Today I wrote my final book review for the Good Book Guide. I have been writing for them for three years, and the once constant trickle of books has gradually dried up, as costs were cut and more inhouse reviewers were used. Now it has been sold on to another company, who will inhouse everything. I usually review crime fiction, but my last book, 'Vellum' by Hal Duncan looked to be the most difficult - a bizarre, Rubik's Cube of a novel, at first seeming to be the bastard child of Clive Barker and Michael Moorcock...I kicked.
'What is this garbage they've sent - I don't DO Science Fiction!?' But honour dictated that I must read it - all 500 pages. And what a fascinating, perplexing work of wonder emerged. It is a rare privilege to read real talent - not just another badly written bandwagon, not the hottest new thing from the publicity department, nor the latest outpourings of the copy editor's niece-in-law, but genuine, original, intelligent writing. It left me smiling with sheer pleasure, as I do when
Freddy Flintoff thwacks a ball to the boundary. Duncan seems to be using a highly complex story structure which demands the reader's constant attention and concentration - remember when '24' first used multiple screens with different scenes unfolding? Remember how difficult it was to follow them at first, until your brain got used to it? It wasn't a simple matter of reading a story from start to finish, as it was scattered like a broken mirror. Just as I despaired of ever 'getting' it, a fragment would pop up and the thread continue. It was a whole new way of reading - and I can modestly say that I have read 'rather a lot' of books in my time. I'm going to have to read it all over again, and maybe this time I'll get the picture.
The review - well, I did my best. There was no point in laying out the plot - that is a last resort reserved for stories so bland that all one can do is relate the basics. So I tried, in 200 words, to give an overall impression of what I've just written here - but more lucidly and without reference to Flintoff. Hal Duncan also has a highly entertaining blog, which tracks his writing and what I am sure will be his rise to deserved success.
Reviewing books paid badly - only slighly more than an hour's work at the shop. But I did enjoy the frisson of getting proofs, and the inside knowledge of titles to come. I'll miss it.

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