April 23rd, 2006, 11:31 AM
\m/ BEER \m/
VELLUM by Hal Duncan - Rob's official SFFW review
On the very opposite end of the FSF spectrum from the last book I reviewed, is Hal Duncan's Vellum, which I read, reviewed and posted today.
Here's the review. Any thoughts, etc, feel free to provide the feedback here.
April 23rd, 2006, 01:38 PM
Edited for submission
Thanks for the review, Rob. This book is wowing folks all over.
It is on my to read pile and I am just annoyed that I didn't take my copy to Eastercon last week, as I had the good fortune of spending some time with the author. (well, the lady I was with was talking to him)
April 23rd, 2006, 02:18 PM
I bought the UK hardcover version.
The US publishers chap my ass when they won't release books in hardcover.
Trade paperback= all the size of a hardcover and all the cheap manufacturing of a mass market paperback.
Anyways I liked the book. A lot.
Expecting very good things from this author (and I'm glad I got the UK 1st in hardcover).
April 23rd, 2006, 03:26 PM
Well, I was trying to think of how to say this, as I went looking for a HC on Amazon today and was PO'd that they're not releasing one....but I think you've put it just the way I would, DrB.
Originally Posted by DrBloodmoney1
April 24th, 2006, 09:47 AM
After reading several different reviews of the book, I think Vellum is going to be one of those reads that I'll either love it or think it is a piece of garbage that tries to be more then it is and makes me want to eat a poo sandwich.
Therefore I am really glad Rob enjoyed it, as when the desire for poo between two slices of white overwhelms me... well, it is not a pleasant feeling.
Here's to turkey, mayo, and an impending pleasant reading experience of Hal Duncan's Vellum.
April 24th, 2006, 10:25 AM
Read the one page excerpt on McMillan's site
I might be reading too much between the lines, but Rob B's review falling short of an enthusiatic endorsement, I have to wonder what hidden weaknesses a reader would find. I read the one page excerpt at the publisher's site (Not sure why the excerpt was so short, as this doesn't seem calculated to let potential readers make a fair evaluation. Can't see the point of a one-page excerpt. Aside: the site is a really annoying flash-thing that does not let you skip through any of the longish intro).
Based on that one page I'd have to give Vellum a pass for a number of reasons. The subject matter does not appeal to me, as the whole war-in heaven-sweeping-up-mortals is just tiring. The style of writing for this one-page annoyed. Duncan actually has a current column on how "style is substance" over at the Emerald City blog (http://www.emcit.com/). I agree, style is substance, and I did not like the, IMO, over-the-top self-conciously hip style of this ONE-PAGE excerpt. Going solely by Rob's review (have I mentioned that the excerpt was a paltry one page thing) if Duncan actually does pull out all the stops, shifting POV's and all, then I doubt I'd have the patience to get through it.
Maybe this is a book that I will pick up in a few years and wonder how my initial impressions were so wrong. Maybe, but I doubt it. I can see the attraction of Vellum for those who enjoy the "New Weird," and for those who like a good mixture of horror with their fantasy. (Would that be horrific fantasy or fantastical horror?) Not me. Just saying. Not me.
fn. There is, I understand, a character named Jerry Cornelius--which I find just hilarious for some reason. I love that sort of thing.
Last edited by BrianC; April 24th, 2006 at 10:39 AM.
April 24th, 2006, 11:59 AM
There's a fair-sized excerpt over at Del Ray; what is this one-page excerpt you make repeated reference to? I'm curious which part they would choose to use if it's so short.
April 24th, 2006, 12:57 PM
Ah, now there's an excerpt with some meat on it, and suddenly Vellum looks a lot more appetizing. The one-pager I was referring to was at the MacMillan site for the book.
Hmm, now I am torn. There's a lot of the F-bomb being thrown about and usually that turns me off like nothing else. But any book that has biker chicks scarfing burgers at Hardees can't be all bad. If I did not have three or four books already in the queue, and less time on my hands than ever, I'd be really tempted to get this. I'd have to get the UK hardcover version, though, as I despise paperbacks. As it is, maybe this is one of those some days I'll get around to it kind of books.
April 24th, 2006, 03:02 PM
Lord of the Wild Hunt
After reading several different reviews of the book, I think Vellum is going to be one of those reads that I'll either love it or think it is a piece of garbage that tries to be more then it is and makes me want to eat a poo sandwich
Same here, except that I've already decided to give it a pass. I've read excerpts and various mostly positive reviews, but I am now experienced enough to know what I will like and I am fairly certain that this is just the sort of literary stuff that I don't particularly care for in my fiction. Just doesn't tick any of my necessary boxes.
