of The Book of All Hours continues in the same vein as book one, Vellum. Like that, and you'll like this. Find that incomprehensible (which is quite possible), and this will be the same. (Note that it is a while since I read Vellum, so my description of how the two books relate together might not be entirely accurate.)

The Book of All Hours (the book within the book) describes, controls, or perhaps is, the multitude of universes. In the aftermath of the catastrophic Evenfall, chaos rules; now, everything is fragmented, yet some things remain constant between the different versions of reality. Jack Carter is a revolutionary, everywhere, connected to the metaphysics of the Book. But what is he trying to achieve? Is he even dead or alive?

The story is extremely fragmented, told in an exceptionally allusive style: Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius meets Finnegans Wake. References run from pop culture (The Prisoner, the Sex Pistols, etc.) to ancient literature (a performance of the Bacchae as political satire by a commedia dell'arte troupe forms the structure of a long section of the novel, and one of Virgil's Eclogues is used in a similar fashion in the epilogue) to folklore (Puck, Reynard the fox). Theological discussion rubs shoulders with a thriller set in the thirties Middle East. Overall, it is a scintillating cascade of ideas, images, and styles.

Like other books of this kind, however, the narrative is hard to follow, particularly if you are a reader who wants to have a linear plot. It is also true that parts of the novel work better than others. (At least, it appeared to be the case to me, both here and in Vellum, but is could just mean that my concentration levels fluctuated.) It is likely to make more sense a second time around, and a repeat read is definitely something I will do.

In summary, The Book of All Hours will not be everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it: 8/10.

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