Thursday, September 27, 2007

Vellum Review

I probably never would have picked up this book had it not been for the glaring orange spine winking at me from the shelf as I walked by. That's right, the book called to me, and like Reynard Carter, I had to possess it once I had read the first few paragraphs. I am glad that I picked up this masterwork from the shelf, and you will soon see why.

The strange tale of Vellum takes place across many times, and many realities, all of which feature the same cast of archetypal characters doing what they do best. One is immediately drawn to the quartet of friends described early in the story (Renard, Joey, Thomas, and Jack), and while one would assume that the story will be centered on Reynard, it is in fact the many faces of Thomas that we find at the center of the first part of the story (The Lost Deus of Sumer, and yes that is meant to be a play on the phrase the last days of summer). We see Thomas Messenger/Tommy/Tammuz/Dimuzi (etc) who is nicknamed Puck (because he is a lovable fairy) in such diverse roles as a somewhat repressed gay Irish soldier in the Great War, a 1970's gay love child, a gay biker, and a gay pixie (note spelling). His sister, Phreedom Messenger/Anna/Inana, is hoping to find her brother before the inevitable death scene unfolds in spite of her wishes. The first book is a strange retelling of the myth of Inanna in the underworld and her betrayal of her husband, the god Tammuz.

The second story, Evenfall Leaves, is a retelling of the myth of Prometheus, with Seamus Finnan, Phreedom and Tommy's mentor in the Last Deus of Sumer, in which the apocalypse is brought about by the angel Metatron's interrogation of Seamus. The story begins to feature the relationship of Jack and Puck/Thomas more and more, and is really brilliantly done.

One might normally expect to find a novel like this in the Fiction section of most book stores, what with its avant-garde writing, homosexual content, strange literary devices, and almost experimental tone, but thankfully somebody with sense elected to keep this in Science Fiction where it belongs. All in all Vellum and its sequel, Ink, have probably been the best works that I have read all year. Granted, they speak to me on multiple levels (being a gay SF fan), but I think that anyone can get something out of these magnificent pieces of literature.

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