April 24th, 2006, 04:04 PM
Any kind of stream of consciousness type writing tends to get on my nerves. I don't know, I used to think Kerouac and Ginsberg and Whitman were just the coolest, but these days I don't quite go for the type-what-you-think style.
Originally Posted by Mithfânion
One of my biggest, biggest pet peeves is when an author has a fantastic prose writing talent, but they allow their fabulous construction to be stilted by dream sequences. Whenever I stumble across a dream sequence written in this kind of mish-mash of imagery kind of writing, you know, like:
"Jeru lay his head down on the pile of straw, and, his body sore from a long day's labor, was asleep almost instantly.
Screaming ravens flew down amongst a swarm of insects bathed in his parents' blood. "Stop, stop before it happens again!" screamed Governor Blikshelm, who stood shirtless upon that self-same mountain, the nightmare mountain perpetually cast in pinkish shadow, and Jeru, unable to comprehend, cries, "I don't know where to go! This stone, this Kurlu Stone, it burns when I taste it!" but still the Stone, stone of stones, magic Kurlu Stone, continues to rise to his lips and burn, burn not only his skin but down into the pores of his soul and brain fried, and his parents dying over and over in front of him, Jeru watches the governor die, watches Yrsoop burn to the ground in orange licking flames, his parent's blood, his unforgiven uncle weeps bitterly over melt grave...
Jeru awoke with a start, amazed that the reader actually waded through the above garbage to get to the other side of the sequence. He proceeds out of the stable and into the farmhouse, where he plans to kill the family who granted him shelter, just like his family was killed, that he might get some bread and poo and have a poo sandwich, which he suddenly has a craving for."
I like structure in my writing. Having illustrated all of this, I would like to point out I am not in any way passing judgement on Duncan's book, which by all accounts has received the highest praise from many reviewers who know more about writing then I. I also still plan to read Vellum at some point in the future, because when a book has this much hype around it, I just have to know.
April 24th, 2006, 07:41 PM
I'm certainly going to get my hands on this at some stage.
Jack, nothing about experimenting with style necessarily equates to a lack of structure. In fact, doesn't experimenting in structure automatically imply a structure of some sort? I think what you're trying to say is that you prefer more traditional narrative structures.
April 25th, 2006, 08:29 AM
Yes, to use your terms, I prefer a more traditional narrative structure. The entire philosophy of poets like Whitman and novelists like Kerouac was to break structure; in Kerouac's terms, to write stories like jazz musicians play music. By using "structure" in this fashion maybe what we are really implying is "traditional structure"; heck, we call Whitman's style "free verse" - does this mean free and structureless or freedom within a structure?
Originally Posted by Luke_B
But then it's really just all semantics here, and I am no language expert. And of course the above post on my disdain for dream sequences and stream of consciousness reflects nothing except mine own reading preferences.
I will say this though: I think if an author is to use stream of consciousness in their writing, they have to have otherwise proved themselves to be talented writers, as in the case of your Joyces and Faulkners. To expand, I wrote tons of stream of consciousness pieces when I was 15-16 years old. I call that "bad teen angst" poetry.
Then again, the above paragraph contradicts what I previously said concerning when authors who have a wonderful narrative going interrupt their fantastic structured flow with dream sequence stream of consciousness parts.
Ah, I don't know what I want! Just write me a good story!
April 25th, 2006, 10:30 AM
There's something interesting going on at Hal's blog at the minute, in celebration of the US release. Check it out if you're interested. If so, enjoy the show.
Last edited by Murrin; April 27th, 2006 at 05:05 PM.
April 25th, 2006, 05:42 PM
Vellum is certainly a love-it or hate-it type novel. It takes chances, but it's in good company in the genre of speculative fiction. Traditional structure has been tossed and beaten down and reused a thousand times; from Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to Delany's Dhalgren.
Vellum, I think, owes more in terms of style to ground breakin authors such as Ballard and Pynchon and Delany than it does to Robert Jordan, say, or even Neil Gaiman.
If that's not your thing, well, that's not your thing. However, I think you do yourself a disservice by not at least checking it out.
April 26th, 2006, 03:56 AM
Jack, good points.
Originally Posted by Jack
I was reacting to your comment "I like structure in my writing". So do I. But I also find it interesting when authors play with structure, as Duncan is. He's work, to me, doesn't lack structure. Instead, it seems meticulously planned and crafted. So maybe I was taking your points within the context and applying them to the book in questions, whereas you meant them rather more generally.