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Vellum: The Book of All Hours Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 25, 2006

2.8 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scottish author Duncan's challenging SF debut, the first in a two-book series about an epic battle between good and evil, reveals the history of the advanced, ancient and powerful civilization of Kur through Egyptian, Babylonian and East Indian myth as well as bitmites, cyber-avatars and warring bands of fallen angels. A book, The Vellum (aka The Book of All Hours), is both portal to parallel realities and guide to a language of power that can be both inscribed in the skin and on the soul. Since individual characters like Seamus Finnan, Jack Carter, Thomas Messenger and Thomas's sister, Phreedom, whose lives are destroyed, prolonged and forever scarred by contact with a realm called the Vellum, tend to appear and reappear at intervals often 20 or 40 years apart, their adventures in the human, parallel and cyber universes can be hard to follow. Readers who persevere will find this a truly rewarding read. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Following the trail of a family legend, Reynard Guy Carter finds The Book of All Hours, aka the Vellum, a blueprint for all creation written by the scribe of God after the word was spoken. Carter thereafter wanders the strange, deserted worlds of the Vellum, while angels and demons, the Covenant and the Sovereigns, battle for control of the order of everything. Within the Vellum, Phreedom Messenger is on a quest to find her brother that will lead her to the very depths of the underworld in a movement parallel to Innana's descent to the underworld of Ereshkigal; and Seamus Finnan, her brother's betrayer and an old friend, is, like Prometheus, bound for his sins. The paths the three characters follow become a scintillating web of journeys across worlds and through the three dimensions of time. Duncan's version of a battle among the messengers of divinity proves fascinating as it takes unexpected turns within the framework of ancient myths. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1St Edition edition (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345487311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345487315
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,398,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Vellum is a non-linear re-imagining of the world's myths and religions through an end-of-the-world scenario, intertwining many thematic elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy. I loved reading it, it was challenging, grand, audacious, and engaging. If you enjoy reading challenging fantasy/sci-fi/horror and can tolerate non-linear narrative than you will love reading this novel. Though as a reader that enjoys non-linear narrative it is not without its literary criticisms. Warning there is a lot of homo-erotic imagery (which doesn't quite cross the line of gratuitous).if you have problems with that, best to avoid this work.

Overall Vellum follows the story of six or seven characters through different incarnations and histories which are intertwined through myth and history and legend through to the end of this world and the next. The overriding thread that ties these characters through all of their different incarnations is the Vellum, the Book of Names, the Book of all hours, in which all that exists or will exist in this existence, or the next (or the existence next-door) is written. The characters are members of the Unkin whom have the word of god, or their mystical names placed on their very being. These characters are the incarnations, re-incarnations, and re-iterations of the various gods, spirits, angels and demon archetypes. They play and re-play their parts throughout histories both real and imagined from the beginning of the world to the end, through this world and the next and are inferred in an infinity of other worlds throughout the book. Hal Duncan has drawn parallels of the different spiritual archetypes and strung them together into a narrative that encompasses the genres of classic and contemporary horror, post-modernism, cyber-punk and pulp sci-fi-fantasy.
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Format: Hardcover
Hal Duncan's Vellum is an intermittently beautiful, sometimes disturbing, occasionally thought-provoking and often difficult work. Bearing through those difficulties is a worthwhile journey for the reader, however, and Duncan has quite nearly invented a new form of fiction with this book. Without giving too much away, it is fair to say that Duncan links a series of characters to the recurring myths of western history, from Mesopotamia to the present day, linking those stories to pivotal events of both a large and private, personal-scale, from the Christian mythos of the fall of one-third of the angels from heaven, to the murder of Matthew Sheppard in Wyoming in 1998. Duncan pulls each of these events from their place as distant archtypal tragedies or isolated personal horrors and places them squarely at the whirling center of a universal conflict between forces that cannot simply be described as 'good' or 'evil.' This conflict extends, in Duncans hands, across one and many possible chaotic, violent futures. Through this millenia-long cycling, Duncan follows a cast of recurring and slowly developing characters who, we come to realize, are as pivotal to one another as they may well be to mankind. If there is a key weakness to Duncan's first volume, it is the pace at which we come to know these key characters. In many ways, they become clear as individuals only in the book's final (and strongest) third. Readers who persist in tracing their circuitous paths, however, will find that this is a work that lingers long after the last page.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's hard for me to put my finger on my exact feelings of this book. If I had one word in which to describe it, I suppose the word would be "disjointed." It was very clever, expertly written, and I loved the mythology and the correlations between everyone.

The problem I had with it is more a matter of my own personal taste than a true criticism of the book. With such a convoluted story and so much jumping from one reality to another, one version of the same character to another, I never felt like I really knew the characters and I was unable to get attached to them. To me, the most important thing in any story is the characters, so this hindered my enjoyment and made it hard for me to force myself to continue.

This had been recommended to me by someone on a House of Leaves forum, and I was very excited, as that was one of my favorite books. But House of Leaves was extremely focused on its characters, giving one a very deep look inside their heads. Where with this one, I couldn't always guess what a character's true feelings are.

If one likes a challenge and a lot of mythology, and doesn't mind not getting to know characters very well, then this is very much worth reading. Actually, it is worth reading no matter what, I'd say.
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Format: Paperback
I tried to like this book, really. I read 150 pages before tossing it aside, but my literature warning lights were flashing long before that. There are some good ideas here that could have been very, very interesting. In fact they were interesting, I just got tired of wading through pages and pages of tortured prose trying to elevate itself to the status of literature.

The basic concept here is one group of superhuman beings versus another. Angels versus demons, all mixed up with ancient gods and supernatural beings. Ah, cool. Let's tie the mythology of all cultures together, uniting all the those stories of gods and goddesses together with the christian mythology of angels and demons and tie it all to an underlying premise that makes everything make sense. Then let's tell a really good story around it. Oops, forgot the really good story. Also forgot interesting protagonists, compelling plot, and page-turning suspense. Decided instead to substitute tortured, wandering prose, uninteresting and venal characters with some massive chip on the shoulder because they're homosexual, and a collection of chapters that follow three different story lines, never particularly well, and without ever really tying anything together.

There are books that do make you work hard for an enjoyable payoff. When they are well done though they dribble out rewards for you along the way, escalating to ever better satsifaction with the novel. This is not one of those books. This book provides no rewards along the way but instead sets up a tautology that dictates you must suffer the authors world-views, angst, self-doubt, prejudices, and fears in order to appreciate this work. Bollux. Give me a writer who can tell a story and who doesn't subject me to his personal hang-ups.
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