Ink: The Book of All Hours
by Hal Duncan
Cover Artist: Christopher Gibbs
Review by Harriet Klausner
Del Rey Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345487339
Date: 27 February, 2007 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The pages in The Book Of All Hours is made of angel's skin and deals with the Vellum, a telling of human history throughout various times and alternative universes. Our Earth is a dot in the vastness of the Vellum where demons and angels war for the souls of the human race. The unkin, fallen angels, through various battles and political maneuvers have governed the course humanity and have taken in the metaverse. Since the covenant was broken the unkin have set up their own havens populated by lost souls that are a by product of the apocalypse brought about the Eevenfall and the Hinter (wildelands).
It would take pages to describe the various plot lines as they take place on different worlds at different times in different realities of alternate orbs. The three main characters in Ink are Jack "Flash" Carter, Thomas Messenger (known in some worlds as Puck), and Guy Reynard Carter (Jack's psychiatrist in one particular time and place). Other key players include Seamus Finian, Phreadom Messenger and Joey. The storyline is non-linear as it goes back and forth in time and jumps into different realities where the characters are shown in different times in the past and, of course, the present. Each story is told from the perspective of each participant, which can get confusing as the scenes jump without any notice so it takes the audience full attention and some time to figure out who the narrator of each particular scene is.
The characters are larger than life and eventually become archetypes or avatars. Jack is fire, willing to see a mission through until he burns himself out. Finian is a firebird, who is a revolutionary in the Vellum, but seems to disappear when in the Vellum for much of the book. Guy thinks before he acts and when he does so he has a plan so he doesn't go off half-cocked. Thomas is doomed to die early in every time in every universe much to the horror of his friend. Phreadom evolves from a goddess to an earth mother demigod. In some worlds at times Joey is Jack's friend or ally and in some places he is his enemy. These are characters linked together because of their reincarnations while traveling the universe as some worlds are not at all friendly and to further confuse the audience, not all names remain the same in the various worlds. A good example is that in some places England is called Albion (an alternative that is used in fantasy but adds to the confusion of time and space here).
One of the main plots of the story should be mentioned because in some form it occurs on most of the worlds. It is the rise of Hitler's fourth Reich and his land grab in Europe by conquering his neighbors. In some realms he fails while in other realms he is successful while in some world he is defeated by the Futuristics who are more fascist than the Germany of our 1930s and 1940s ever was
Although much of the tale has to do with the Judeo-Christian mythos it also has elements from other mythos around the world and in various historical eras in the storyline. Metatron, a dying angel, has hidden The Book Of All Hours somewhere in the metaverse and only incomplete copies, facsimiles and fractured segments are found. Since the original copy was destroyed, it is the last complete version of the book that the characters want to find.
An interesting sidebar is the different version of certain events in the bible like the destruction of Sodom and why god did what he did in spite of his promise to a person that if even one good person lived in the city he would spare it. One world's version of the Adam and Eve slant is very different from that of our bible.
This is a book that has to be read many times to be fully understood. The comprehension brings a certain sense of accomplishment and joy to the reader who feels they are learning something new with each new reading. This is a richly textured tale that will be hard to fully grasp but it is designed in such a way that those discerning readers will find it worth the time savoring each sentence. The closest book this reviewer can compare this to is Neil Gaiman's American Gods but even that is a stretch. Not for everyone, Ink is a unique refreshing cerebral saga that defies simplistic classification.